|Strike Fighter Squadron 106|
Old VFA-106 Insignia. The current one deletes the aircraft image.
|Active||April 27, 1984 - present|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Role||Fleet Replacement Squadron|
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2011)|
Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106), also known as the "Gladiators", is a United States Navy F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Fleet Replacement Squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia.
As the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, the Gladiators’ mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 Replacement Pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSOs) to support fleet commitments. Every 6 weeks, a class of between 8-12 newly-winged Navy and Marine Corps pilots and Naval Flight Officers begins the 9 month training course in which they learn the basics of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, culminating in day/night carrier qualification and subsequent assignment to fleet Hornet squadrons.
The West Coast counterparts to VFA-106 are VFA-122 at NAS Lemoore, California and VMFAT-101 at MCAS Miramar, California. VFA-106 is also responsible for transitioning experienced naval aviators from other aircraft, such as the F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking, to the Hornet and Super Hornet. Aircrew returning from non-flying assignments undergo refresher training at VFA-106 prior to returning to the fleet. Additionally, VFA-106 (with the help from the Center of Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit: CNATTU) trains maintenance personnel and provides replacement aircraft to fleet units.
There are approximately 1200 Navy and Marine Corps personnel, as well as foreign instructors and students (from countries such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Germany) assigned to VFA-106. VFA-106 typically has 90+ F/A-18s of various models assigned. There is a permanent VFA-106 Detachment in Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, where the squadron often deploys for fighter training. The squadron often detaches 12 aircraft to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, as well as various aircraft carriers for carrier qualifications (CQ).
Squadron insignia and nickname
The squadron’s insignia was approved by Chief of Naval Operations on 26 May 1982, and was similar to one used by VA-106 from April 1952 until disestablishment on 7 November 1969.
Airshow TAC DEMO team
The VFA-106 Gladiators are also well known for the airshow TAC DEMO Team. The team flies the F/A-18F and F/A-18C to show sites in the eastern United States. Instructors of the squadron fly the aircraft, and serve on a year schedule. The team demonstrates maneuvers used in training and combat flights. VFA-122 takes the western part of the United States for demonstrations. Typically two F/A-18s are sent to the show site, one being the demonstration aircraft and the other being a spare in case the demo jet suffered a mechanical problem. The F/A-18F Super Hornet is often sent to air shows already featuring the US Navy's Blue Angels, while the F/A-18C, often referred to as the "Legacy Hornet" is usually featured at shows headlined by the USAF Thunderbirds. On April 1st, 2013 the VFA-106 single ship demonstration teams schedule was canceled for the remainder of the year as a result of sequestration in Congress that cut US Military participation at all air shows around the country. Unlike most other military demonstration teams, VFA-106 was not approved to return to the air show circuit in the 2014 season. For most of the year F/A-18 Hornet demonstrations did not take place at air shows for the second year in a row, However in August a last second decision was made by the US Navy that VFA-106 would indeed participate in that years NAS Oceana Air Show on September 20th and 21st, 2014, which is where VFA-106 is based. Both the F/A-18C and F/A-18F flew full tactical demonstrations both days of the show marking the first time since 2012 that US Navy F/A-18s were displayed to the public. Oceana was the only show in 2014 to feature F/A-18 single-ship demos. The status of VFA-106 for air shows in 2015 has not been confirmed as of November 2014.
VFA-106 was activated at NAS Cecil Field, Florida on April 27, 1984, flying the A and B models of the F/A-18 Hornet. The first Replacement Pilot Class began training on the F/A-18 Hornet on 7 Oct 1985. In Oct and Dec 1987, respectively, VFA-106 received its first C and D models of the Hornet. In the summer of 1999, as a result of the BRAC-mandated closure of NAS Cecil Field, VFA-106 moved to NAS Oceana, Virginia. In 2004, VFA-106 received its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
On April 6, 2012 an F/A-18D assigned to VFA-106 encountered problems on take off and crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Both pilots ejected safely, and there were no fatalities.
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