VF-124

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Fighter Squadron 124
Vf124gun.jpg
VF-124 squadron patch
Active August 16, 1948 - September 30, 1994
Country United States
Branch United States Navy
Type Fleet replacement squadron
Part of Inactive
Nickname "Gunfighters"
Aircraft flown
Fighter F-8 Crusader
F-14 Tomcat

Fighter Squadron 124 (VF-124) was a fleet replacement squadron of the United States Navy. Known as the Gunfighters, they were active from 1958 through 1994. The squadron's task was the training of pilots for the F-8 Crusader and later the F-14 Tomcat.

History[edit]

VF-124 was established on 16 August 1948 as VF-53 and became VF-124 at NAS Moffet Field on 11 April 1958 due to a need for an increased number of flight training squadrons, itself necessary because of introduction of swept wing fighters into Navy service. VF-124 had four missions assigned. One was fleet readiness evaluation in the early 1950s of the Chance Vaught F7U=3 Cutlass. 124 was assigned to go aboard the USS Hancock to test the British steam catapult system and then deployed on a Pac cruise to Japan. The Cutlass was deemed to be unsatisfactory for fleet use and was stricken from Naval Air inventory in 1955. 124 was used to do initial training of F-8 Crusader pilots, bringing them to a standard where they were ready to join a fleet squadron, refresher training for aviators returning to the Pacific Fleet, and also providing maintenance training for ground personnel on the F-8.

F8U-1s of VF-124 at NAS Miramar in the early 1960s.
An F9F-8T Cougar from VF-124 in 1959.

This last mission is often overlooked, but was a crucial part of the training provided by a Fleet Readiness Squadron. In addition to these training roles, VF-124 maintained its instructor crews as combat ready pilots in case of national emergency. Flying the F8U-1, TV-2 and F9F-8T the Gunfighters won the Safety S awards for 1958 and 1959.

After three years at Moffet Field VF-124 moved to Naval Air Station Miramar. In 1953 124 took over the task of evaluating the F7U-3 Cutlass from UT 12 Project Cutlass then assumed the roll of F-8 training continued throughout the years and by 1970 VF-124 became the Pacific Fleet training squadron for the new F-14 Tomcat. VF-124 stopped training F-8 pilots in August 1972 and responsibility for the small number F-8’s left was handed over to VFP-63. VF-124 received their first F-14A’s on October 8, 1972. A few days later the two first active fleet F-14 squadrons, VF-1 and VF-2 were commissioned. In December 1973, US Marine Corps officers reported to VF-124 to start training as instructors. USMC involvement continued until 1976 when it was decided that the F-14 was too expensive for the USMC to operate. The first set of replacements pilots trained by VF-124 took to sea in December 1974, flying day and night carrier qualifications of the deck of USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).

An F-14A Tomcat from VF-124 at NAS Miramar.
An F-14A from VF-124 over Californian fields in 1992.
VF-124 F-14 tail markings

In 1976 personnel from the Imperial Iranian Air Force arrived to begin training on the F-14 until the overthrow of the Shah three years later. As a new decade began the role of reconnaissance was introduced to the F-14 with the TARPS pod. VF-124 began to teach air and ground crews how to operate the pod. By December 1988 VF-124 had trained 1502 aircrew, over 14.400 maintenance personnel and flown over 153,193 flight hours and VF-124 also achieved 124 days without any Foreign Object Damage.

With the introduction of the improved F-14D Super Tomcat, VF-124 was assigned the role of training air and ground personnel on the new aircraft and the first F-14D was accepted on November 16, 1990, with four aircraft undertaking the first fleet F-14D carrier qualifications on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on October 2, 1991.

On March 11, 1993 a VF-124 F-14 made the final landing on USS Ranger (CVA-61), Lieutenant Mark A. Garcia and Lieutenant Tim Taylor completed the carrier’s 330,683rd landing. With the downsizing of the F-14 squadrons in the early 1990s the Navy’s training squadrons were reduced and VF-124 was disestablished in September 1994 and the responsibility of all F-14 training went to VF-101. VF-124 would operate the F-14A Tomcat and the F-14D Super Tomcat as all F-14B Tomcats were flown by the Atlantic Fleet Squadrons.

See also[edit]

References[edit]