O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon native is the Navy’s eyes and ears in the sky

O’Fallon native Lt. j.g. Dennis McFadden serves with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, also known as the “Bluetails,” which operates out of Norfolk, Va.
O’Fallon native Lt. j.g. Dennis McFadden serves with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, also known as the “Bluetails,” which operates out of Norfolk, Va. Provided

A 2010 O’Fallon Township High School graduate and O’Fallon native is serving with a U.S. Navy squadron that flies one of the Navy’s most advanced aircraft, one with an important mission: keeping watch over the skies and oceans of the world.

Lt. j.g. Dennis McFadden serves with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, also known as the “Bluetails,” which operates out of Norfolk, Virginia.

McFadden works as a naval flight officer, an unrestricted line officer who is qualified for duty involving flying heavier-than-air or heavier and lighter-than-air type aircraft.

The Hawkeye is a carrier-based aircraft that uses a powerful radar and an array of advanced sensors to detect potential airborne and surface threats and relay real-time information to other Navy aircraft and ships.

“We have the ability to be at the tip of the spear and control aircraft to do the nation’s business, which is exciting,” McFadden said.

The Hawkeye is a carrier-based aircraft, taking off from and landing on Navy aircraft carriers at sea. Using powerful radar and an array of advanced sensors, the twin-turboprop aircraft and its crew of five can remain in the air for hours, scanning the skies, detecting potential airborne and surface threats and relaying real-time information to other Navy aircraft and ships operating in the area.

“I like the camaraderie of everyone here,” McFadden said. “It is a close-knit circle among the crew.”

The E-2D provides the Navy with a variety of other capabilities as well, including the ability to conduct search and rescue operations, communications relay, close air support coordination and drug interdiction. The Hawkeye can fly at nearly 350 mph at altitudes up to 30,000 feet.

“The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is a complex system and requires the full effort of every Bluetail sailor to maintain the aircraft in full mission capable status,” said Cmdr. Mike Finn, commanding officer. “Our aircrew, maintainers, and admin support personnel are the best this country has to offer. Their expertise ensures that VAW-121 continues to be successful.”

We have the ability to be at the tip of the spear and control aircraft to do the nation’s business which is exciting.

Navy Lt. j.g. Dennis McFadden, an O’Fallon native

With over 150 sailors assigned to the squadron, jobs are highly specialized and designed to keep each part of the Hawkeye running smoothly. Whether training new aviators, maintaining airframes and engines, processing paperwork or handling and flying the aircraft, the key to success is teamwork.

“It’s a family tradition to be in the Navy,” McFadden said. “I always wanted to be a pilot and that drove me to serve in the Navy. I am honored.”

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