Marine Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron THREE (VMFP-3) was activated on 1 July 1975, aboard Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California, as part of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. The formation of VMFP-3 saw a concurrent deactivation of the three Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadrons in order to consolidate into two specialized squadrons: VMFP-3 at MCAS El Toro, and VMAQ-2 located at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. All Marine Corps Aviation Reconnaissance mission responsibilities were then tasked to VMFP-3, and all RF-4B assets were brought together at El Toro.
Marine Composite Squadron THREE (VMCJ-3), decommissioned on 1 July 1975, was the nucleus of the new tactical reconnaissance squadron. Early in 1975, the physical reorganization of the VMCJ began with the transfer of all EA-6A aircraft, personnel, and support equipment from VMCJ-3 to the 2nd MAW. Simultaneously, RF-4B assets began to arrive at MCAS El Toro from both the 1st and 2nd MAW's. During March, 1975, the initial designation of personnel of VMFP-3 Detachment ONE was made and the carrier evolution commenced. Detachment ONE arrived at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan on 5 August 1975, to provide tactical reconnaissance for the 1st MAW, and the 7th Fleet when deployed aboard the USS Midway. VMFP-3 provided continuous reconnaissance support aboard the Midway and in the Western Pacific, to include three Indian Ocean deployments during the Iranian hostage crisis.
The RF-4B Phantom II aircraft of VMFP-3 was the latest of a series of Marine tactical reconnaissance jet aircraft flown throughout the history of VMCJ-3. When VMCJ-3 was formed at El Toro on 12 December 1955 its inventory of aircraft consisted of the F9F-5P reconnaissance version of the Panther and the AD-5 electronic warfare version of the Guardian. 1957 saw an update of the EW platform with the arrival of the F3D-2Q Sky Knight. The new electronic warfare platform provided a basis for the use of EW aircraft on joint missions with strike aircraft.
After spending a year at Iwakuni, Japan as part of the 1st MAW, VMCJ-3 returned to El Toro in 1959 with a new photographic aircraft, the F8U-1P. The Crusader greatly increased the combat capabilities of the reconnaissance community of VMCJ-3, providing a supersonic platform for obtaining imagery which was completely compatible with strike aircraft of the day. Also in 1962, the F3D-2Q was redesignated the EF-10B after extensive refitting with new equipment to additionally increase the aircraft's electronic warfare capabilities.
In 1965, the first of the RF-4B Phantom II multisensor reconnaissance aircraft arrived to replace the RF-8U's. The Mach2 (plus) Phantom provides an all-weather capability by incorporating the infra-red sensor and side-looking airborne radar mapping capacity into the normal photographic platform. In 1970 VMCJ-3 retired the last of the EF-10B from Marine aviation and in 1971 received the sophisticated EA-6A electronic warfare aircraft. VMCJ-3 flew the RF-4B, EA-6A, and EF-10B in support of military operations in the Republic of Vietnam.
Since its inception in 1955, VMCJ-3 averaged six weeks of deployment per year, participation in four fleet exercises per year, and maintained a training base for personnel soon to be sent to WESTPAC. Until February, 1975, when the last EA-6A departed for MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, the dual capacity of the squadron was reflected by the dual qualifications of a majority of the personnel, both officer and enlisted, who served in the command. The broad training base provided a great deal of flexibility in squadron functioning and operational capabilities.
On 25 August 1975, VMFP-3 commenced a WESTPAC Detachment rotation cycle to the USS Midway and Iwakuni, Japan, in support of III Marine Amphibious Force. This ongoing cycle involved five aircrews, approximately five ground officers, and over 100 enlisted Marines in six month TAD overseas WESTPAC deployments.
Additionally, VMFP-3 supported Marine photographic needs wherever they occur. Detachments of two to six aircraft have been routinely deployed for periods up to three weeks to the East Coast, and on two occasions as far away as Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. On one occasion, a detachment of six aircraft and support personnel participated in NATO exercises in Denmark.
VMFP-3 was awarded the Commandant's Aviation Efficiency Trophy for 1983 in recognition of the teamwork and effort put forth by the Marines in the squadron.Complete list of at-sea periods from June 1981 through April 1991 Dates for VMFP-3 involvement ended on 15 July 1984 due to space considerations when HS-12, with SH-3Hs, reported to CVW-5