|Strike Fighter Squadron 86|
|Active||February 1, 1951|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Role||Close air support
|Part of||Carrier Air Wing Two|
|Garrison/HQ||Naval Air Station Lemoore|
* Operation Linebacker
* Operation Linebacker II
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom
|Commander Michael P. Connor|
A-7A Corsair II
Strike Fighter Squadron 86 (VFA-86) is a United States Navy strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Known as the Sidewinders, they fall under the command of Carrier Air Wing Two. Their call sign is Winder, tail code is NE, and they fly the F/A-18E Super Hornet.
VFA-86 supports Carrier Air Wing TWO’s mission of providing credible and decisive combat air power anywhere and anytime in support of national tasking. Train, Maintain, Support, and Execute in order to Fight and Win our Nation’s Wars.
Reserve Fighter Squadron 921 (VF-921) was called to active duty from NAS St. Louis on 1 February 1951 for the Korean War flying the F4U Corsair. On 4 February 1953, the squadron was redesignated VF-84, while deployed to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba aboard USS Antietam. In June 1953, the squadron briefly flew the F8F-2 Bearcat in preparation for transition to the F9F-5 Panther in November 1953. The squadron's current Sidewinder name and insignia were adopted in April 1954.
In April–May 1963, VA-86 provided A-4C detachments aboard USS Randolph (CVS-15), USS Essex (CVS-9) and USS Wasp (CVS-18). The aircraft were equipped with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles to provide the carriers with anti-air warfare capability.
On 1 July 1965, the squadron conducted its first combat missions, flying from Independence against targets in South Vietnam.
On 1 June 1967, VA-86 became the Navy's first operational fleet squadron to fly the Vought A-7 Corsair II, and in September 1969, VA-86 transitioned to the E model of the A-7.
The squadron conducted its second South East Asia combat deployment aboard USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) from September 1969 to July 1970.
In late spring of 1972, VA-86 was forced to transition to the A-7C due to unexpected problems with the A-7E's TF-41 engines. The Sidewinders then deployed from June 1972 to March 1973 aboard USS America (CV-66) for a ten-month combat cruise, its third to Southeast Asia, participating in several intense and lengthy bombing campaigns, including Operation Linebacker and Linebacker II in late-1972. The squadron remained on station until the Paris Peace Accord was signed in late January 1973. This was the squadron’s fourth combat deployment to Southeast Asia, more than any other East Coast attack squadron and resulted in the receipt of the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
The squadron transitioned to the A-7E in 1974 and was aboard USS America CV-66 for 7 months duty. In 1975 Sidewinders went aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68) for the ship's maiden voyage and made further deployments during the late 1970s and 1980s.
Joined by Naval intel officer Samuel Johnston Gordy In January 1980, after the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran VA-86 departed Naples, Italy embarked in Nimitz, en route to the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope, beginning of 144 consecutive days at sea.
In 1981 while aboard Nimitz, the squadron participated in a Freedom of Navigation Exercise in the Gulf of Sidra incident. During this tense period, VA-86 flew Aerial refuelling and reconnaissance missions over potentially hostile Libyan ships.
The Sidewinders were awarded the 1982 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E", as the best East Coast A-7 squadron.
In Jun- July 1985 while aboard Nimitz, VA-86 operated off the coast of Lebanon due to the hijacking of TWA flight 847 by Arab radicals, and later that year the Sidewinders were awarded the Admiral Wade McClusky Award, signifying the best attack squadron in the Navy.
January–February 1987 while embarked in Nimitz, VA-86 operated off the coast of Lebanon after three U.S. citizens were taken hostage from the American University in Beirut.
On July 15, 1987, VA-86 was officially redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 86 (VFA-86), and began flying the FA-18 Hornet. They were the first East Coast squadron to receive the C model (Lot 10) of the FA-18.
In 1988 during an eight month deployment aboard America, VFA-86 provided air cover for the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
In 1993 the Sidewinders deployed aboard America in support of Operation Deny Flight. In October, America was ordered to the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia in support of United Nations relief efforts. After conducting NATO Operation Deliberate Force missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina from the Adriatic Sea, they returned to Cecil Field in February 1994.
The Sidewinders received the CNO's Safety "S" Award for 1995.
On 3 October 1997, the Sidewinders deployed to the Mediterranean Sea/Persian Gulf aboard USS George Washington (CVN-73). The Sidewinders remained on station in the Gulf through mid-March 1998 during the crisis involving Iraq's non-compliance with UN sanctions, flying Operation Southern Watch contingency missions.
VFA-86 was awarded the 1997 Battle E recognizing it as the best East Coast FA-18 Hornet squadron. On September 22, 1998 the Sidewinders deployed to the Mediterranean Sea/Arabian aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), participating Freedom of Navigation Operations off the coast of Libya.
Following the decommissioning of NAS Cecil Field, Florida in 1999 due to BRAC action, VFA-86 was one of two Navy strike fighter squadrons that relocated to MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina in lieu of NAS Oceana, Virginia. The other Navy squadron at MCAS Beaufort, VFA-82, was deactivated in 2005.
On 19 September 2001, the Sidewinders deployed aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) over Afghanistan against Taliban and Al Qaeda military targets. When they departed the area on 2 March 2002, the squadron had flown over 3500 hours and expended over 213 tons of ordnance. During this period, the Sidewinders were at sea for 160 continuous days.
From May to November 2006, the Sidewinders were deployed on Enterprise in support of OIF and OEF, visiting ports in Croatia, Crete, Dubai, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, & Portugal.
In July 2007, VFA-86 deployed again aboard Enterprise in support of OIF and OEF, returning MCAS Beaufort in December 2007. Sidewinders earned the 2007 Commander Naval Air Forces U.S. Atlantic Fleet Safety "S."
July 2009, VFA-86 deployed aboard "Nimitz" in support of OIF and OEF.
See also 
- 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
- United States Marine Corps Aviation
- Military aviation
- List of United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- List of Inactive United States Navy aircraft squadrons