|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2011)|
|Strike Fighter Squadron 146 (VFA-146)|
|Active||February 1, 1956|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Part of||Carrier Air Wing Eleven|
|Garrison/HQ||Naval Air Station Lemoore|
Iranian Hostage Crisis
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Enduring Freedom
|Decorations||Presidential Unit Citation
Captain Michael J. Estocin Award
Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky Award
Scott F. Kirby Award
Strike Fighter Squadron 146 (VFA-146) also known as the "Blue Diamonds" is a United States Navy operational fleet strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Lemoore California. They fly the F/A-18C Hornet and are attached to Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW 11), deployed aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Their tailcode is NH and their radio callsign is Diamond.
Squadron Insignia and Nickname
The first insignia for VA-146 was approved by CNO on 23 November 1956, consisting of two concentric circles, a yellow mach wave symbol and a yellow globe showing North and South America. The first nickname the squadron reported to have used was Blacktails. This name was in reference to the black color assigned to the squadron’s position in the air group. The nickname Blue Diamonds was adopted by the squadron sometime in the late 1950s. In 1968 the squadron elected to simplify their insignia and bring it in concert with their nickname. Their current insignia was revised and approved on 29 August 1968.
On 1 February 1956 Attack Squadron 146 (VA-146) became the Navy's newest jet attack squadron at NAS Miramar. Since there were no fleet replacement squadrons at this time, VA-146 started with only a handful of aircraft and began an "in-house" training regime in various models of the F9F Cougar. Their first deployment was aboard USS Hornet (CV-12) in 1957. In September 1957, the squadron transitioned to the FJ-4B Fury, deploying twice aboard USS Ranger (CVA-61) prior to 1960.
From June to September 1964, while operating from Constellation off Yankee Station, VA-146 participated in photo reconnaissance missions over Laos. The squadron’s A-4C Skyhawks were used to provide tanker and rocket-armed escort support for the photo reconnaissance sorties over Laos and South Vietnam. During this time, VA-146 aircraft also flew night sorties in support of Desoto Patrol operations (the collection of signal intelligence) conducted by American destroyers operating in international waters off the coast of North Vietnam. In response to North Vietnamese torpedo boat attacks against USS Maddox (DD-731) and USS Turner Joy (DD-951) on 2 August 1964, VA-146 participated in Operation Pierce Arrow. These were retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnamese targets which resulted in the sinking or damaging of 8 torpedo boats, and marked the first use of the A-4 in combat.
In December 1968 under the instruction of VA-125, VA-146 transitioned to the Vought A-7B Corsair II. The squadron received its first A-7 on 4 June 1968 and deployed aboard USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) on 6 January 1969. Shortly after deployment in September 1969, the squadron upgraded to the A-7E.
In April 1970, the squadron embarked aboard USS America (CV-66) at NS Norfolk for her extended combat deployment to Vietnam, returning in December 1970. In December 1971, VA-146 became the first Navy squadron to use a laser-guided bomb (LGB) in combat. In May 1972 the squadron’s A-7Es conducted night mining missions to North Vietnamese rivers. On January 5, 1973, VA 146 headed west with Carrier Air Wing Nine embarked again in Constellation. This cruise would bring to an end Navy's participation in the Vietnam War. For the deployment, Constellation and CVW 9 were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
In November 1974, while aboard Constellation, VA-146 operated in the Persian Gulf, the first time in 26 years that an American carrier had entered and operated there.
In early 1980, VA 146 was named the safest A-7 squadron in combined Navy-Air Force history by surpassing all previous records for accident-free flight operations at 36,175 hours. In February 1980, VA-146 made the first Pacific deployment with the new Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) system installed on the Corsair. During the 1980 deployment aboard Connie, the squadron spent 110 days at sea, the longest continuous at-sea period for any West Coast carrier since World War II.
In 1983 the Blue Diamonds were tasked with fleet introduction of the HARM system, and their 14-year association with Carrier Air Wing 9 was broken when VA-146 was reassigned to Carrier Air Wing 2. Upon their return from a WestPac deployment aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in August 1984, the Diamonds were again reassigned to CVW-9. In September 1988, the Blue Diamonds embarked aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68) for a Western Pacific deployment. The highlight of this cruise were operations in the Sea of Japan during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
On 21 July 1989, VA-146 was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED FORTY SIX (VFA-146), and they received their first F/A-18 Hornet on 18 November 1989.
The Blue Diamonds spent the majority of 1997 preparing for a World Cruise aboard Nimitz, and extended their 13-year history of over 55,000 hours without a Class "A" safety mishap. The highlight of the work-up cycle was a 96-hour sortie surge operation in which the Diamonds flew 226 sorties. On 4 September 1997, the Blue Diamonds departed San Diego with the Nimitz Battle Group in support of Operation Southern Watch. Shortly after their return to Lemoore, the Blue Diamonds were named the 1997 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" winner. The Diamonds were also awarded the Captain MichaelJ. Estocin, Rear Admiral C. Wade McClusky and the Scott F. Kirby Awards.
On November 12, 2001 the Blue Diamonds deployed with CVW-9 on the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). This time to conduct combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. The Diamonds deployed two months early in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Port calls on the way included Hong Kong and Singapore arriving in the North Arabian Sea. On December 12, 2001 the Blue Diamonds began their first night strikes into Afghanistan. The missions ranged from 4.5 to 6.0 hours with help from the Roosevelt Battle Group and the Kennedy Battle Group. The Blue Diamonds amassed over 3500 flight hours and delivering over 102,000 pounds of ordnance. Milestones included extending their Top Hook Award streak to 24 after the first line period. Weapons included the JDAM, Laser Guided Bombs, and Mk- 82's. The Diamonds returned at the end of May 2002 after a stopover in Australia and a Tiger Cruise from Hawaii.The Diamonds began their most recent cruise aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on January 17, 2005. The "around-the-world" deployment took them across the Pacific and Indian Oceans into the Persian Gulf. For three months the Blue Diamonds, along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing 9, flew missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Vinson then turned south to steam around the Sinai Peninsula into the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, then across the Atlantic. On July 31, 2005, the Vinson pulled into its new homeport of Norfolk, VA for a scheduled nuclear refuelling.
- "Official Website: VFA-146 Blue Diamonds". Retrieved 2013-02-23.
- "Global Security.org: VFA-146 Bluediamonds". Retrieved 2006-10-30.
- Naval aviation
- Modern US Navy carrier air operations
- List of military aircraft of the United States (naval) / List of US Naval aircraft
- United States Naval Aviator
- List of United States Navy aircraft squadrons