|Strike Fighter Squadron 137|
|Active||July 2, 1985|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Role||Close air support
|CDR Christopher N. Hurst|
|Fighter||F/A-18E Super Hornet|
Strike Fighter Squadron 137 (VFA-137), also known as the "Kestrels", are a United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet strike fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. The Squadron Radio callsign is "Falcon".
Train to and, if necessary, conduct prompt, sustained combat operations in support of national policy, anywhere, anytime.
Strike Fighter Squadron 137, nicknamed the “Kestrels” after the native North American Falcon, was established on July 2, 1985. They received their first Lot VIII F/A-18A Hornet on November 25, 1985 and in October 1986 the squadron was awarded the Silver Anchor for new construction squadrons. In the course of their 23-year history, the Kestrels have a safety record that includes over 90,000 mishap-free flight hours.
In 1987-1988 the squadron made its first deployment to the Mediterranean Sea embarked on the “Ageless Warrior,” USS Coral Sea (CV 43), as part of Carrier Air Wing THIRTEEN. That year the squadron was recognized with the Commander Naval Air Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Battle “E” award. In August 1989, the Kestrels were back on board Coral Sea patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean in response to Colonel Higgins’ murder in Lebanon, winning the Golden Tailhook award on their second deployment. In October 1990, the squadron transferred to Carrier Air Wing SIX on board USS Forrestal (CV-59), completing an accelerated work up cycle and their third deployment. On cruise, the Kestrels flew sorties over Iraq in support of Operation PROVIDE COMFORT and won two more Tailhook Awards.
In September 1992, the squadron completed a homeport change to Lemoore, CA and transitioned to the night attack capable Lot XV F/A-18C. In May 1993, the squadron joined Carrier Air Wing TWO and embarked on board USS Constellation (CV-64) for their first Western Pacific deployment in November 1994. On this deployment, and the 1997 deployment, the Kestrels patrolled the skies over Iraq, enforcing the United Nations no-fly zone in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. In 1999 and again in 2001, the Kestrels employed precision-guided ordnance against Iraq as part of a Coalition Forces response to repeated violations of the no-fly zone.
In November 2002, the Kestrels deployed to the Persian Gulf on board Constellation for her final deployment. The Kestrels participated in extensive operations in the skies over Iraq, initially in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, and then in combat operations during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. During the course of the conflict, the Kestrels flew over 500 combat sorties and dropped more than 300,000 pounds of precision-guided ordnance.
The Kestrels returned home in June 2003, and began the transition to the new Lot XXV F/A-18E Super Hornet. After completing the Safe for Flight certification, the Kestrels became the third F/A-18E squadron in the U.S. Navy. In April 2004, Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet awarded the Battle “E” for calendar year 2003. Subsequently, Commander, Naval Air Force awarded the 2003 Captain Michael J. Estocin Award for exceptional operational performance and flight safety.
The Kestrels embarked aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) for a Western Pacific deployment in October 2004, participating in Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, the humanitarian relief effort to aid the victims of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia. In March 2006, the Kestrels again deployed with Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW 2) aboard USS Abraham Lincoln for a 5-month WestPac. The deployment included port calls in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Sasebo, Japan, and was marked by participation in Operations FOAL EAGLE, VALIANT SHIELD, and RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific). Between 24–31 March 2006, during Foal Eagle 2006 exercises, strike squadrons VFA-2, VFA-34, VFA-137, and VFA-151 from Carrier Air Wing Two teamed with U.S. Air Force aircraft from the 18th Wing based at Kadena Air Base to provide combat air patrols and coordinated bombing runs via the exercise’s Combined Air Operations Center. VFA-137 returned from deployment in August 2006.
After a work up cycle that included 2 detachments to NAS Fallon and 3 underway periods on board Abraham Lincoln, the Kestrels of VFA-137 deployed to the western Pacific with Abraham Lincoln in March 2008. Following 7 months at sea, including 5 months in the Persian Gulf supporting Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM, the Kestrels returned home in October 2008.
On March 15, 2010, two aircraft of the Kestrels were involved in a mid-air collision while training at Fallon Naval Air Station. Both pilots survived with one managing to land his plane. The other pilot ejected and was rescued by helicopter. An investigation determined that pilot error was to blame for the collision. The responsible pilot's name was redacted from the report released to the public.
On March 9, 2011, the squadron's commander was relieved and replaced after being found guilty at an Admiral's Mast of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (failure to obey order or regulation). At the time, the squadron was deployed on the carrier Abraham Lincoln which was in Hawaii as it returned from a six month deployment to the western Pacific.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to VFA-137.|
- Naval aviation
- United States Naval Aviator
- Modern US Navy carrier air operations
- List of United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- List of Inactive United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- List of military aircraft of the United States (naval) / List of US Naval aircraft
- Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class (AW) M. Jeremie Yoder, USN (March 27, 2006). "Lincoln Wraps Up Successful Exercise, Heads for Port". NNS060406-15. Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Associated Press (2010-03-16). "Both pilots OK after Navy jets collide on training mission over northern Nevada desert". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-03-16.[dead link]
- Steward, Josuah, "Report: Wrong turn led to midair collision", Military Times, 21 August 2011.
- Fuentes, Gidget, "Lemoore Hornet squadron CO fired on deployment", Military Times, 11 March 2011, retrieved 14 March 2011.