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Tenant Commands in Strike Fighter Country
Strike Fighter Country!
The sign as you enter Reeves Field, the base’s Operations area, clearly defines NAS Lemoore’s primary mission – to train, maintain, man and equip F/A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter Squadrons in support of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Every organization in the operations area directly supports the ability of the base’s homeported Strike Fighter Squadrons to deploy aboard Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers.
The Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered here, ensures each Strike Fighter Squadron is fully combat ready to conduct carrier-based, all weather, attack, fighter and support missions for the Pacific Fleet. The Carrier Air Wings coordinate offensive and defensive air operations for assigned Pacific Fleet Carrier battle Strike Groups which include F/A-18 Strike Fighter Squadrons from Lemoore.
The Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific, provides the best possible training in mission planning, tactics, weapon systems and ordnance handling to ensure every squadron is prepared to enter any combat contingency and win.
The Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit provides the highest quality training for aviation maintenance technicians so that commands can perform their primary mission ashore, at sea and in combat.
Other units that provide essential support for the Strike Fighter operation include Fleet Readiness Center West, a major industrial maintenance complex; Air Operations, which controls more than 250,000 military and civilian flights annually; an Aviation Survival Training Center; and a Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering support unit. These and many additional support organizations ensure all Strike Fighter Squadron aircraft, air crew, maintainers, armament specialists and support personnel are ready to deploy whenever called.
NAS Lemoore is the Navy’s newest, largest and only West Coast Master Jet base. As such, it is homeport for every Navy Strike Fighter Squadron on the West Coast. These squadrons are now equipped exclusively with F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft.
These all-weather fighter and attack aircraft are this nation’s first strike-fighter aircraft. They are designed for traditional strike applications such as interdiction and close air support without compromising fighter capabilities. The newest model Super Hornet is 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. In its fighter mode, the F/A-18 is used primarily as a fighter escort and for fleet air defense; in its attack mode, it is used for force projection, interdiction, and close and deep air support.
F/A-18 Hornets are currently operating in 37 tactical squadrons from air stations worldwide, and from 10 aircraft carriers.
Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific
The mission of Commander, Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific Fleet, is to provide combat-ready strike fighter F/A-18 squadrons to serve aboard U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers. To accomplish this mission, the commander maintains close liaison with Commander Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and embarked Air Wing commanders.
To ensure units are combat ready, the Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific, is responsible for all aspects of training, manning, maintenance and logistical support for units under its command.
Other shore commands, which comprise the Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific, are Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific and maintenance units at Fallon and El Centro, which provide support to squadrons when deployed to these training locations.
Carrier Air Wings
There are currently 10 Navy Carrier Air Wings: five based at NAS Oceana, Va., which support the Atlantic Fleet; four based headquartered at NAS Lemoore which support the Pacific Fleet; and one forward deployed to NAF Atsugi, Japan.
Each Carrier Air Wing is organized, equipped and trained to conduct carrier air operations while embarked aboard aircraft carriers. When deployed, each Wing provides a wide array of aircraft types to provide Carrier Strike Groups both the striking power and defensive capability to project America’s interests worldwide. An air wing consists of roughly 2,500 personnel and 60 to 65 aircraft.
The four Carrier Air Wings based at NAS Lemoore are Carrier Air Wing 2, which supports the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72); Carrier Air Wing 9, which supports the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74); Carrier Air Wing 11, which supports the USS Nimitz (CVN 68); and Carrier Air Wing 17, which supports the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). When deployed, each of these Wings normally include F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters, EA-6B Prowler or EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft, C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft, and MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters which are used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, anti-ship warfare, cargo lift and special operations.
Four CSFWP Strike Fighter Squadrons are also periodically forward deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi where they support Carrier Air Wing 5 and the USS George Washington (CVN 73), the only forward deployed aircraft carrier in the Pacific Fleet. Naval Air Facility Atsugi covers 1,250 acres and lies in the heart of the Kanto Plain on Honshu, the main island of Japan, which has been home to Carrier Air Wing 5 for more than 28 years. Currently, nearly 10,000 people live and work at the naval facility including American military members and their families, civilians and Japanese National employees.
Aircraft Carriers of the Pacific Fleet
The aircraft carrier continues to be one of our nation’s most visible symbols of military might. Each of the Carrier Air Wings at NAS Lemoore support Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carriers, which are the largest warships in the world. Each flight deck is 4.5 acres of sovereign U.S. territory.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet is the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles, more than half the Earth’s surface, extending from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Africa. The Pacific Fleet consists of approximately 180 ships, 1,500 aircraft and 125,000 Sailors, Marines and civilians.
Each aircraft carrier is the size of a small city. The ship has a crew of nearly 3,000 men and women, which grows to nearly 5,000 when deployed with a Carrier Air Wing. When aircraft operate from their flight deck, the aircraft carrier’s crew and air wing personnel function as a single team, providing our nation with a potent, flexible and mobile force.
Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2)
Carrier Air Wing 2’s motto, “For Liberty, We Fight,” is appropriate for a military organization that has served the cause of liberty since the end of World War II. CVW-2 currently includes three F/A-18 squadrons from NAS Lemoore. When deployed with the Pacific Fleet, they serve aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
Other aircraft assigned to the Wing include F/A-18 Hornets from NAS Oceana, Va.; EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft from Whidbey Island, Wash.; E-2C airborne early warning aircraft from Point Mugu, Calif.; and MH-60S and MH-60R combat search and rescue and antisubmarine helicopters; and C-2 cargo aircraft from NAS North Island, San Diego.
Established on May 1, 1945, the new “Battle Air Group” consisted of 96 F4U-4/FG-1D Corsairs and 46 SBW-4E Helldiver aircraft. From those early beginnings on board the USS Midway (CVB 41), Air Wing 2 has seen action on 13 carriers: in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope over Somalia, Operation Southern Watch and most recently Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Though the mix of aircraft assigned to CVW-2 has varied since its beginning in 1945, the unit mission has remained the same: to be prepared to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations from the sea in support of national interests.
Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9)
Commissioned March 26, 1952 at Naval Air Station Alameda, Carrier Air Wing 9 has since deployed on 11 different aircraft carriers and participated in operations during the Korean War, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Anaconda, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.
Currently, CVW-9 includes four Strike Fighter Squadrons from NAS Lemoore. When deployed, they serve aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
Other aircraft assigned to the Wing include E-2C airborne early warning aircraft from NAS Point Mugu, Calif.; EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft from NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.; and MH-60S and HH-60R Seahawk helicopters and C-2 cargo aircraft from NAS North Island, Calif. In January 2009, it integrated an HSM helicopter squadron and its cruiser destroyer detachments into the Air Wing structure for the first time, with the MH-60R detachments operating from CCSG-3 cruiser destroyer assets.
Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11)
Commissioned on Navy Day, 1942, Carrier Air Wing 11 recorded a significant number of “firsts” in attaining its place as one of the Navy’s top fighting organizations.
In June 1943, the pilots of the group conducted the first daylight raids in combat during the Solomon Islands and New Georgia campaigns of World War II. During the Korean conflict, it was the first Naval Air Group to shoot down MIG fighters.
With the addition of RA-5C Vigilante, A-6A Intruder and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft in 1965, Air Wing 11 deployed onboard the USS Kitty Hawk to Vietnam as the most modern, complex strike group ever assembled.
In 1972, the Air Wing 11 deployed aboard the Kitty Hawk with 107 aircraft, employing both tactical aircraft and anti-submarine aircraft on the same carrier for the first time.
Deploying to the Arabian Gulf in 1991, the Wing was a part of the first battle groups to operate in the Gulf during the summer months.
Aircrews assigned to Carrier Air Wing 11 have participated in nearly every military conflict including World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. They’ve patrolled nearly every area within the Pacific Fleet’s area of responsibility including the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and North Arabian Sea. Currently, CVW-11 includes four Strike Fighter Squadrons from NAS Lemoore.
CARRIER AIR WING 17 (CVW-17)
The Air Group that would come to be known as Carrier Air Wing 17, Carrier Air Group 82, was created during World War II on April 1, 1944, in Atlantic City. Air Group 82 deployed for one of the last combat tours of the war aboard USS Bennington (CV 20) as the first air group to operate from her decks. The air group operated in the Pacific for the remainder of the war supporting the assault on Iwo Jima and the Japanese home islands. During the battle for Okinawa, the Air Group was the first to attack the Japanese super battleship Yamato that resulted in the ship sinking.
Following the war, the Air Group was redesignated Carrier Air Group 17 (CVAG-17) and redeployed to the East Coast in 1946. Until the Air Group was deactivated in September 1958, Air Group 17 operated with the Atlantic Fleet and deployed to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic onboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, USS Wasp and USS Coral Sea.
Air Group 17 was reactivated in November 1966, as Air Wing 17 (CVW-17) and assigned to the USS Forrestal (CV 59).
Just six and a half months after re-forming, the Air Wing deployed to the Tonkin Gulf aboard Forrestal. CVW-17 flew its first combat missions into Vietnam on July 25, 1967. On the fifth day of combat operations, a Zuni rocket was accidentally fired across the Forrestal’s flight deck resulting in a catastrophic fire. Herculean efforts eventually controlled the flames, but not before 134 men were killed (including 112 Air Wing personnel) and 21 aircraft were destroyed.
More recently, from January to April 2010, CVW-17 deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in support of Partnership of the Americas (POA). Only a few days into CVW-17’s deployment, a massive earthquake struck Haiti.
CVW-17 aircraft and crews were called upon to provide three weeks of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) in support of Operation Restore Hope.
From November 2010 to June 2011, CVW-17 deployed onboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. After an abbreviated, five-month turnaround, CVW-17 again deployed from November 2011 to May 2012 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In October 2012, the CVW-17 staff changed its permanent duty station from NAS Oceana, Va. to NAS Lemoore, Calif.
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 on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
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, the 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 on Sept. 17, 1995, when McDonnell Douglas rolled out its first Super Hornets, 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 on 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-Hornet transition.
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 the USS Abraham Lincoln in a marriage that continues today. As part of the Navy’s new war fighting strategy known as the Fleet Response Plan, Carrier Air Wing 2 and the USS Abraham 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 which 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 the 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 Admiral C. Wade McClusky Award for their performance on cruise in 2008. These two prestigious awards capped a banner year for the Bounty Hunter team.
Strike Fighter Squadron 14 maintains and operates 12 F/A-18E Super Hornets as an element of Carrier Air Wing 11 when deployed aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
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 several battleships.
The Tophatters began carrier operations onboard the Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1) 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 20mm cannon and 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 to bring her “around the horn” to her new homeport of San Diego.
From May to November 2005, the Fighting 14 deployed aboard the 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 over 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 over 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 (CVN 76).
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 RADM C. Wade McClusky Award in 1981, designating 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 the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).
VFA-25 “The Fist of the Fleet”
For over 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 peace keeping 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 drive 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 the 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 over 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 re-designated a Strike Fighter Unit on 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 the 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 the USS George Washington (CVN 73). It did return home to NAS Lemoore in 2004 to transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet.
The Royal Maces were commissioned on 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 the USS Constellation (CVA 64) for its first two deployments. It then transitioned to A-7E aircraft in June 1970, and embarked back to Vietnam aboard the USS Enterprise (CNV 65) where it flew 4,400 combat flight hours and participated in over 1,500 air strikes 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 re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron 27. In November 1992, while deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), 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 on Jan. 13, 1993, delivering over 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-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 the USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
The Black Aces were commissioned on 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-guided ordnance 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 PBS miniseries “Carrier.” The third took the Black Aces to both the Iraqi and Afghani theaters of operation.
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 which 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 which earned its reputation in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
After quickly transitioning through seven aircraft, the Mighty Shrikes were re-designated as a Light Attack Squadron in 1958; 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 the 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 re-designated 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 (CVN 68) team as the first Navy strike fighter squadron to transition back to the Carrier Air Wing operations from Expeditionary operations.
The Warhawks of VA-97 were commissioned on 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 the USS Constellation, then joined the USS Enterprise for a trip around the world, followed by two trips off the Vietnam coast. When they returned from their sixth deployment aboard the USS Enterprise in April 1978, they celebrated the completion of six years and over 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 the 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 new 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 the USS Kitty Hawk “around the horn.” In 1992, they deployed to support UN 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 over 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.
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 (CVN 73).
The Diamondbacks were established on 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 F-4D-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 onboard the USS 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 multi-role 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 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, 645 combat sorties and dropped/guided over 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 FA-18F Super Hornet. The Diamondbacks were re-designated 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 the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
As an initial step towards the decommissioning of the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), VFA-102 and CVW-5 transitioned to the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) 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 the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 70). 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 the USS Philippine Sea and the F-4U Corsair off the 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 re-designated 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 on board the 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 re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron 113. Between 1990 and 2003, they deployed with Carrier Air Wing 14 aboard the 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 the Reagan’s maiden deployment to the Arabian Gulf where they flew missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After two additional deployments with the 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.
The Eagles currently fly F/A-18E Super Hornets and are tasked to support Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73).
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 the USS Hornet to conduct the first daylight raids on Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, followed by air strikes 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 re-designated Attack Squadron 12A. VA-12A deployed on USS Valley Forge (CV 45) for a world cruise, making it part of the first carrier air group to circumnavigate the globe. Two years later, they were re-designated 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 on board the USS Kitty Hawk. VA-115 flew 2,051 sorties in over 8,000 hours and delivered more than 7 million pounds of ordnance against enemy targets in Vietnam. In September 1966, VA-115 joined CVW-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 of 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 re-designation 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 Super Hornet.
In July 2002, the Eagles embarked on the first ever 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 on board USS John C. Stennis in support of the new Fleet Response Plan. They went to the Persian Gulf again in 2006 aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first live ordnance was delivered in combat from the decks of the 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 FA-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-ground capabilities. After a short turnaround training period, the Eagles deployed again on USS Ronald Reagan for another deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
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 air crews 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 on 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 re-designated 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 re-designated 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 the 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-18 E/F Super Hornet as it resumed its role and 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 reestablish themselves as an F-35 training squadron.
VFA-137 “The Kestrels”
Strike Fighter Squadron 137 is the youngest organization at NAS Lemoore, established on 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 the 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 the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
The Kestrels, named after the North American Falcon, participated in their first combat mission in 1990 aboard the 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 onboard 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 the spring of 2003, the Kestrels started the transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. In 2004, the squadron transferred with Carrier Air Wing 2 to the 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 the 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 over 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.
VFA-146 “Blue Diamonds”
The Blue Diamonds of Strike Fighter Squadron fly the F/A-18C Hornet and are attached to Carrier Air Wing 9 which deploys with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
Established on 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 the 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 re-designated 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 the 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 the 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 over 3,500 flight hours and delivered over 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.
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 the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
Commissioned on 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 the USS American and the 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 re-designated as Strike Fighter Squadron 147 in July 1989, and received its first F/A-18C aircraft on 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 the 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 the 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 over 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.
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 Naval Air Station 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-2 Panther.
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 re-designated. 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 and Kuwait.
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. Most recently, 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 the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). 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 from propeller-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., transitioned from the F-6F Hellcat to F-4U 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 re-designated VF-154 on Feb. 4, 1953, while passing under the Golden Gate Bridge onboard the USS Princeton, on their way back to Korea.
VF-154’s first combat deployment to Vietnam occurred in 1965 aboard the 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 onboard the USS Coral Sea, the Black Knights shifted to the 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, the USS Independence was forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan to replace the USS Midway. The Black Knights accompanied the 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. The USS Independence departed Japan in 2000 to be replaced by the 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 re-designated 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 the USS Carl Vinson. VFA-154 shows they were ready when, on their first cruise in the F/A-18F, they flew over 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.
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 (CVN 74). The Golden Dragons are five-time recipients of the Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award, two-time recipient of the LCDR Michael J. Estocin Award and most recently in 2008, recipient 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 F-4U 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 re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron 192 and began transitioning into 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 our Pacific allies including the first carrier operations in the Yellow Sea in over 15 years.
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 the USS George Washington (CVN 73). 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 the USS Lexington as part of Admiral 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 Korean and VA-195, immortalized by James Mitchener in his top selling novel “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 the 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 the 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 re-designated 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.
Weapons School, Pacific
From its inception in 1973 until today, the mission of the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific has expanded from the simple, yet critical task of teaching ordnance-loading procedures to providing formal standardized graduate-level training through curricula covering every aspect of F/A-18 weapons employment.
The Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific is dedicated to guaranteeing the combat readiness of the Strike Fighter community by providing the best possible training in mission planning, tactics, weapons systems and ordnance handling to ensure every squadron is prepared to enter any combat contingency and win.
Thirty weapons and tactics courses for strike fighter aircraft are taught on a continuing basis to fleet squadrons, reserve squadrons and Naval Air Stations. The amount of ordnance uploaded in courses offered at the school totals over 2.5 million pounds annually.
When first established on Oct. 15, 1973 at NAS Lemoore, the “Light Attack Weapons School, Pacific” was commissioned to further improve the quality and safety of weapons operations within the Pacific Fleet Light Attack Community.
In actuality, the history of the school dates back to 1963 when the Weapons Training Center was first established in support of the Lemoore fleet training syllabus. Under the co-management of Attack Squadron 122 and Attack Squadron 125, the center gained the respect and admiration of the Light Attack community.
With the advent of the A-7 aircraft and the intensified tempo of fleet operations, training requirements expanded. A change in operations control in 1969 to Commander Fleet Air Lemoore (presently Commander, Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet) brought added responsibilities.
Growth and sophistication in attack weaponry and delivery systems established a requirement for the formation of the Light Attack Weapons School, Pacific as a parallel training vehicle devoted solely to training weapons training officers of fleet squadrons in the effective employment of assigned airborne weapon systems.
Under Fleet Air Lemoore guidance, the Weapons Training Center grew into a conglomerate of exceptional expertise in the weapons training field.
The chief of naval operations had earlier recognized the need for postgraduate weapons training and had expressed the desire to create a commissioned unit. The stated goal was that “eventually all pilots and every career aviator should have specialized training in weapons.”
With the groundwork laid, Commander Light Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet formally commissioned the Weapons Training Center as Light Attack Weapons School, Pacific, a permanently shore-based command at NAS Lemoore in 1973.
The Light Attack Weapons School, Pacific was re-designated Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific on July 1, 1988 in recognition of the expanded capabilities of Lemoore-based squadrons.
In August 1996, the Intelligence Department of the Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet was incorporated into the Weapons School, significantly enhancing the strike planning and support training for fleet squadrons.
Currently, Strike Fighter Weapons School, Pacific is staffed with 21 permanently assigned officers, 25 enlisted personnel and eight civilians. Its mission continues to be critically tied to increasing the combat readiness of Pacific Fleet Strike Fighter Squadrons.
Fleet Readiness Center West
Established in November 2008 and headquartered in Lemoore, Calif., Fleet Readiness Center West (FRC West) is a major field industrial maintenance complex, housing over 350,000 square feet of equipment, test benches, storage systems and repair facilities. With detachments in Fallon, Nev., Fort Worth, Texas and China Lake, Calif., FRC West provides quality airframes, engines, components and services at improved efficiency and reduced cost to Carrier Air Wing squadrons, the Unit Deployment Program, the Air Test and Evaluation community and multiple reserve component customers.
In addition to more than 1,400 shore Sailors, Marines and civilians, FRC West manages 255 Sea Operational Detachment members who provide specialized technical support and maintenance to carriers with air wings embarked.
Additional support is provided to the Unit Deployment Program, deploying to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan in support of MALS-12.
FRC West is the single F414-GE-400 repair site, producing 274 engines in 2009 at an average “time to reliably replenish” rate of 10 days. Working closely with our module suppliers at FRC Southeast, these efforts support critical engine pools established onboard the CVN, in forward deployed locations such as Bahrain and Atsugi, Japan, as well as seven CONUS sites.
Through the implementation of resource management, AIRSpeed initiatives and Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) practices, FRC West continues to develop improved production and managerial techniques. These efforts are critical to the execution of the Navy’s mission and support our commitment to cost-wise readiness, returning critical flying hours back to the Naval Aviation Enterprise.
FRC West has built and continues to improve upon our legacy of superior War Fighter support, as evidenced by our nomination by Commander, Naval Air Forces for the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award, Medium Category, while leading the way in the exploitation of resources and innovation, maximizing aircraft readiness for squadrons operating in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
The Air Operations Department of NAS Lemoore is housed in Building 1 and is tasked with providing administrative and operational support for Air Traffic Control, Fuels, Field Support and Ground Electronics Maintenance.
The Air Traffic Control facility at NAS Lemoore is the largest operation of its type in the Navy. The facility has jurisdiction of more than 11,500 cubic miles of airspace from the surface to 23,000 feet. It annually controls over 250,000 military and civilian flight operations.
The Fuels Division assists in maintaining a high degree of fleet readiness by providing quality aircraft services, and effectively operating and maintaining fuel storage and distribution at an average rate of 3.5 million gallons a month.
Fuels Division also provides liquid oxygen and nitrogen service. In addition, Fuels provides passenger, cargo and transient line aircraft services, annually handling more than 650,000 pounds of baggage and 15,000 passengers.
Field Support provides 15 fleet squadrons and two fleet replacement squadrons with FOD-free runways and arresting gear for aircraft emergencies. They also maintain the optical landing system used by pilots for Field Carrier Landing Practice.
Ground Electronics Maintenance ensures the completion of preventative maintenance and repair of NAS Lemoore’s navigation, radar, weather and communications Equipment. Ground Electronics also provides spectrum and frequency management.
Aviation Survival Training Center
Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) Lemoore is a department of the Naval Operational Medicine Institute of Pensacola, Fla. ASTC Lemoore’s mission is maximizing the performance and survivability of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircrew under the rigorous conditions of Naval Aviation. Unique to ASTC Lemoore is acceleration physiology training using the Navy’s only centrifuge-based Flight Environment Training. ASTC Lemoore provides and meets the aviation survival and safety requirements of all Naval Aviation and DoD activities. Through didactic classroom or squadron lectures, simulator devices and a curriculum that emphasizes hands-on exposure to survival skills, we offer the best survival training available to the Fleet.
Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Lemoore
Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU) Lemoore’s mission is to produce Sailors and Marines with the necessary FA-18 knowledge, skills and abilities to function at the highest technical standards in naval aviation maintenance. Train the fleet! Supply the fleet with the highest quality trained aviation maintenance technicians so commands can perform their primary mission ashore, at sea and in combat.
CNATTU Lemoore’s primary objective is to produce FA-18 aviation maintenance professionals with the level of skill, character and fighting spirit expected in the fleet. Our Sailors and Marines (students and staff) will be held to the highest technical standards. They will be challenged physically and mentally while upholding the core values of the Navy and Marine Corps, “Honor, Courage and Commitment.” Our instructors will ensure that our students are given all the resources required to succeed in their chosen professions. CNATTU Lemoore will produce the best trained maintainers the fleet has ever known. We understand, “The fleet expects nothing less.”
CNATTU Lemoore provides on-site technical training for enlisted personnel in theory, operation and repair for the F/A-18 Hornet, Super Hornet and F/A-18 Growler aircraft. A specialty course in composite repair and intermediate-level avionic and hydraulic component repair is also provided. CNATTU trains more than 4,500 Navy, Marine Corps and foreign military personnel annually.
Center for Personal and Professional Development
The Center for Personal and Professional Development at NAS Lemoore was established in 2002 to support the CNO-directed “Revolution in Training,” which focuses on the continuous personal development of Sailors throughout their careers.
On May 30, 2008, the Center for Naval Leadership merged with Center for Personal and Professional Development. This new organization increases efficiencies and serves as the central authority for U.S. Navy training for leadership, professional and personal development training and support.
By providing the best tools, opportunities and solutions in conjunction with the most effective training delivery, we foster an environment where every member of the Navy community can achieve their maximum potential.
The Center for Personal and Professional Development mission is to develop the Navy’s workforce by providing education and training opportunities that build personal, professional and leadership competencies in support of mission readiness. As a Center of Excellence, CPPD inspires Sailors, their families and DoD personnel to unparalleled levels of personal and professional achievement.
The Marine Aviation Training Support Group provides administrative and training support to all Marines aboard NAS Lemoore.
The MATSG also spearheads events such as the local Toys for Tots campaign, Maj. Gen. Marion Carl Mud Run and the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. Additionally, Marines provide ceremonial support for local and base-sponsored events in the form of color guard and special detail advisors. Active Marines form an integral part of several different commands on base to include the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, Fleet Readiness Center West and the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron 125.
For more information about MATSG-23 visit www.tecom.usmc.mil/TRNGCMD/matsg23.
NATEC Detachment West
Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command (NATEC) Detachment West is one of eight major detachments of NATEC San Diego. NATEC is responsible for providing direct support to all commands under the operational cognizance of Commander Strike Fighter Wing Pacific (CSFWP), Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) West and Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU) Lemoore.
NATEC traces its history back to the autumn of 1942, less than a year after Pearl Harbor, as the Airborne Coordinating Group (ACG). The ACG was established to alleviate the critical shortage of highly skilled technicians caused by the rapid production of new equipment and electronic devices.
Since then, the organization has gone through several transformations, including a couple of name changes. Those in the aviation community probably remember this organization by its previous name — the Naval Aviation Engineering Service Unit (NAESU).
In 1998, NAESU relocated to San Diego and merged with Naval Air Technical Services Facility to form a new organization called the Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Services Command.
NATEC’s mission is to increase combat effectiveness by providing cost-effective Engineering Technical Services (ETS) and Technical Data to the Naval Aviation Community. It is our vision to be the provider of choice for state-of-the-art technical data products and the preferred acquisition agent for ETS in support of the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE).
As a result of this merger, the scope of NATEC’s service responsibilities and functions has expanded immensely.
In order to respond rapidly to fleet requirements, NATEC entails a cadre of experts called Navy Engineering Technical Specialists (NETS). NETS provide that technical assistance and training to fleet maintenance personnel. They support literally all Naval Aviation aircraft and support equipment currently used by the fleet. NETS have taken on the role of mentor as they interact directly with the fleet maintenance technicians on a daily basis, passing on knowledge and taking over where the Navy’s formal training leaves off. Today, NATEC is the world leader in supplying engineering technical services to naval aviation activities.
Naval Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit-303
Naval Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit-303 (CBMU-303)’s mission when deployed is to provide construction and maintenance support of advanced bases and fleet hospitals across the globe. When not deployed, the unit conducts construction readiness training projects at shore activities. Additionally, when directed, the unit will respond to natural disasters and provide facility and equipment support.
With one Civil Engineer Corps officer and 54 Seabees on board, Detachment Lemoore conducts construction readiness training on board NAS Lemoore, with sister detachments in Pearl Harbor, Bangor, Fallon and San Diego. Established as CBU-406 on Dec. 4, 1970, the unit now supports the local community and offers technical and equipment support for various civic action projects.
Navy Operational Support Center
The Navy Operational Support Center Lemoore is located in Building 910, across from the Uniform shop, and is home to 17 active-duty Sailors and over 400 Selected Reserve Sailors in 13 different units.
The active-duty Sailors are responsible for the training and administration of the Reserve Sailors.
The Reserve Sailors train one weekend a month and perform two weeks a year of active duty with headquarters, squadron, hospital, security, construction, cargo, special warfare and base support units. They also actively support and contribute to the Global War on Terrorism by mobilizing in various IA assignments.
The 13 Navy Reserve units include: Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Yokosuka Det. A, Commander Fleet Activities Chinhae Det. 1, Cargo Afloat Rigging Team III Det. C, Fourth Marine Airwing, Marine Wing Support Squadron, Naval Special Warfare Det. Lemoore, Naval Security Force Lemoore, Operational Support Unit 1901, VFA-125 Fleet Replacement Squadron Augment Unit, VFA-122 Fleet Replacement Squadron Augment Unit, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Naval Construction Force Support Unit 2 Det. C, Operational Health Support Unit San Diego Det. C and Volunteer Training Unit 2002G.