|Strike Fighter Squadron 94|
|Active||March 26, 1952|
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Role||Close air support
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Desert Fox
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Strike Fighter Squadron 94 (VFA-94), also known as the "Mighty Shrikes", are a United States Navy F/A-18C Hornet fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. The Shrikes are an operational fleet F/A-18C Hornet squadron attached to Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW 17) and based at NAS Lemoore, CA. Their tailcode is NA and their radio callsign is Hobo. The squadron is currently deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70).
Insignia and nickname
The original squadron was known as the Tough Kitties and had a cartoon cat insignia. When the second squadron was formed and deployed aboard USS Hornet (CVA-12) during its world cruise in 1954, it also used a cartoon cat insignia. There is no record of this insignia being officially approved for use by the squadron. The squadron’s first official insignia was approved by Chief of Naval Operations on 21 November 1955, and consisted of a yellow and black tiger paw with lightning bolts on a blue background. A new insignia was approved on 21 April 1959 consisting of a dark blue stylized aircraft with above an atom symbol on a blue background. A modification to this insignia was approved on 16 May 1967, replacing the atom symbol by a stylized bird design. The stylized bird was orange and the other colors from the previous design stayed the same. Nicknamed the Mighty Shrikes, the squadron was named after a small carnivorous bird of prey, the Loggerhead Shrike. It engages in aerial combat to strike its prey in the air and on the ground, and then impales its victim on a sharp thorn.
Two distinct US Navy squadrons have held the designation VA-94. The first served in World War II and was disestablished in the late 1940s. The second of those squadrons later became VFA-94, the main subject of this article. Officially, the US Navy does not recognize a direct lineage of newly formed squadrons with disestablished squadrons. Often however, the new squadron will assume the nickname, insignia, and traditions of the earlier squadrons. That appears to have happened in this case, as (for a short time) the new squadron used a cat insignia similar to the earlier one.
The first VA-94 was established on July 1, 1943, as Bombing Squadron NINETY NINE (VB-99), an experimental squadron for the new SB2C Helldiver. VB-99 was initially equipped with the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless. On October 15, 1943, the squadron was redesignated Bombing Squadron TWENTY (VB-20), and on November 15, 1943 the squadron started to receive its first SB2C-1C Helldivers.
From August 16 through November 23, 1944, VB-20 flew the Helldiver from USS Enterprise (CV-6) for the first of two World War II Pacific Theater combat cruises. The squadron's first combat action occurred on August 31, 1944 and involved an attack on the Bonin Islands. In September 1944, VB-20 participated in pre-invasion strikes on Palau Islands and provided air support for landings on Peleliu Island. In October 1944, the squadron participated in air strikes against Okinawa, Formosa and Luzon. On October 24, 1944, VB-20 participated in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Squadron SB2Cs flew sorties against Japanese surface force in the Sibuyan Sea, these attacks contributed to the sinking of the Musashi, one of the two largest battleships in the world. On October 25, 1944, VB-20 aircraft were part of the Fast Carrier Task Force that attacked the Japanese carrier force in the Battle of Cape Engaño. Four Japanese carriers were sunk during this engagement.
From November 23, 1944 through February 2, 1945, VB-20 embarked aboard USS Lexington (CV-16), for the second of two World War II combat cruises. Squadron Helldivers struck Japanese positions in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Luzon, Formosa, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and Okinawa.
On November 15, 1946, VB-20 was redesignated Attack Squadron NINE A (VA-9A). On August 12, 1948, they were re-designated Attack Squadron NINETY FOUR (VA-94), and in October 1948 they received the new AD-2 Douglas Skyraider. On November 30, 1949, VA-94 was disestablished.
A new squadron, Fighter Squadron 94, was established at NAS Alameda, California on March 26, 1952. The Mighty Shrikes began flying the F4U Corsair, but quickly transitioned to jet aircraft. Over the next eight years, the squadron received and flew numerous fighter aircraft before becoming an attack squadron. In Sep 1953, the squadron received the F9F-5 Panther. In Jan 1955 the Shrikes moved to NAS Moffett Field and received the FJ Fury in Feb 1955. In Nov 1955, they transitioned to the F9F Cougar. They again flew various models of the FJ-3 Fury from Jun 1957 until 1959.
The Mighty Shrikes were redesignated as Light Attack Squadron VA-94 on Aug 1, 1958 and moved back to NAS Alameda on 20 Aug 1958. In January 1959, they transitioned to the aircraft they would fly (in various models) for the next twelve years, the A-4 Skyhawk.
On 8 March 1962, VA-94 moved to NAS Lemoore, California. As the Vietnam War escalated, the Mighty Shrikes completed seven consecutive combat deployments to Southeast Asia, commencing with a cruise aboard USS Ranger in 1964. On 1 Dec 1964, the squadron flew its first sorties in support of Yankee Team Operations, armed escort for photo-reconnaissance missions over Laos. On 7 February 1965, following a Viet Cong attack against American advisors in South Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson ordered a reprisal strike against North Vietnam, named Flaming Dart I. The squadron’s target was concealed by heavy weather and the mission was aborted. On 11 February, the squadron participated in Flaming Dart II, retaliatory strikes against the Chanh Hoa military barracks near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. In March 1965, the squadron participated in Rolling Thunder strikes against targets in North Vietnam.
In October 1965, as part of Air Wing 9, the squadron moved to NAS Norfolk to join USS Enterprise (CVN-65) on her first combat cruise. The squadron was assigned to Air Wing 5 in 1966 and completed four combat deployments aboard USS Hancock and USS Bon Homme Richard.
On 9 May 1972, the squadron participated in Operation Pocket Money, the mining of Haiphong harbor. The first mine was dropped at 08:59 to coincide with President Richard Nixon's public announcement of the mining. All mines were set with 72-hour arming delays, thus permitting merchant ships time for departure or a change in destination consistent with the President's public warning. It was the beginning of a mining campaign that planted over 11,000 MK36 type destructor and 108 special Mk 52-2 mines over the next eight months. It is considered to have played a significant role in bringing about an eventual peace arrangement, particularly since it so hampered the enemy's ability to continue receiving war supplies. In May–June 1972, VA-94 participated in operation Linebacker I, heavy air strikes against targets in North Vietnam.
In 1973, the squadron deployed on its first peacetime cruise in a decade, again with Carrier Air Wing 15 aboard USS Coral Sea. On 29 April 1975, squadron aircraft provided air cover for Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of American citizens from Saigon that terminated United States military involvement in Vietnam. On 15 May 1975, Shrike aircraft, along with other elements from CVW-15 launched air strikes against the Cambodian mainland after the capture of the SS Mayaguez by Cambodian gunboats. From May 1979 to January 1980, the squadron deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, including 63 days of operations in the Arabian Sea during the Iran Hostage Crisis.
The squadron's next deployment aboard USS Kitty Hawk was completed in 1981. In 1986, aboard USS Enterprise, VA-94 made history as part of the first nuclear aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal. The Shrikes cruised the Mediterranean for three months, supporting operations against Libya.
In Feb–May 1988, the Mighty Shrikes flew air support for Operation Earnest Will, escorting reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. In April 1988, the squadron struck the naval forces of Iran as part of Operation Praying Mantis, the first major U.S. naval battle since World War II. Squadron aircraft delivered direct hits on the Iranian frigate Sahand. In Dec 1989, the squadron participated in Operation Classic Resolve, providing support for the Philippine government during a coup attempt.
In June 1990, the Mighty Shrikes received their first F/A-18C Hornet and was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron NINE FOUR (VFA-94) on Jan 1, 1991. In May 1991, they deployed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln to the Persian Gulf in support of United Nations sanctions following the war in Iraq. The Mighty Shrikes also participated in Operation Fiery Vigil, evacuating thousands of homeless people from the Philippines after the Mount Pinatubo eruption. They subsequently received the Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation for their contribution to the disaster relief efforts.
On 15 June 1993, the squadron deployed aboard Abraham Lincoln flying missions over southern Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch. In October 1993, Abraham Lincoln left the Persian Gulf for Somalia to provide force protection for U.S. and other United Nations forces aiding in the humanitarian relief effort.
The Mighty Shrikes were key participants in Operation Vigilant Sentinel during their 1995 deployment, again aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln CVN-72. The Shrikes next deployed aboard Kitty Hawk on 10 October 1996 to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. On 13 May 1997, the Mighty Shrikes deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson, and again on 10 November 1998 to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Fox.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Mighty Shrikes led the first missions of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001. In the months that followed, VFA-94 and Air Wing Eleven participated in precision strikes against key Taliban locations in Afghanistan. The squadron amassed 664 combat sorties and expended 550,000 pounds of ordnance on targets in Afghanistan. The squadron returned home on 19 January 2002.
The squadron deployed again on 3 March 2003 for an eight-month combat deployment aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68) with CVW-11 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On 7 May 2005, the squadron again deployed aboard Nimitz to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Oct 2006, the Mighty Shrikes successfully completed the Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program, in preparation for the squadron's transition to an expeditionary role. In January 2007, VFA-94 joined their sister squadron VFA-97 as one of only two F/A-18 squadrons to deploy overseas as part of the Unit Deployment Program(UDP). Strike Fighter Squadron 94 departed Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA on its first expeditionary evolution to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. The squadron traversed nearly 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km) of open ocean, totaling almost 18 flight hours per jet. During the deployment, VFA-94 participated in Operation Foal Eagle, the first ever U.S. Navy expeditionary deployment to Korea, and Operation Cobra Gold in Thailand. The squadron received numerous accolades for success in number of sorties completed and overall mission accomplishment.
In July 2008, VFA-94 completed their second UDP deployment to Japan in support of the Global War on Terror and Pacific Operations. The Mighty Shrikes participated in Exercises Talon Vision at Clark AFB, Philippines; Wolmi-Do Fury at Kadena AFB, Okinawa; and Exercise Lava Viper at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The Shrikes returned home in February 2009 after completing this successful 7 month deployment.
The squadron has been awarded two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, five Navy Unit Commendations, five Meritorious Unit Commendations, five Battle Efficiency Awards, two Navy Expeditionary Medals, three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
After return, in January 2012, from UDP duties in Japan, the squadron returned stateside to NAS Lemoore, California, but apparently was not assigned to one of the West Coast air wings until around August 2012, as it temporarily took sister Strike Fighter squadron "Fist of the Fleet" (VFA-25) place within CVW-17, as the fourth unit (4xx modex), as -25 was upgrading to the "Echo" Super Hornet, single-seat version, from the long time used, (legacy) Hornet F/A-18C. VFA-25 was returned to its former slot within CVW-17, thus replacing VFA-94, which again has not been rotated,to date to another PACFLT or LANTFLT air wing.
In that same period, the Navy changed the CVW code letters, to be inline as a Pacific Fleet(PACFLT) assignment, instead of its Atlantic Fleet letter designation, 'AA', used for the CVW since 1966, to 'NA', a formerly used code for both VFA(AW)-4,and Air Task Group One(ATG-1) from October 1951 to Feb 23, 1959.
On 12 September 2014, two F/A-18C Hornet single-seat strike fighters collided and crashed approximately 250 nautical miles (460 km; 290 mi) west of Wake Island. One aircraft was from squadron VFA-94 and the other was from squadron VFA-113. Both squadrons were based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, and both squadron were part of Carrier Air Wing Seventeen embarked aboard the carrier Carl Vinson. One aviator was recovered in fair condition and received medical treatment aboard the Carl Vison. Search-and-rescue (SAR) operations continued for the other aviator (pictured). The squadron was participating in Exercise Valiant Shield 2014 at the time of the mid-air collision. The search was called off on 14 September 2014, and the missing aviator was declared missisng and presumed dead, with the crash incident under investigation.
- "UPDATED: Navy F/A-18 Hornets Crash in Pacific Ocean". NNS140912-15. U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014. and Sam LaGrone (12 September 2014). "'Updated: Two F/A-18C Hornets Collided and Crashed Near Mariana Islands , One Pilot Missing". News Blog. United States Naval Institute. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
- Jeff Schogol (14 September 2014). "Navy identifies Hornet pilot presumed dead after collision". Navy Times. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
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