“It was never the “Electric Horsemen.” Call sign was always “Flashbacks.”,’ Rich Affeld former VAQ-34 XO
Two of the most famous U.S. Navy attack aircraft, the A-3 Skywarrior and the A-7 Corsair II played also the role of adversary aircraft. Dedicated versions of the Skywarrior and Corsair II in fact, the RA-3B and the EA-7L , served in Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34) within the Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group (FEWSG) to simulate Soviet aircraft, often carrying a variety of jamming and ECM pods.
The VAQ-34 is often referred to as the “Electric Horsemen,” but as explained by Joe Hawkins, a reader of The Aviation Geek Club and former VAQ-34 A-3 Flying Plane Captain and maintainer and EA-7L Maintainer, the Squadron true name was ‘”Flashbacks”. The first logo was of “Pegasus”, the winged horse. The second was of the Soviet “Red Star”.’
His claim was confirmed by Rich Affeld who was the XO of the VAQ-34 when the Squadron stood up.
‘Joe Hawkins is correct; it was never the “Electric Horsemen.” Call sign was always “Flashbacks.” First patch had a background of orange air, since that was our usual role – as the air arm of the Orange force. Pegasus was used by Zeus (king of the Greek gods) to carry his lightening bolts. The red star was directed by RADM “Bear” Taylor , when he was Commander, Light Attack Wing Pacific, to be the equivalent of the aggressor squadrons training Top Gun & Strike U. Some guys at a Navy publication came up with the Electric Horseman moniker in a story about the squadron.
‘We were pretty happy with “Flashbacks.” It was a call sign assigned by CNO upon our commissioning, but we interpreted it to mean that if the fleet was ever attacked by the Soviets, they should remember (have a flashback) to the procedures and tactics they had to use against FEWSG. The first patch was designed by my son CJ who was a very artistic 12-year old at the time. John Millward wanted the Orange background and wanted a horse, because he wanted the nickname “Chargers.” When we checked, another squadron already had that name, so knowing Greek mythology, I proposed Pegasus. My son drew up the patch, John agreed and we sent it to CNO for approval about Jan ’83. So, that’s the history of that patch.’
Further details on VAQ-34 original logo are provided in the following official US Navy Press Release from 1987.
“Soviet red stars have been spreading like wildfire at Point Mugu.
Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Thirty Four (VAQ-34) the Navy’s west coast aggressor squadron has received permission to totally redefine its image.
As an aggressor squadron – one of only two in the Navy with the specific mission of utilizing electronic warfare tactics in training exercises VAQ-34 plays the role of hostile forces in training other Navy units.
To more accurately reflect that role, the squadron is changing its aircraft tail design from two lightning bolts to the most recognizable potentially hostile forces logo -that of a red star trimmed with a white border.
“At first the idea was just to change the tail design,” said CDR. Rex Kibler (Camarillo), Commanding Officer of the squadron. “Then we decided to go ahead and change the whole nine yards.”
The ‘whole line yards” consisted of changing the units logo, which adorns the squadrons hanger and appears on doors throughout the buildings. It is also used on memorabilia such as patches, t-shirts, nametags and stickers.
The squadrons logo had been based on the Greek mythological character Dellerophon, who triumphantly rode Pegasus into battle. The logo was Pegasus and a lightning bolt on a field of orange, the color signifying enemy forces in war games.
The new logo, designed by Airman Ireneo Espiritu (Oxnard) centers on the white – trimmed star on a field of red, white, and blue. The streamers stars Are those of the United States, and the red and white Stripes at the bottom signify the stripes of the U.S. flag.
The Russian words at the top of the logo translate to EW Aggressor, the role of electronic warfare aggressor that the squadron plays in training. The missile represents an aggessor being acted upon by electronic warfare, the lightning bolts of VAQ-34.
“Although we chose the red star because of its obvious recognizability”, Kibler said, “It really signifies hostile forces in general.”
“The troops are really pumped up about the change”, he continued. “I think they can identify more closely with the mission we do when they see an aircraft rolling down the runway with Soviet markings.” And that says nothing about the feelings of the “good guys” who will be seeing that Red Star during training exercises!”
And that says nothing about the feelings of the “good guys” who will be seeing that Red Star during training exercises!”
Photo credit: U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force