Lest We Forget: Leo Young-Radio Pioneer; VAQ-34

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired), Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Further experiments revealed that by measuring the time elapsed between transmission and reflection of a radio wave and knowing the speed of the radio waves through the atmosphere, one could determine the distance to the object. Warfare, air traffic control, space exploration, highway safety, baseball, and a host of other fields were to be the beneficiaries of this discovery. The boy who had started playing with radios as a hobby had discovered a new phenomenon that would ultimately become known as "radio detection and ranging" or more simply by the acronym radar.

Young continued to work with this new phenomenon and was instrumental in its development and ultimate use in naval warfare. By 1937—just in time for World War II—the first functional radar set was installed in a U.S. Navy warship. When citing the reasons for the Allied victory in World War II, historians often include the timely development of radar.

Leo Young worked at the Naval Research Laboratory as a research scientist until his retirement in 1961. His many honors included the Presidential Certificate of Merit from President Harry S. Truman, the Stuart Ballantine Medal of the Franklin Institute, and the Navy Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award.


—Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)



Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34) was established on 1 March 1983 at NAS Point Mugu, California. As a squadron under the Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group, the Electric Horsemen represented an expansion of the electronic aggressor training community to a permanent West Coast presence.

VAQ-34 was formed to meet the increasing demand for realistic training for ship crews to counter electronic and cruise-missile threats, particularly those from the Soviet Union. VAQ-34 was modeled after VAQ-33, its East Coast counterpart.

To equip the squadron, four RA-3B Skywarrior photo-reconnaissance aircraft were saved from scrapping and modified to the ERA-3B configuration pioneered by VAQ-33, with electronic jamming equipment and chaff dispensers. The squadron acquired other Skywarrior versions-EA-3B, KA-3B, and UA-3B-for tanking, transport, and utility support, and also operated the EA-7L version of the Corsair II attack aircraft.

The Electric Horsemen, later known as the Flashbacks, dispatched detachments as far as Japan and Puerto Rico to provide threat simulation for Fleet units in training exercises, air wing work-ups, and for research and development work. In late 1990, VAQ-34 was instrumental in providing units deploying for Operation Desert Shield with training against Iraqi cruise missiles and electronic warfare threats.

By the end of 1991, the ERA-3B and EA-7L aircraft were retired or transferred, and VAQ-34 was equipped in 1992 with eight F/A-18A Hornet strike fighters fitted with missile simulators, threat detectors, jammers, and chaff dispensers. In June 1992 the Flashbacks moved to NAS Lemoore, California.

The unit became the first naval aviation squadron to be commanded by a woman, former Naval Institute board member Commander Rosemary Mariner.

In 1993 the Navy decided to transfer the electronic aggressor role to the Naval Air Reserve, and VAQ-34 was disestablished on 5 October 1993.


—Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

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