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Strike Fighter Squadrons
VFA-2 “BOUNTY HUNTERS”
Strike Fighter Squadron 2 flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet as part of Carrier Air Wing 2 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.
The Bounty Hunters can trace their roots back to the beginning of carrier aviation itself. From 1922 to 1927, it was the first squadron to be deployed aboard an aircraft carrier, USS Langley. On board, the squadron’s early biplanes were painted with a red, white and blue stripe called a “Langley Stripe.” More than 80 years later, the Langley Stripe is still proudly displayed on the squadron’s F/A-18Fs.
The transition to the F/A-18F actually began Sept. 17, 1995, when McDonnell Douglas rolled out its first Super Hornets, which are highly capable across the full mission spectrum: air superiority, fighter escort, reconnaissance, aerial refueling, close air support, air defense, suppression and day/night precision strike. Compared to the original F/A-18 A through D models, Super Hornets have longer range, an aerial refueling capability, increased survivability/lethality and improved carrier suitability.
After flying the F-14 Tomcat for 30 years, the Bounty Hunters began their transition to the two-seat Super Hornet Oct. 6, 2003, when the unit took delivery of its first F/A-18F, wearing the traditional Langley Stripe. The transition took only 4.5 months, the shortest time ever for a Tomcat-to-Super Hornettransition.
One year later, Strike Fighter Squadron 2 went to sea for the first time with its new F/A-18 aircraft, with Carrier Air Wing 2 and aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in a marriage that continues today. As part of the Navy’s new warfighting strategy known as the Fleet Response Plan, Carrier Air Wing 2 and USSAbraham Lincoln were chosen to be the first emergency surge carrier air wing. During the 4.5-month deployment, the Bounty Hunters participated in humanitarian efforts following a tragic tsunami that struck Sumatra. They then participated in an international training exercise with air forces from the United States, Thailand and Singapore.
One month following the 2005 surge deployment, VFA-2 began training for their 2006 deployments with detachments to NAS Fallon, NAS Key West and USS Abraham Lincoln. While underway, they participated in three multinational exercises whose participants included such countries as Australia, China, Chile, Peru, South Korea and Singapore.
From March to October, the Bounty Hunters were deployed to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf as part of the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2009, VFA-2 received the Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific 2008 Battle Efficiency Award for the sixth time in the squadron’s history. They were also awarded the 2008 Rear Adm. C. Wade McClusky Award for their performance on cruise in 2008. These two prestigious awards capped a banner year for the Bounty Hunter team.
In February 2012, the Bounty Hunters of VFA-2 learned they were recipients of the 2011 Command, Naval Air Forces Rear Adm. C. Wade McClusky award, recognizing them as the pre-eminent Super Hornet squadron in the Navy. Earning the 2011 Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Battle Efficiency award for the ninth time in squadron history put VFA-2 in the running for the McClusky award. The McClusky and Battle “E” were awarded to VFA-2 for achieving the highest standards of excellence as leaders in aircraft, combat readiness and tactical employment. These two awards are a testament to the hard work, dedication and sacrifice the Bounty Hunters have made throughout 2011 and into 2012.
Strike Fighter Squadron 14 maintains and operates 12 F/A-18E Super Hornets as an element of Carrier Air Wing 11 when deployed aboard USS Nimitz.
The history of the Tophatters dates back to September 1919, which makes it the “oldest and boldest” fighter squadron in the Navy. Since its inception, it has flown 23 different types of aircraft, had its designation change 14 times, and has operated from 20 different aircraft carriers, as well as severalbattleships.
The Tophatters began carrier operations aboard the Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley in 1926. They flew the TS-1, a biplane capable of speeds up to 123 mph, with a range of 418 nautical miles and armament consisting of one forward-firing machine gun. Today, they deploy aboard the lead ship of America’s largest class of aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz, in one of America’s most capable fighter aircraft. Their single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet can fly at speeds exceeding Mach 1.8, with a combat range of 1,275 nautical miles, and armament that includes a 20 mm cannon and a wide variety of laser-guided bombs, general purpose bombs, mines and rockets.
After flying the F-14 Tomcat since 1974, the Tophatters converted to F/A-18A aircraft in 1998. They entered the 21st century by converting to the more modern F/A-18E aircraft and deploying aboard their current aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. During this time, VFA-14 also embarked upon the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), to bring her “around the horn” to her new homeport of San Diego.
From May to November 2005, the Fighting 14 deployed aboard USS Nimitz and found themselves over the skies of Iraq in support of coalition ground forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom where they flew 2,100 sorties and logged more than 4,300 hours. They departed for deployment once again in July 2009, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where they celebrated their 90th anniversary, once again guarding America’s interest in the Middle East.
VFA-14 has the distinction of receiving eight Battle “E” awards and six Chief of Naval Operations Safety “S” awards.
VFA-22 “FIGHTING REDCOCKS”
The Fighting Redcocks of Strike Fighter Squadron 22 have been a mainstay of naval aviation for more than 60 years. Originally located at NAS Norfolk, Va., the first pilots flew Grumman F-8F Bearcats. Since that time, VFA-22 aircrew have flown nine different types of aircraft, culminating with a transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet in 2007. The Redcocks are part of Carrier Air Wing 14 and deploy aboard USS Ronald Reagan.
Throughout its history, Strike Fighter Squadron 22 has been the first unit to employ many new weapon systems to include the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) in 1985, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) in 1993 and the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox.
In 2006, the Redcocks participated in the maiden deployment of USS Ronald Reagan, supporting coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Fighting Redcocks deployed for a short-notice surge deployment to the Western Pacific again in January 2007. Returning home in April of that year, VFA-22 received Lot 29 F/A-18 Super Hornets equipped with the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar. In 2008, they completed the maiden deployment with APG-79 radar while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2009, the Redcocks completed their fourth deployment in four years, again supporting coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan.
The Fighting Redcocks have deployed on 16 different aircraft carriers over the past 60 years and have won numerous awards, including the Rear Adm. C. Wade McClusky Award in 1981, which designates the finest attack squadron in the Navy, and the Navy Battle “E” award on five separate occasions. The Redcocks are currently preparing to transition to Carrier Air Wing 17, and will deploy next aboard USS Carl Vinson.
VFA-25 “THE FIST OF THE FLEET”
For more than 65 years Strike Fighter Squadron 25 has defended our nation, from combat operations in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and most recently the Middle East, to peacekeeping and presence operations throughout the Cold War. As a fighting outfit, it has rightly earned the moniker “The Fist of the Fleet.”
The Fist of the Fleet began as Torpedo Squadron 17 in 1943, flying attack bombers during World War II. Following the war, the unit transitioned into propeller-driven A-1 Skyraiders, which it flew for the next 21 years. During the Korean hostilities, the unit flew 1,645 missions from the deck of USS Boxer.
In 1962, the attack unit moved to newly completed NAS Lemoore, cruising aboard USS Midway. From 1965 through 1968, the unit made three deployments to Southeast Asia. Flying from the deck of USS Coral Sea, its pilots flew more than 3,000 combat missions, dropping more than 10 million pounds of ordnance on enemy targets in Vietnam. During this period, the Fist distinguished itself by becoming the first A-1 squadron to shoot down a MiG.
In May 1983, pilots from VFA-25 began training in the first operational F/A-18A aircraft. The unit was redesignated a strike fighter unit July 1, 1983; it received 12 Hornets directly from the factory in St. Louis by March 1984. Operational air wing training in multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground exercises with Carrier Air Wing 14 and USS Constellation were conducted for the remainder of 1984 and continued until February 1985 when VFA-25 departed on the historic first deployment of F/A-18s aboard an American flagship.
Strike Fighter Squadron 25 has now served in the Arabian Gulf, with Carrier Air Wing 14, aboard three different aircraft carriers: USS Carl Vinson in 1994 and 1996, flying missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch; USS Abraham Lincoln in 2000 and 2002, in support of Operation Southern Watch and then Operation Iraqi Freedom; and USS Ronald Reagan from 2006 to 2009, in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and maritime security operations.
VFA-27 “ROYAL MACES”
Strike Fighter Wing 27 has been forward deployed to Atsugi, Japan, since 1996 where it supports Carrier Air Wing 5 while deployed aboard USS George Washington. It did return home to NAS Lemoore in 2004 to transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet.
The Royal Maces were commissioned Sept. 1, 1967, during the heart of the Vietnam conflict, and were provided new aircraft that just began rolling off the production lines that year — the A-7A Corsair, a carrier-based subsonic light aircraft that the Navy felt could carry bigger payloads for greater distances than their supersonic cousins.
For the next 23 years, the Royal Maces flew the A-7 aircraft, including five deployments to Southeast Asia. Flying with Carrier Air Wing 14 throughout the Vietnam conflict, the unit flew aboard USS Constellation for its first two deployments. It then transitioned to A-7E aircraft in June 1970, and embarked back to Vietnam aboard USS Enterprise (CNV 65) where it flew 4,400 combat flight hours and participated in more than 1,500 airstrikes without losing a single aircraft. On its fifth and final combat mission in Southeast Asia in 1974, the Royal Maces flew surveillance missions over Vietnam and flew escort for Marine Corps and Air Force helicopters during the final evacuation of American and Vietnamese personnel from Saigon.
In 1991, after 14 deployments, thousands of combat hours and numerous unit awards in A-7 aircraft, the Royal Maces transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet and were officially redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 27. In November 1992, while deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk, they operated off the coast of Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope and augmented Central Command’s multinational coalition air forces supporting Operation Southern Watch. The squadron participated in a coalition night strike against Iraq Jan. 13, 1993, delivering more than 18,000 pounds on target.
The squadron transitioned to F/A-18Cs in 1994 and in 1996 commenced their homeport change to Atsugi, Japan, deploying aboard USS Independence (CV 62).
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the squadron participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, flying missions against the al-Qaida infrastructure and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, as well as protecting valued assets in Diego Garcia. In 2003, the Royal Maces continued the war on terror, flying hundreds of close air support and strike sorties against Iraqi forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. VFA-27 completed its transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet in October 2004, beginning yet another chapter in its distinguished history.
VFA-27 has played significant roles in joint and international exercises such as Talisman Saber, Keen Sword and Valiant Shield and trilateral exercises with the Australian, Korean and Japanese navies. Additionally, the Royal Maces earned recognition for medical readiness, being awarded the Blue “M,” as well as the COMPACFLT Retention Excellence Award in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
In early June 2012, the Maces surpassed 110,000 mishap-free flight hours in the F/A-18.
In February 2013, the Royal Maces transitioned to Lot 34/35 F/A-18E Super Hornets, which have many upgraded systems to include the improved APG-79 AESA radar. The squadron successfully flew its original fleet of jets through Wake Island and Hawaii to their final destination in Lemoore. The Maces completed significant air-to-ground and air-to-air training events in the Fallon ranges prior to flying all 13 of their new Super Hornets back to Atsugi, where they continue to train and patrol as part of America’s “911” air wing.
VFA-41 “BLACK ACES”
Strike Fighter Squadron 41 is equipped with 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets and is assigned to Carrier Air Wing 11, which deploys with USS Nimitz.
The Black Aces were commissioned June 1, 1945, at Air Station Chincoteague, Va., as an F4U Corsair squadron. This late commissioning precluded them from seeing enemy action as World War II wound down, but by the time of their first aircraft transition, VF-41 had made numerous cruises to the Mediterranean as the Cold War began and the Soviet Union challenged the United States for supremacy in Europe.
In the midst of the Korean conflict, the Black Aces entered the Jet Age with F2-H Banshee aircraft, but again did not see combat, instead patrolling the Mediterranean against the rising Soviet threat. By the end of that decade, VF-41 had received new F3H-2 Demon jets, equipped with radar-guided, air-to-air missiles. The Demon was short-lived, but it provided the foundation for conversion to the F-4 Phantom.
Soon after receiving the Phantom in 1962, the Black Aces were called upon to help blockade the delivery of Soviet missiles to Cuba. Three years later, VF-41 began providing air interdiction, photo reconnaissance and flak suppression missions off the coast of Vietnam.
By the end of the 1970s, VF-41 transitioned from aging Phantoms to the swing-wing F-14 Tomcat, which became their primary aircraft until converting to F/A-18F Super Hornets in 2001. During the 1980s, they responded to numerous crises including the Iranian takeover of the American Embassy, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and an unsuccessful attack by Libyan Su-22 Fencers on their F-14s. The decade culminated with the ouster of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in December 1990.
For the remainder of the ’90s, the focus of VF-41 shifted away from the Middle East to the tumultuous regions of eastern Europe. They became the first squadron to employ air-to-ground ordnance against enemy targets over Bosnia-Herzegovina, and later flew combat missions over Kosovo.
When returning from what was to be their final Tomcat cruise in 2001, the Black Aces were suddenly called back into action after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. VF-41 was the first squadron over the beach in the initial phases of Operation Enduring Freedom, dropping 200,000 pounds of laser-guidedordnance against Taliban and al-Qaida targets within the first month of combat.
Returning home, the Black Aces decommissioned their Tomcats and became the first operational F/A-18F Super Hornet squadron, and officially adopted the strike fighter squadron (VFA) moniker. Since the transition, the Black Aces have made three combat deployments to Iraq in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The first supported the initial stages of the war when they flew a remarkable 100 percent sortie completion rate. The second was documented in the Public Broadcasting Service miniseries “Carrier.” The third took the Black Aces to both the Iraqi and Afghani theaters of operation.
In February 2012, VFA-41 completed a seven-month deployment aboard USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Gulf and North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the final combat missions of Operation New Dawn. Less than six months later after an abbreviated turnaround, the Black Aces once again deployed aboard USS John C. Stennis for an eight-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this time, USS John C. Stennis was the U.S. Navy’s only deployed aircraft carrier. The Black Aces returned April 29, 2013, and are currently in the middle of a post-deployment sustainment phase.
Thus, the story of America herself during the past five decades is the story of VFA-41. An unbroken string of unnamed men and women who forever will be Black Aces are the giants upon whose shoulders VFA-41 now stands and remain the voices and faces of too often emotionless historical fact. The lessons learned, and rules literally written in blood, are what makes the Black Aces of today what they are. History is an unpredictable mistress, but whatever she directs, you can be sure the Black Aces will be there to partake.
VFA-94 “THE MIGHTY SHRIKES”
Strike Fighter Squadron 94 is currently attached directly to Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific, and flies the F/A-18C Hornet.
Commissioned as an F4U Fighter Squadron in 1952 at NAS Alameda, Calif., the Mighty Shrikes were named after a small carnivorous bird of prey that strikes its prey in the air and on the ground and then impales its victim on a sharp thorn — an appropriate representative for a combat unit that earned its reputation in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
After quickly transitioning through seven aircraft, the Mighty Shrikes were redesignated as a light attack squadron in 1958 and then moved to NAS Lemoore in 1962, where they flew all models of the A-4 Skyhawk during the Vietnam conflict before converting to the A-7 Corsair II in 1971. They completed seven consecutive combat deployments to Southeast Asia, aboard five different aircraft carriers, flying two different types of aircraft and supporting two different carrier air wings. In 1975, aboard USS Coral Sea, they participated in the evacuation of Saigon, followed shortly thereafter by the recovery of the Mayaguez after its seizure by Cambodia.
Over the next 15 years, the Mighty Shrikes participated in seven more deployments. During that time, they supported Iran hostage rescue operations, became part of the first nuclear fleet to sail through the Suez Canal and supported operations against Libyan aggression.
In June 1990, the Mighty Shrikes received their first night strike F/A-18C Hornets and were redesignated a strike fighter squadron … just in time to begin more than a decade of service in the Middle East. In 1991, they joined Carrier Air Wing 11 aboard the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, in support of Operation Southern Watch following the first war in Iraq. They later flew over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2007, VFA-94 departed NAS Lemoore on its first Unit Deployment Program evolution to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. The squadron traversed nearly 7,000 nautical miles of ocean, totaling almost 18 flight hours per jet. During the deployment, the squadron participated in the first Navy expeditionary deployment to Korea and Operation Cobra Gold in Thailand.
Strike Fighter Squadron 97, equipped with F/A-18C Hornets, has joined the Carrier Air Wing 11/USS Nimitz team as the first Navy strike fighter squadron to transition back to carrier air wing operations from expeditionary operations.
The Warhawks of VA-97 were commissioned June 1, 1967, at NAS Lemoore, and assigned to Carrier Air Wing 14. From then until 1991, they flew A-7 Corsairs in 15 different deployments, aboard four different aircraft carriers.
They flew their first combat missions against North Vietnam in 1968 aboard USS Constellation, then joined USS Enterprise for a trip around the world, followed by two trips off the Vietnam coast. When they returned from their sixth deployment aboard USS Enterprise in April 1978, they celebrated the completion of six years and more than 30,000 hours of mishap-free flying in the A-7, making VA-97 the first squadron to achieve that mark.
The Warhawks’ next two deployments were aboard USS Coral Sea, serving off the southern coast of Iran and then sailing around the world. They were then assigned to the U.S. Navy’s newest carrier, USS Carl Vinson, where they served for three deployments, including the FLEETEX 85 exercise, involving five carrier battle groups and 65 ships. Participating in “Team Spirit ’90” over and around Korea, the Warhawks set records for aircraft availability and performance, returning the Corsairs to Lemoore for the last time in July 1990.
In 1991, the Warhawks transitioned to F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, with their pilots and maintenance personnel training with Strike Fighter Squadron 25. That summer, the squadron flew to Norfolk, Va., to bring USS Kitty Hawk “around the horn.” In 1992, they deployed to support U.N. coalition forces by participating in Operation Southern Watch over Iraq and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
In 1995, Strike Fighter Squadron 97 joined Carrier Air Wing 11, where it remains today as part of the USS Nimitz team. As with most of the other squadrons, the Warhawks found themselves in Middle East waters for the start of the 21st century, rushing to the North Arabian Sea shortly after the events of 9/11. The squadron led the air wing with more than 3,000 flight hours, 1,340 sorties and a 99 percent completion rate in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
At the end of 2003, the Warhawks transitioned to the F/A-18C and prepared for their first of three deployments to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for Unit Deployment Program WESTPAC. Following their third deployment to Japan in 2008, the Warhawks returned to Lemoore where they are once again a part of the CVW-11/USS Nimitz fighting team.
The Warhawks have won the Rear Adm. C. Wade McClusky award, three Safety “S” awards, two LTJG Bruce Carrier Memorial awards for maintenance excellence, two Scott Kirby awards for ordnance excellence, and two Capt. Michael J. Estocin awards, twice achieving the “Triple Crown.” Additionally, the Warhawks have earned a Joint Meritorious Unit Award, three Navy Unit commendations, eight Meritorious Unit commendations, six Battle “E” awards, two Navy Expeditionary Service medals, three National Defense Service medals, two Armed Forces Terrorism Service and Expeditionary medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal and 24 Sea Service Deployment ribbons. Today, the Warhawks stand ready to defend the U.S. and project her power wherever and whenever required.
In November 2003, Strike Fighter Squadron 102 was forward deployed to Atsugi, Japan, where it is still assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5. Currently, it deploys aboard USS George Washington.
The Diamondbacks were established July 1, 1955, in Jacksonville, Fla., and were equipped with the short-lived F2H Banshee, a twin-engine fighter-bomber with four 20 mm internal cannons. One year later, after a single cruise, the unit transitioned into F4D-1 Skyray aircraft, which carried the new AIM-9B Sidewinder missile.
In 1960, the squadron moved to NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Va., and transitioned to the F-4B Phantom — an association with Phantom aircraft that lasted for the next 20 years. Highlights of this period included participation in Operation Sea Orbit, the first Nuclear Task Force circumnavigation aboardUSS Enterprise, combat operations off Vietnam and cross-deck operations aboard HMS Ark Royal in 1975 and 1978.
During 1981, the squadron transitioned to the F-14A Tomcat, which provided the pilot and radar intercept operator with the most formidable air-to-air radar and weapons system ever devised. In addition to the fighter role, the Diamondbacks also gained a photo reconnaissance mission. Beginning in 1986, the Diamondbacks began cruises to the Middle East, first to the Gulf of Sidra and then to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Storm where VF-102 flew more than 1,400 combat hours during the six-week campaign.
In late July 1993, VF-102 became Carrier Air Wing 1’s only fighter squadron, receiving four additional aircraft. With the addition of general purpose bombs and cluster munitions, the Diamondbacks led the way in day and night bombings, giving the Tomcat a new mission as multirole strike fighter aircraft.
The Diamondbacks upgraded to F-14B aircraft in 1994, and completed carrier qualifications aboard USS America. Two years later, they added laser-guided weapon delivery capabilities and then added the Digital Flight Control System in 2000.
For the majority of the 2001 deployment, Operation Enduring Freedom was the focus of daily tasking, with 158 consecutive days at sea. During this time, the Diamondbacks flew 3,346 hours and 645 combat sorties and dropped/guided more than 645 bombs in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Following the return from deployment and Operation Enduring Freedom, VF-102 was assigned to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, and transferred to NAS Lemoore, Calif., to transition to the Navy’s newest strike fighter, the F/A-18F Super Hornet. The Diamondbacks were redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-102 in March 2002.
After completion of the transition to the Super Hornet, VFA-102 moved across the Pacific to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, to join the Navy’s only forward deployed air wing, CVW-5. Since joining the forward deployed naval forces, the Diamondbacks have made nine deployments on USS Kitty Hawk in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans.
As an initial step toward the decommissioning of USS Kitty Hawk, VFA-102 and CVW-5 transitioned to the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington in August 2008.
The Stingers of Strike Fighter Squadron 113 are assigned to Carrier Air Wing 14 where they fly the F/A-18C aboard USS Ronald Reagan. However, they trace their roots to Air Group 11, which was commissioned in October 1942 and tested in combat during World War II South Pacific operations of Munda, Vila and Rahilo.
The Stingers tested their mettle over the Korean skies, flying the F-8F Bearcat off USS Philippine Sea and the F4U Corsair off USS Valley Forge. As 1952 rolled around, the Stingers became a jet fighter squadron, flying the F-9F Panther and later the swept-wing F-9F Cougar.
With the introduction of the A-4D Skyhawk, the Stingers were given a new role and redesignated Attack Squadron 113 in 1965. The Stingers entered combat in South Vietnam, flying the A-4C from the deck of USS Enterprise. In December 1968, the Stingers transitioned to the A-7 aircraft and completed six combat cruises in Southeast Asia as part of Air Wing 2 aboard USS Ranger. Along the way, it earned the coveted McClusky Award as the best attack squadron in the Navy.
In 1983, the Stingers transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet and were redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 113. Between 1990 and 2003, they deployed with Carrier Air Wing 14 aboard USS Independence, USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis in support of operations Desert Shield, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In 2006, VFA-113 and Carrier Air Wing 14 were assigned to support the United States’ newest operational carrier, USS Ronald Reagan. The Stingers took part in USS Reagan’s maiden deployment to the Arabian Gulf where they flew missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After two additional deployments with USS Ronald Reagan, the Stingers returned home to establish a new landmark. On March 12, 2009, the squadron surpassed 150,000 hours of Class A mishap-free flight time, extending back to 1974.
After 60 years, the Stingers of “The First and the Finest” squadron in the fleet remain ready to execute U.S. policy at home and abroad and are able to do it as the safest tactical aviation squadron in U.S. naval aviation history.
The Eagles currently fly F/A-18E Super Hornets and are tasked to support Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard USS George Washington.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the predecessor of Strike Fighter Squadron 115 was commissioned, making it one of the oldest squadrons still in commission in the Pacific Fleet. Initially a land-based torpedo squadron (VT-11) at Guadalcanal during World War II, the squadron joined Carrier Air Group 11 aboard USS Hornet to conduct the first daylight raids on Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, followed by airstrikes against the Japanese at Okinawa. Two weeks later they participated in the liberation of the Philippines. For their actions in Leyte Gulf, seven Navy Crosses were awarded to VT-11 aircrew.
After the war, the unit moved to NAS San Diego where they were redesignated Attack Squadron 12A. VA-12A deployed on USS Valley Forge for a world cruise, making it part of the first carrier air group to circumnavigate the globe. Two years later, they were redesignated Attack Squadron 115 and transitioned from the TBF Avenger to the A-1 Skyraider — the last propeller-driven fighter bomber in the Navy arsenal. The squadron participated in two deployments during the Korean conflict, flying 2,268 combat missions and receiving the Presidential Unit Citation for outstanding performance.
The attack squadron returned to Southeast Asia in October 1965, but this time to the Gulf of Tonkin aboard USS Kitty Hawk. VA-115 flew 2,051 sorties in more than 8,000 hours and delivered more than 7 million pounds of ordnance against enemy targets in Vietnam. In September 1966, VA-115 joinedCVW-5 aboard USS Hancock for another Vietnam deployment to July 1967.
VA-115 said goodbye to its Skyraiders in September 1966, and went inactive until the unit moved to NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., and received A-6A Intruders in January 1970. After one more deployment to the Western Pacific and one last deployment off Vietnam, VA-115 changed homeport to Yokosuka, Japan. In the summer of 1977, VA-115 transitioned to the A-6E and one year later officially changed its nickname to Eagles.
The squadron’s next combat deployments came in the 1990s when the Eagles deployed to the Middle East aboard USS Midway and then USS Independence in support of Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Southern Watch. The A-6 Intruder served the squadron for more than 26 years until its transition to the F/A-18C Hornet in October 1996.
In October 1996, the Eagles began transition to their fifth aircraft, the F/A-18C Hornet, returning to NAS Lemoore with the redesignation to Strike Fighter Squadron 115. After only two deployments in the new aircraft, the Eagles were chosen to be the first Navy squadron to transition to the F/A-18E SuperHornet.
In July 2002, the Eagles embarked on the first Super Hornet combat deployment, flying combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Southern Watch, with a 100 percent combat sortie completion rate. In 2004, VFA-115 completed an extended deployment aboard USS JohnC. Stennis in support of the new Fleet Response Plan. They went to the Persian Gulf again in 2006 aboard USS Ronald Reagan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first live ordnance was delivered in combat from the decks of USS Ronald Reagan by Eagle aircraft.
VFA-115 deployed in January 2007 on a short-notice Fleet Response Plan “Surge” deployment to the Western Pacific. The Eagles deployed again on USS Ronald Reagan in May 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Continuing their legacy as “Best Attack in WESTPAC,” the Eagles employed 100 percent weapons on target, with 100 percent effectiveness. Upon returning home in November 2008, VFA-115 upgraded to Lot 31 F/A-18E Super Hornets. The new aircraft came equipped with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a considerable advancement in air-to-air and air-to-groundcapabilities. After a short turnaround training period, the Eagles deployed again on USS Ronald Reagan for another deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In December 2009, the Eagles relocated from Naval Air Station Lemoore to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, returning to forward deployed service with Carrier Air Wing 5 after a 13-year absence. During the transpacific flight of the squadron’s 11 FA-18 Super Hornets, VFA-115 surpassed 70,000 hours free of Class “A” mishaps.
Since rejoining the forward deployed naval force, VFA-115 has continued the tradition of excellence displayed throughout almost 70 years of history. In 2010, the squadron completed another successful deployment, this time aboard USS George Washington, participating in multiple large international and joint exercises, including Keen Sword, Valiant Shield and Invincible Spirit. In 2011, the Eagles again displayed unparalleled dedication to professional excellence and a mission-first mindset by flawlessly executing a successful no-notice squadron evacuation to Guam following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and Operation Tomodachi. After receiving the order to return to Japan, the squadron again embarked aboardUSS George Washington for another deployment to the Western Pacific, participating in Exercise Talisman Saber. As a direct result of the hard work and dedication of all hands, the Eagles have earned numerous awards and accolades following successful back-to-back Western Pacific deployments, including multiple Top Hook awards, multiple CVW-5 Golden Wrench awards and the 2011 Bruce Carrier Award for overall maintenance excellence.
The Eagles of VFA-115 and their predecessors have consistently proven to be one of the finest squadrons in the U.S. Navy. Leading the way in every major conflict since World War II, the Eagles continue a proud heritage. With the dedicated men and women currently serving in VFA-115, expectations for continued success remain high.
VFA-122 “FLYING EAGLES”
The Flying Eagles are the Fleet Replacement Squadron for both E and F models of the Navy’s newest fighter aircraft — the F/A-18 Super Hornet. As such, it trains replacement aircrews and maintainers for combat operations in both the single- and two-seat Super Hornet. With a staff of 170 officers and 420 enlisted personnel, it operates more than 60 aircraft and is assigned directly to Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific.
Strike Fighter Squadron 122 traces its lineage back to VC-35, a “composite” of various models of the A-1 Skyraider, which was commissioned May 25, 1950, at NAS San Diego. Its initial mission was to supply all-weather attack and anti-submarine warfare detachments for carrier deployments and Pacific Fleet exercises. Six months after activation, the unit was cruising off the coast of Korea performing anti-submarine patrols, night “heckler” missions and other combat sorties.
Composite Squadron 35 was redesignated as an all-weather attack squadron in 1956. Three years later, the unit’s mission was changed to “Fleet Replacement Training,” which it continues today. Initially, the squadron was redesignated Attack Squadron 122 and was assigned to Readiness Attack Carrier Air Wing 12, responsible for training A-1 Skyraider pilots and maintenance technicians.
In 1983, the squadron moved to the newly completed NAS Lemoore and continued training in the Spad. When the Navy began converting to A-7 jet attack airplanes in 1966, the Flying Eagles changed from a “Spad School” to “Corsair College.” Just two years and two months after the first A-7 training flights began, VA-122 graduates commenced Vietnam combat operations from USS Ranger.
In 1971, the Corsair College name gave way to the squadron’s current name, the Flying Eagles, but the squadron’s mission of training pilots and maintainers remained unchanged for the next 20 years. But in May 1991, VA-122 closed its doors after 32 years of service in training Navy pilots and maintainers in A-1 and A-7 operations.
The Navy conversion to F/A-18 Super Hornets gave the unit new life. In January 1999, the Flying Eagles became the first squadron to operate the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as it resumed its role as a Fleet Replacement Squadron.
On Oct. 1, 2010, VFA-122 was merged with VFA-125 (the Legacy Hornet FRS also stationed at NAS Lemoore). The merger was intended to cut administrative costs and streamline production in anticipation of the “legacy” F/A-18 Hornet being phased out by the Super Hornet and F-35 Lightning in the coming years. The merged squadron retained the Flying Eagles insignia while the Rough Raiders of VFA-125 were put into “hibernation” until a later date, when they will re-establish themselves as an F-35 training squadron.
VFA-137 “THE KESTRELS”
Strike Fighter Squadron 137 is the youngest organization at NAS Lemoore, established July 2, 1985. Based initially at NAS Cecil Field, Fla., it received its first F/A-18A Hornet four months later, and went on its first deployment aboard USS Coral Sea in the fall of 1987. After two aircraft transitions, VFA-137 currently flies F/A-18E Super Hornets in support of Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.
The Kestrels, named after the North American falcon, participated in their first combat mission in 1990 aboard USS Forrestal, flying over Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort. In 1992, the squadron moved to its current location of NAS Lemoore, Calif. VFA-137 subsequently proceeded to replace the older F/A-18A model with the night-attack-capable F/A-18C. The Kestrels returned to the waters off Iraq four more times between 1994 and 2001, enforcing the United Nations’ no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch.
In November 2002, the Kestrels deployed to the Arabian Gulf aboard USS Constellation for the carrier’s final deployment. Initially deploying in support of Operation Southern Watch, they ended up in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying more than 500 combat sorties and dropping more than 300,000 pounds of precision-guided ordnance.
After returning home in spring 2003, the Kestrels started the transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. In 2004, the squadron transferred with Carrier Air Wing 2 to USS Abraham Lincoln for a WESTPAC cruise on the historic first surge deployment ordered under the Navy’s Fleet Response Plan. Two years later, Strike Fighter Squadron 137 participated in its second WESTPAC deployment, which included participation in Valiant Shield, which involved three carrier battle groups — the largest assemblage of naval power in the Pacific since the Vietnam War.
In 2008, the Kestrels deployed again to the northern Arabian Gulf and northern Arabian Sea in support of air operations over both Afghanistan and Iraq. Their departure aboard USS Abraham Lincoln marked the last time a carrier and its air wing supported operations in Iraq. While in theater, VFA-137 flew nearly 500 combat sorties and employed more than 69,000 pounds of ordnance in support of the war effort. Since that deployment, the Kestrels have participated in training exercises at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nev.; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; and MacDill AFB, Fla.
2010 was a year of arduous workups and preparation for another combat deployment. In fall 2010, the Kestrels set sail for the 5th Fleet AOR, this time to meet operational requirements in support of operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. The Kestrels executed flawlessly and proudly returned home winners of the CVW-2 “Broadsword” Award, signifying recognition of the best chief’s mess in the CAG. Upon return from deployment in March 2011, the Kestrels were rapidly back in action, participating in the joint exercise Northern Edge by detaching to Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska. The successful detachment added to VFA-137’s legacy of consistent, professional execution of tactics and maintenance.
Soon after returning from Northern Edge, the Kestrels quickly began workups for their next deployment, their second in little over a year. By September 2011, the Kestrels had completed Air Wing Fallon and COMTUEX and deployed again to the 5th Fleet AOR aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, operating with Carrier Strike Group 9. Between February and July 2012, the squadron amassed 1,121 combat hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In July 2012, the Kestrels left the 5th Fleet AOR and completed an around-the-world cruise, with USS Abraham Lincoln proceeding to Naval Station Norfolk for a change of homeport. The Kestrels returned to NAS Lemoore in August 2012, after an eight-month deployment that had been extended twice. After the squadron’s return from a demanding high operations tempo, the Kestrel’s are preparing to deploy again, this time aboard USS Ronald Reagan, with the same drive and excellence that has been the tradition of the squadron since its inception.
VFA-146 “BLUE DIAMONDS”
The Blue Diamonds of Strike Fighter Squadron 146 fly the F/A-18C Hornet and are attached to Carrier Air Wing 9, which deploys with USS John C. Stennis.
Established Feb. 1, 1956, at NAS Miramar, they originally flew the F9F-8 Cougar, but transitioned to FJ-4B Fury aircraft after only one deployment. They then flew the Fury from 1958 to 1962, with deployments aboard USS Ranger, USS Oriskany and USS Lexington.
In May 1962, they moved to NAS Lemoore and began flying the A-4C Skyhawk. The Blue Diamonds first saw combat as part of the USS Constellation air wing in the Gulf of Tonkin. The squadron made numerous combat cruises during the Vietnam War; at one point having its pilots amass more than 200 combat missions each.
In 1968, the Blue Diamonds transitioned to new A-7B Corsair aircraft, but one year later they became the first unit in the fleet to receive A-7Es. In January 1970, the squadron embarked on USS America and led the first A-7E combat strikes in Vietnam.
In the spring of 1989, the unit was redesignated a strike fighter squadron and began flying the F/A-18C night strike fighter. Updated systems coupled with state-of-the-art night vision technology allowed accurate night bombing. In February 1991, the squadron deployed on USS Nimitz to the Persian Gulf and participated in the last days of Operation Desert Storm. It returned to the Middle East four more times over the next decade in support of Operation Southern Watch, the United Nations’ imposed no-fly zone over Iraq.
In 2001, aboard USS John C. Stennis, Strike Fighter Squadron 146 flew night combat operations over Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 bombing of the twin towers in New York City. During this deployment, they amassed more than 3,500 flight hours and delivered more than 102,000 pounds of ordnance against Taliban and al-Qaida targets. In 2005 and 2007, the Blue Diamonds flew two more deployments in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. During this time, they reached an incredible milestone of 22 consecutive years with more than 92,000 mishap-free flying hours.
In April 2010, the Blue Diamonds transitioned to the Carrier Air Wing 14 team. Again, the Blue Diamonds were awarded the 2010 Bruce Carrier Maintenance Award. On Feb. 2, 2011, the Blue Diamonds deployed aboard USS Ronald Reagan. During a seven-month deployment, the Blue Diamonds participated in operations Tomodachi, providing more than 336,000 pounds of vital supplies for more than 34,000 displaced Japanese citizens during humanitarian relief efforts. The Blue Diamonds then headed west and flew 212 combat sorties in support of operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.USS Ronald Reagan and the Blue Diamonds returned home Sept. 9, 2011.
Upon returning from deployment, the Blue Diamonds had about a month at home before again going to support sustainment training tasked by 3rd Fleet. This operation lasted one month before the Blue Diamonds returned home again in early November.
Strike Fighter Squadron 147’s Argonauts have taken their name from the mystical Greek legend of Jason and his men, who searched the oceans in quest of adventure and personal rewards. Today, the Argonauts seek their adventure while flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet with Air Carrier Wing 9 when deployed aboard USS John C. Stennis.
Commissioned Feb. 1, 1967, VA-147 was the first squadron to fly the A-7E Corsair II and the first to test it in combat in Southeast Asia. Making five deployments aboard USS America and USS Constellation during the Vietnam conflict, the Argonauts rapidly established the new Corsair as a marked improvement over all previous aircraft.
During the 23 years the squadron flew the A-7E, it won the coveted Battle “E” in 1977 as the top Corsair squadron in the Pacific Fleet, three CNO safety awards and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for bombing excellence.
The unit was redesignated as Strike Fighter Squadron 147 in July 1989, and received its first F/A-18C aircraft Dec. 6. The Argonauts were the first squadron to receive the new “night attack” Hornets and quickly put them to use during a 1991 deployment to the Persian Gulf for combat missions over Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Storm.
During the ’90s, the Argonauts made three more trips to the Persian Gulf aboard USS Nimitz to enforce the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. Following the terrorist attacks on New York City in 2001, they participated in combat strikes from USS John C. Stennis against Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan.
Strike Fighter Squadron 147 deployed three more times to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom: in 2003 and 2005 aboard USS Carl Vinson and in 2007 aboard USS John C. Stennis. During the final deployment, they were called upon daily to support our troops on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Argonauts flew more than 4,500 hours, to include 409 combat sorties.
VFA-147 was awarded the Battle “E” and was named the Navy’s top F/A-18C Hornet squadron as a result of their 2007 combat cruise. After returning home, they began transitioning to F/A-18E Super Hornets in October 2007 and completed the transition in February 2008.
2012 was a busy yet rewarding year for the Argonauts. The year was spent doing workups for deployment in support of Carrier Strike Group 11. Time was spent in the Pacific, Fallon, Florida and aboard USS Nimitz. The men and women of VFA-147 provided combat-ready aircraft for a variety of different missions in a variety of different locations both on and off the carrier. From the Tyndall Detachment in Florida, RIMPAC off Hawaii, SFARP and Air Wing in NAS Fallon, and C2X/JTFEX aboard USS Nimitz, the Argonauts succeeded at every turn. VFA-147 dropped tens of thousands of pounds of both live and inert ordnance and expended thousands of rounds of 20 mm ammunition during multiple large force strike exercises all over the U.S. In August, after a two-month RIMPAC and a two-week turnaround in Lemoore, the outstanding Argonaut maintenance team produced a fleet of 12 ready-for-tasking aircraft, which were sent to Fallon for SFARP for a month. After returning to Lemoore, 12 fleet-ready aircraft were sent to USS Nimitz for a grueling monthlong COMPTUEX and JTFEX. In December, VFA-147 continued to excel, preparing for a SUSTEX in Fallon and an at-sea SUSTEXon USS Nimitz prior to leaving on deployment in April 2013. After a port stop in South Korea and Thailand, the Argonauts of VFA-147 are currently in the Middle East flying combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. The Argo maintenance team has won the Golden Wrench Award and the LTJG Bruce Carrier Maintenance Award for the first part of the cruise for their outstanding maintenance department and the ability to be the go-to squadron in Carrier Air Wing 11.
The Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (VFA-151) fly the F/A-18C Hornet as part of Carrier Air Wing 2, attached to USS Abraham Lincoln. Their tail code is NE and their radio call sign is “Switch.”
The squadron was originally designated the VF-23 Flashers in 1948, and was based out of NAS Oceana, Va., flying the F4U-5 Corsair and F6F-5P Hellcat aboard USS Midway.
In August 1950, the squadron changed homeports, moving to NAS Alameda, Calif., and deployed for combat operations in support of the Korean War. By the end of the conflict, the squadron had racked up an impressive three combat cruises and transitioned to the Jet Age in the straight-winged F9F-2Panther.
Over the course of the next decade, the Flashers transitioned through three different types of aircraft, made numerous deployments in support of contingency operations and were redesignated. By 1959, VF-23 had become the Vigilantes of VF-151 and could be found flying the F3H-2 Demon as part of Carrier Air Group 15.
Five short years later, in 1964, the Vigilantes transitioned yet again, this time to the F-4B Phantom and to a new homeport in Japan. For the better part of the next decade, the squadron would participate in every major operation of the Vietnam War, making more combat deployments (seven) and spending more time on the line (927 days) than any other carrier-based unit. This phenomenal record also included the longest deployment (a mind-numbing 331 days on USS Coral Sea) and the longest line period of the war (208 days on USS Midway).
VF-151 flew the Phantom for the remainder of its service with the U.S. Navy, ultimately transitioning in 1986 to the F/A-18 Hornet. Along with their new aircraft, the Vigilantes picked up a new designation, trading their “VF” in for “VFA.” By 1990, VFA-151 again found itself involved in combat flight operations, this time supporting operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with more than 817,000 pounds of live ordnance on targets in Iraq
In August 1991, the squadron left Japan and transferred to their current home in CVW-2, at NAS Lemoore, Calif. In February 1993, the squadron upgraded to the C model of the F/A-18.
As part of CVW-2, the squadron continued its long history of excellence in combat, making numerous WESTPAC and combat deployments throughout the ’90s to today. In March 2008, the Vigilantes departed on a seven-month Western Pacific deployment aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. During this time, VFA-151 completed 468 combat sorties and 1,795 deployed sorties, encompassing 2,600 flight hours in direct support of combat operations.
Included among the many achievements in VFA-15l’s proud history are the receipt of the Presidential Unit Citation, eight Armed Forces Expeditionary medals, five Battle “E” awards, five Safety “S” awards, six Navy Unit Commendations and seven Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit citations.
VFA-154 “BLACK KNIGHTS”
The Black Knights fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet while assigned to Carrier Air Wing 9, when deployed aboard USS John C. Stennis. They came into existence, though, in 1946 when a Naval Reserve squadron was called to active duty for the Korean War. Since that time, they have transitioned frompropeller-driven aircraft to the Navy’s newest strike fighters; have served over Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East; and were forward deployed to Japan for 13 years.
Originally stationed at NAS Floyd Bennett, N.Y., the squadron moved to NAS Moffett Field, Calif., and transitioned from the F-6F Hellcat to F4U Corsairs and then jet F9F-2 Panthers while serving two deployments in Korea with Carrier Air Wing 15. After many changes in unit designation, the squadron was officially redesignated VF-154 on Feb. 4, 1953, while passing under the Golden Gate Bridge aboard USS Princeton, on their way back to Korea.
VF-154’s first combat deployment to Vietnam occurred in 1965 aboard USS Coral Sea as part of Carrier Air Wing 15. Yearly combat cruises followed, but the time between the first and subsequent cruises was put to good use when the unit transitioned to F-4B Phantom II aircraft. With the shift in aircraft, the unit became part of Carrier Air Wing 2 where it remained until 1980. After a second cruise aboard USS Coral Sea, the Black Knights shifted to USS Ranger, completing five further cruises to Southeast Asia.
In October 1983, the Black Knights transitioned to F-14 Tomcats, a type of aircraft they would continue to fly for the next two decades. Along with VF-21, they were the first F-14 squadrons to arrive in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield.
In August 1991, USS Independence was forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, to replace USS Midway. The Black Knights accompanied USS Independence on this move to Japan, leaving their homeport of NAS Miramar for a 13-year forward deployment to NAF Atsugi in support of Carrier Air Wing 5. It became the first F-14 squadron to deploy to Atsugi with an air-to-ground bombing capacity.
With the drawdown in F-14 squadrons during the mid-1990s, VF-154 was the last F-14 squadron in Carrier Air Wing 5 at Atsugi. USS Independence departed Japan in 2000 to be replaced by USS Kitty Hawk at Yokosuka. Aboard its new aircraft carrier, the Black Knights sailed to the Persian Gulf in January 2003 to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In September 2003, the Black Knights left Atsugi for the last time, ending a 13-year tour in Japan. They also ended a 20-year partnership with the F-14 Tomcat. One month later, the unit was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 154 and began transitioning to the Navy’s newest strike fighter, the F/A-18F, at NAS Lemoore.
Just over one year later, in January 2005, the Black Knights departed on USS Carl Vinson. VFA-154 showed they were ready when, on their first cruise in the F/A-18F, they flew more than 1,000 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Approximately 1.5 years later, they departed on their second cruise, this time in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. No other squadron in recent history has had such a demanding transition schedule.
In March 2013, the Black Knights took part in A/A training with NWSEP (Navy Weapons Systems Evaluation Program) at Tyndall AFB, Panama City, Florida, earning the coveted “Boola Boola” Award for proficiency in A/A missile employment.
With the completion of COMPTUEX, JTFEX and SUSTEX, the Black Knights departed NAS Lemoore in April 2013 to deploy on USS Nimitz in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Black Knights have a very proud tradition of being the best in the air and on the ground. Regardless of platform or home base, one thing has never changed: Black Knights Rule!
VFA-192 “GOLDEN DRAGONS”
Strike Fighter Squadron 192 flies F/A-18C Hornets while assigned to Carrier Air Wing 9 in support of USS John C. Stennis. The Golden Dragons are five-time recipients of the Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award, two-time recipients of the Lt. Cmdr. Michael J. Estocin Award and most recently in 2008, recipients of the CNO’s Safety “S” for 25 years of Class A mishap-free flying.
The unit was initially designated as Fighter Bomber Squadron 19 in 1945, flying the F4U Corsair. After World War II, they were known as Fighter Squadron 15A and Fighter Squadron 151 until settling on Fighter Squadron 192. In 1953, the Golden Dragons became world-famous when they flew their F9F-5 Panther jets and participated in the filming of “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” and “Men of the Fighting Lady.”
From 1959 to 1970, the Golden Dragons flew the venerable A-4 Skyhawk, making four combat cruises to Vietnam. In December 1962, the unit moved homeport from Moffett Field to NAS Lemoore, where they transitioned to the A-7E Corsair II and returned to Vietnam for two additional deployments.
On Jan. 10, 1986, the unit was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 192 and began transitioning to F/A-18A Hornets. Only 11 months later, in November 1986, the Golden Dragons were forward deployed to NAF Atsugi where they remained until December 2009. Over the course of 24 years in Japan, the Dragons served with Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard four forward deployed aircraft carriers: USS Midway, USS Independence, USS Kitty Hawk and USS George Washington.
VFA-192 was one of the first Navy F/A-18 Hornet squadrons to launch strikes against enemy targets in Kuwait and Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991. Since that time, the Golden Dragons have returned to the area repeatedly; enforcing U.N. no-fly rules over southern Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch, supporting special operations forces attacks against al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan after 9/11, and participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
During the same period, the Golden Dragons converted to F/A-18C aircraft, and have participated in numerous joint military exercises with Pacific allies including the first carrier operations in the Yellow Sea in more than 15 years.
Currently, the world-famous Golden Dragons are stationed in NAS Lemoore. They deployed in September 2012 aboard USS John C. Stennis, four months earlier than originally planned, where they once again entered the history books as the first squadron in over 40 years to employ rockets from an aircraft carrier. After returning home, the Dragons prepared for their 10th major aircraft-type transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. The Golden Dragons are truly proud of their rich history. Today’s Dragons are ever-cognizant that they stand on the shoulders of giants while they forge new history.
On July 1, 1986, just over one year after beginning its transition to F/A-18 Hornets, Strike Fighter Squadron 195 was assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5 and officially joined the forward deployed naval forces in Yokosuka, Japan. While ashore, the Dambusters still operate out of NAF Atsugi, Japan, where they now deploy aboard USS George Washington. Since its commissioning in 1943, VFA-195 has played a role in every major conflict since World War II.
Attack Squadron 195 was established in 1943, flying the TBM Avenger from USS Lexington as part of Adm. Halsey’s force, which “hit hard, hit fast and hit often.” During the Korean conflict, Cmdr. Harold Carlson led his squadron in a unique battle between North Korea and VA-195, immortalized by James Michener in his top-selling novel “The Bridges at Toko-Ri.”
Following that successful operation, VA-195 was told to bomb the Hwachon Dam. Flying the AD-1 Skyraider, they used aerial torpedoes to bust the dam, thus they were given the nickname “Dambusters,” which remains today.
Attack Squadron 195 transitioned from propeller-driven AD-1 Skyraiders to the jet-powered A-4 Skyhawk in July 1959 and moved to NAS Lemoore in January 1962. As the Vietnam crisis flared in the fall of 1964, the Dambusters flew aboard USS Bon Homme Richard and USS Ticonderoga, logging more combat flight hours and sorties than any other squadron in Air Wing 19.
In 1970, the Dambusters transitioned to the A-7E Corsair II and USS Kitty Hawk. Continuing the tradition of the Hwachon Dam, in 1972 the Dambusters destroyed the Ninh Binh railroad bridge and a cave storage area by dropping the first combat deliveries of a single data link version of the TV-guided“Walleye” weapon.
On April 1, 1985, the unit was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 195 and commenced transition to the F/A-18 Hornet in preparation for its forward deployment to Atsugi, Japan.
Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, VFA-195 flew 564 combat missions and delivered 356 tons of ordnance in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The Dambusters found themselves returning to the Middle East after the 2001 terrorist attack on New York City, striking Taliban and al-Qaida training camps deep within Afghanistan. They returned to the Arabian Gulf in 2003, flying 278 combat sorties in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After a demanding and successful decade of frequent deployments, the Dambusters completed their last with the F/A-18C Hornet in November 2010. The squadron accomplished a successful transition to F/A-18E Super Hornets in spring 2011 and embarked shortly thereafter as CVW-5’s newest Super Hornet squadron aboard USS George Washington during the 2011 Western Pacific deployment.
VFA-195 has played a role in every major conflict since World War II. The Dambusters will continue this proud tradition of courage and readiness whenever the nation calls.