VFA-102

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Strike Fighter Squadron 102
Vfa-102 logo.jpg
VFA-102 Insignia
Active July 1, 1955 - present
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Type Fighter/Attack
Role Close air support
Air interdiction
Aerial reconnaissance
Part of CVW-5
Garrison/HQ Naval Air Facility Atsugi
Nickname "Diamondbacks"
Colors Red and white
Engagements Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Enduring Freedom
Aircraft flown
Fighter F2H Banshee
F4D Skyray
F-4 Phantom
F-14 Tomcat
F/A-18F Super Hornet

Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102) is a United States Navy Strike Fighter squadron based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. Their call sign is Dback, with the tail code NF, and they fly the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet.

History[edit]

Two distinct squadrons have been designated VF-102. The first VF-102 was established on 1 May 1952 flying the FG-1D and F9F-5. From November 1953 to September 1954, the squadron completed a world cruise aboard USS Tarawa (CV-40), visiting 10 foreign countries and transiting the Suez and Panama Canals. On 1 July 1955, VF-102 was redesignated VA-36 and moved from Naval Air Station Cecil Field to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.[1]

The second VF-102 was established in 1955, was eventually redesignated as VFA-102, and is the subject of the remainder of this article.

1950s[edit]

The second Fighter Squadron 102 (VF-102), was established as VA-36 on July 1, 1955, and was immediately redesignated VF-102 on the same day (at the time, squadron designations were associated with their assigned airwing). The squadron was based at NAS Jacksonville flying the F2H Banshee. The Diamondbacks inaugural cruise took place aboard the USS Randolph in July 1956. After returning from deployment, the squadron transitioned to the F4D Skyray. In addition to four 20 mm internal cannons, the Skyray carried the new AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.

A F4D-1 from VF-102 landing on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in 1961

1960s[edit]

The final cruise with the Skyray on Forrestal was January thru August 1961 after the squadron had moved to NAS Oceana, Virginia. It subsequently transitioned to the F-4 Phantom beginning a 20-year association with the Phantom.

In 1964 and 1966 VF-102 won the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle “E” efficiency awards. Highlights during this period included participation in Operation Sea Orbit on board the USS Enterprise, and combat operations off Vietnam in 1968.

1970s[edit]

In 1975 and 1978, VF-102 conducted cross-deck operations aboard HMS Ark Royal. In 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975: the squadron conducted four deployments to the Mediterranean Sea aboard USS Independence as part of Carrier Air Wing Six, including a port call in Athens, Greece, when they had a political coup; air cover operations for the Yom Kippur War of Israel; and recovery of aircraft debris and bodies from TWA Flight 841 that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after a terrorist bomb exploded in the hold.

1980s[edit]

An F-4J Phantom II from VF-102 prepares to launch from USS Independence (CV-62).

In June 1981 the Diamondbacks flew their last Phantom during an Indian Ocean cruise aboard USS Independence. During the summer of 1981, the squadron transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat. With the new aircraft, the Diamondbacks also received a new mission in addition to their traditional fighter role—photo reconnaissance using the TARPS pod. The Diamondbacks deployed aboard USS America in the fall of 1982 to participate in the NATO Exercise Northern Wedding that required high temp operations in the heavy seas north of the British Isles, garnering considerable attention from Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 Bear D reconnaissance aircraft. The first Tomcat deployment with Carrier Air Wing One began in 1983 and took America through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. Two VF-102 Tomcats, flying a routine TARPS mission over Somalia were fired upon by an SA-2 SAM site and AAA in April 1983. Both aircraft returned without damage.

VF-102 deployed in 1984 with the first KA-93 LOROP camera and ARC-182 Have Quick radios, conducting OPEVAL for both systems at sea. In 1985, America participated in the NATO exercise Ocean Safari and again conducted operations in the challenging seas and low visibility conditions near the Arctic Circle and inside Vestfjord, Norway. While operating northwest of Ireland, a VF-102 TARPS aircrew flew an unprecedented 1200 nm TARPS mission to locate a Soviet Kynda Class Cruiser transiting the English Channel. In March 1986, the Diamondbacks deployed on board America, headed for the Gulf of Sidra joining USS Saratoga and USS Coral Sea to challenge the Libyan proclaimed Line of Death. A VF-102 Tomcat was first to be fired on by a Libyan SA-5 and triple-A while flying Combat Air Patrol for Operation Attain Document. A month later VF-102 flew cover for US Navy and US Air Force bombers in Operation El Dorado Canyon.

VF-102 Tomcat seen carrying a combat TARPS loadout including ECA and ALQ-167.

1990s[edit]

In the fall of 1990, the Diamondbacks joined the USS John F. Kennedy and Saratoga in the Red Sea as part of Operation Desert Shield, arriving the day operations were to begin. America remained part of the Red Sea Battle Force until directed to join USS Ranger, USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Midway in the Persian Gulf. In the six week campaign, VF-102 logged more than 1400 combat flight hours.

VF-102 Tomcat escorting Soviet Bear D surveillance aircraft.

The Diamondbacks embarked America again in December 1991 for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf.

In early August 1993, the Diamondbacks embarked America to begin their third Mediterranean deployment in three years. During this deployment the squadron conducted humanitarian operations off the coast of Bosnia-Herzegovina supporting Operation Provide Promise and Operation Deny Flight. In late October the squadron supported Operation Restore Hope off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia. By Mid-December they were supporting Operation Southern Watch in Iraq.

In June 1994, the Diamondbacks returned to NAS Oceana and transitioned to the F-14B aircraft. The Diamondbacks 1995–1996 Mediterranean cruise began with an emergency sortie to the Adriatic Sea to take part in Operation Deliberate Force. They then proceeded to the Persian Gulf in support of "Southern Watch". Placement of U.S. ground forces in Bosnia, led to another America emergency sortie back to the Adriatic in December. The Diamondbacks remained in the Adriatic for the remainder of the cruise, logging more than 4,000 hours and over 1,900 traps during the deployment.

Watching the watcher. VF-102 TARPS mission to keep an eye on Soviet Balzam intelligence gathering ship attempting to shadow NATO maneuvers in 1985.
Classic TARPS image of a Soviet Kynda class cruiser during the height of the Cold War.

With the disestablishment VF-33, VF-102 became America's sole F-14 unit, completing its final deployment on February 24, 1996.

VF-102 F-14 tail markings

Upon America's decommissioning in 1996, VF-102 (and the rest of CVW-1) was assigned to USS George Washington (CVN-73).

In 1997, the Diamondbacks deployed aboard George Washington. A port visit to Haifa, Israel was cut short late in November as the carrier battle group was ordered to the Persian Gulf in response to Saddam Hussein's barring UN weapon inspectors from carrying out their assigned tasks. As the crises grew George Washington joined the USS Nimitz and HMS Invincible. VF-102 returned to Norfolk on March 13, 1998.

An F-14A Tomcat from VF-102.

In Autumn 1999, VF-102 deployed again to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch over southern Iraq. VF-102 carried out strikes on numerous anti-aircraft and radar sites and conducted numerous TARPS missions.

2000s[edit]

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-102 breaks the sound barrier.

On September 19, 2001 in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, VF-102 began a scheduled deployment to the Arabian Sea as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom and began combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During that deployment VF-102 flew 5000 combat hours and dropped 680 bombs as well as guiding more than 50,000 pounds of precision guided munitions launched by other aircraft, VF-102 dropped more ordnance and flew more combat hours then any other F-14 unit during the war in 2001 and 2002.[2][3] In addition, as part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group they were at sea for 159 consecutive days, breaking a 20 year old record.[4]

Following the return from deployment, the squadron moved to NAS Lemoore, California to begin transition training in the F/A-18F. Upon completion, the Diamondbacks again changed homeport to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

VFA-102 deployed to the Pacific Ocean aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, taking part in several military exercises, including Orange Crush, Talisman Saber, Jasex, and Valiant Shield.

In March 2008, VFA-102 was named the Pacific Fleet Battle "E" award winner for the calendar year of 2007. This award recognizes the Diamondback readiness to perform wartime tasks amongst all F/A-18E/F squadrons in the Pacific Fleet. In March 2010, the Diamondbacks were again honored with the Pacific Fleet Battle "E".

In the spring of 2008, VFA-102 embarked Kitty Hawk for her final deployment. Following a crossdeck in San Diego, the air wing is currently assigned to the USS George Washington.

In 2010, The Diamondbacks transistioned to Block II Super Hornets equipped with the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, and remain the only F/A-18 squadron in the Navy to have never flown a single combat sortie.

F/A18F "super hornet"VFA 102 color scheme

References[edit]

  1. ^ DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL AVIATION SQUADRONS—Volume I, pg 59
  2. ^ Tony Holmes (2008). F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Enduring Freedom, Osprey Publishing Limited - Chapter Three – Ground War, page 60
  3. ^ Tony Holmes (2008). F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Enduring Freedom, Osprey Publishing Limited - Chapter Two – OEF Begins, page 45
  4. ^ Diamondbacks of VF-102, Wings of Gold

External links[edit]

See also[edit]