VC-5 was commissioned at Moffett Field on 9 September 1948 with Commander (later Vice Admiral) Frederick L. "Dick" Ashworth Acting Commanding Officer. Captain Chick Hayward assumed command on 3 January 1949, Dick Ashworth remaining on board as Executive Officer. The squadron was the first of three planned to give the Navy nuclear weapon delivery capability, utilizing the P2V as an interim vehicle while an all-out, top-priority effort to design and produce a fully carrier-capable atomic bomber continued.
Personnel for the new squadron, both officer and enlisted, were selected on the basis of record reviews and interviews. Prospective flight crews and ground personnel who would be involved in weapon handling required special security clearances based on full background investigations. VC-5 was to serve as a training and development squadron for the program and was manned at almost 100% above its normal allowance to provide personnel for planned future squadrons.
Deliveries of the modified NEPTUNES began late in 1948 and at the end of January 1949, four of the new planes were on board, plus eight older model P2V-2s utilized as trainers. By the end of March the squadron was operating sixteen P2Vs and had 45 officers and 349 enlisted men on board. Major emphasis in the flight training program was on instrument and navigation, stressing celestial navigation on long over-water night flights.
In February, three P2V-3Cs were flown to NAS Patuxent River for training in JATO-assisted heavy load takeoff. On completion of this exercise on 4 March, the NEPTUNES flew to Norfolk and were hoisted aboard CORAL SEA. On the 7th, all planes were launched successfully, the first, flown by squadron CO Capt. 'Chick' Hayward, loaded to 74,000 lbs. gross. The other two planes launched at 65,000 and 55,000 lbs. Later in March two additional crews deployed to Norfolk and were launched from FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT at 65,000 lbs gross on 26 March.