||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (May 2012)|
|Strike Fighter Squadron Two|
|Active||1 October 1972|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Role||Close air support
|Part of||Carrier Air Wing 2|
|Garrison/HQ||Naval Air Station Lemoore|
|Colors||Red, white, blue|
|Equipment||F/A-18F Super Hornet|
|Engagements||Operation Frequent Wind
Iranian Hostage Crisis
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Unified Assistance
|Decorations||Battle Efficiency "E"|
|Commander J. P. Greene|
|Fighter||F/A-18F Super Hornet|
Strike Fighter Squadron 2 (VFA-2) also known as the "Bounty Hunters" is a United States Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Their tail code is NE and their callsign is "Bullet". The Bounty Hunters are attached to Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2), a composite unit made up of a wide array of aircraft performing a variety of combat and support missions that deploy aboard the Ronald Reagan.
Four distinct squadrons have been designated VF-2. Officially, the US Navy does not recognize a direct lineage with disestablished squadrons if a new squadron is formed with the same designation. Often, the new squadron will assume the nickname, insignia, and traditions of the earlier squadrons.
1920s - 1930s
The First VF-2
The 1st VF-2 was originally established as Combat Squadron Four on 23 Sep 1921, home-based at Naval Air Station San Diego, California. The squadron was re-designated Fighter Squadron 2 on 1 Jul 1922, flying the Vought VE-7 biplane. The squadron, also known as the "Flying Chiefs," operated from Langley, the US Navy's 1st aircraft carrier. Between 1922 and 1925, VF-2/VF-2B experimented with carrier operations from Langley off the coast of California. Air activity was initially limited to scouting, but the Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet saw the potential of Naval Aviation and recommended that Lexington and Saratoga be completed as soon as possible.
Flying F6C Hawks in 1926, VF-2B was the 1st squadron to demonstrate the concept of dive-bombing, carrying out mock-attacks on Pacific Fleet ships. Commanders of the surface ships had expected standard, low-altitude, level bombing, but were surprised when the VF-2B aircraft attacked, unseen, from 12,000 feet making simulated drops before the ships defenses could be manned.
On January 4, 1927, VF-2B was re-designated VF-6. The squadron flew VE-7s, followed, by the F6C and FC-1. In 1927, the squadron was tasked to provide 1 aircraft to each fleet battleship, with the remaining planes shore-based at North Island. The squadron's FU-1s were launched from the ship's catapults, landed as seaplanes and then hoisted back aboard by the ship's crane.
In 1928, the squadron transferred to Langley and was redesignated VF-2B. Over the course of the next 15 years, the squadron was variously called VF-6B, VF-3, and VF-6 based on their ship assignment ("B" appended meaning the squadron was attached to the Battle Fleet, and "S" indicating that it belonged to the Scouting Fleet). In 1937, the last letter of Navy squadron designations were removed.
The Second VF-2
The 2nd squadron to be designated VF-2 was established on 1 Jan 1927. Over the next 10 years, it was referred to as VF-2B, BF-2S, VF-2B and VF-2. At the time of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, VF-2 was flying the Brewster Buffalo, but soon transitioned to the F4F Wildcat.
The squadron’s 1st combat occurred during the 2-day Battle of the Coral Sea, the world’s 1st engagement between aircraft carriers. On May 7, 1942, VF-2's commanding officer led the escort of Lexington's strike aircraft against the Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō. VF-2 claimed 6 confirmed aerial kills and 3 probable kills. The next day, Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku exchanged air strikes with the US force, and VF-2 lost 5 aircraft while claiming 11 kills. Lexington succumbed to torpedo damage and was sunk. Without an aircraft carrier, VF-2 was disestablished on July 1, 1942.
1940s - The Third VF-2
The 3rd distinct squadron to be designated VF-2 was established on June 1, 1943, at Naval Air Station Atlantic City. VF-2, known now as the "Rippers," became the 1st World War II fighting squadron to bear the same designation as a previous unit in the war. Several pilots came from VF-6 and VF-10. The squadron initially deployed 8 FM-1s but soon received the F6F Hellcat. VF-2 trained on the east-coast until October 1943 when the squadron headed west to San Francisco and then Hawaii. In Hawaii, VF-2 participated in a Marine landing exercise and so impressed the influential "Butch" O'Hare that he requested that VF-2 replace VF-6 in his Air Group aboard Enterprise. A notable pilot in the squadron was fighter ace Arthur Van Haren, Jr. From November 1943 to January 1944, VF-2 saw action during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, Makin Atoll and Tarawa Atoll. They also participated in raids against the Marshall Islands of Kwajalein, Ebeye and Roi-Namur. VF-2 participated in O'Hare-designed "bat teams" of 1 TBF Avenger and 2 Hellcats for night interceptions.
In March 1944, VF-2 deployed aboard Hornet. From Hornet, VF-2 participated in strikes against the Marianas on the afternoon June 11, 1944. Over 200 Hellcats were launched from American carriers 200 miles (320 km) from their targets of Guam and Rota (island). VF-2 claimed 23 victories during the attack over the Guam airfield, while squadron aircraft closer to Hornet destroyed 3 Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" medium bombers. A 2nd strike on Guam claimed another 10 Japanese aircraft. VF-2 scored 37 victories and only lost 1 plane. The next day, VF-2 attacked the Bonin Islands and Iwo Jima with intent to destroy Japanese aircraft. Only pilots which had not previously scored aerial kills were sent on this mission, claiming 17 kills.
Between June 19 and June 20, 1944, VF-2 was credited with 47 victories with only 1 airplane damaged beyond repair. On the afternoon of June 20, the Japanese carriers were located approximately 200 miles (320 km) to the west. A strike was ordered with bombs and torpedoes. After the strike, only 6 VF-2 aircraft returned to Hornet, the remaining having landed on other carriers. 5 aircraft were lost at sea. 5 days later, VF-2 claimed 67 kills in 1 day during a sweep of Iwo Jima, losing only 1 Hellcat (an additional one was damaged beyond repair). On September 22, 1944, the Rippers closed their victory log when "Spider" Webb downed an enemy aircraft over Manila. During the 1943-44 period, VF-2 had conducted 184 strikes and 2050 sorties, destroying 50,000 tons of ships and 216 airborne airplanes and 245 airplanes on the ground. Losses totaled 3 airplanes in aerial combat and 4 to anti-aircraft fire. VF-2 was disestablished on 9 Nov 1945.
The lead article in the 23 October 1944 edition of Life Magazine highlighted VF-2 in a seven-page spread. There are pictures of 27 of the unit's Aces including Roy "Butch" Voris, later to become Blue Angel 1 in the original Blue Angels flight demonstration team, Connie Hargreaves, who became an Ace in a Day, and Wilbur "Spider" Webb, another Ace in a Day.
1970s – The current VF-2
Twenty-seven years after disestablishment, a new VF-2, now known as the "Bounty Hunters," was established on October 14, 1972 flying the F-14A Tomcat.
VF-2 completed aircrew training and received its first Tomcats in July 1973, attaining full strength of 12 F-14As in the spring of 1974. The Bounty Hunters was the first Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) unit for both CVW-14 and later CVW-2.
VF-2's initial deployment was in 1974 with her sister squadron VF-1 aboard Enterprise. The squadron flew over Saigon in support of Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of US personnel in April, 1975.
They deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in 1984 and returned for multiple Ranger deployments throughout the '80's.
On June 2, 1984, VF-2 became the first squadron to launch an F-14 from an aircraft carrier while towing an air-to-air gunnery target. In 1987, the squadron logged Ranger’s 260,000th landing.
The unit participated in Operation Desert Storm, flying over 500 combat mission from Ranger operating in the Persian Gulf. VF-2 performed escort, reconnaissance and Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions. After the 1992-1993 cruise, Ranger was decommissioned (along with VF-2’s sister squadron VF-1), and VF-2 was switched to the Constellation. At the same time, VF-2 transitioned to the F-14D Tomcat. Several months after the 1995 cruise, VF-2 was awarded the battle "E" and relocated from NAS Miramar to NAS Oceana due to a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision to make Miramar a Marine Corps Air Station. In April 1996, VF-2 Tomcats were modified to carry the LANTIRN infrared targeting pod, giving them precision strike capabilities.
During their 1999 cruise, VF-2 supported Operation Southern Watch and on September 9, attacked Surface-to-Air Missile sites and anti-aircraft guns around Basra. The same day, a VF-2 Tomcat engaged 2 Iraqi MiG-23’s that were heading south into the No-Fly Zone from Al Taqaddum airbase, west of Baghdad with AIM-54 Phoenixes. The missile did not score as the MiGs turned north once they detected the Phoenix launch.
During the 2002-2003 deployment, the final cruise with the Tomcat, VF-2 participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom flying a wide range of missions including, reconnaissance, Close Air Support, Combat Air Patrol and strike missions. On February 28, 2003, during Operation Southern Watch, a VF-2 aircraft delivered the 1st Tomcat JDAM in combat. During this deployment, VF-2 flew 483 sorties and dropped 294 Laser-guided bomb's/JDAM/MK-82 bombs.
On July 1, 2003, VF-2 was redesignated VFA-2, and began transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet. On October 6, 2003, VFA-2 took delivery of its first Super Hornet.
VFA-2 deployed to the Western Pacific aboard Abraham Lincoln with CVW-2 in October, 2004. They returned in March 2005 after supporting Operation Unified Assistance which provided humanitarian support to Southeast Asia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
In 2006, VFA-2 and CVW-2 embarked on a WESTPAC deployment.
On March 13, 2008, VFA-2 embarked with CVW-2 aboard Abraham Lincoln on a 7-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, returning home on October 8.
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.
The Bounty Hunters have transitioned to newer Block II F/A-18F Super Hornet's equipped with the AESA radar.
- 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
- Military aviation
- List of United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- List of Inactive United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- "Current Naval Aviation Squadron Lineages". History.navy.mil. 6 January 1998. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- Yoder, M. Jeremie (27 March 2006). "Lincoln Wraps Up Successful Exercise, Heads for Port" (Press release). Navy.mil. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- Raelson, Greg D. (13 September 2010). "Lincoln Carrier Strike Group Conducts Training During Transit West" (Press release). Navy.mil. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- "Official Website: Strike Fighter Squadron 2". Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- "Global Security.org: Strike Fighter Squadron 2". Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- "From Tomcats to Super Hornets: VF-2 Becomes VFA-2". Naval Aviation News. March–April 2003. Retrieved 26 March 2013.