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Strike Fighter Squadron 161
Fighter Squadron 161 (US Navy) insignia c1984.png
VFA-161 squadron insignia
Active 1 September 1960-1987
Country United States
Branch United States Navy
Role Strike Fighter
Part of Inactive
Nickname(s) Chargers
Aircraft flown
Fighter F3H Demon
F-4B/N/J/S Phantom
F/A-18A Hornet
Retirement of the last F3H Demon at NAS Miramar in September 1964
VF-161 F-4N c.1975
VFA-161 F/A-18A launches an AIM-7 Sparrow missile in 1983

VFA-161, nicknamed the Chargers, was a Strike Fighter Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established at NAS Cecil Field as Fighter Squadron VF-161 on 1 September 1960. It moved to NAS Miramar on 19 September 1961, and to Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan. On 1 April 1986, the squadron was redesignated VFA-161.[1] It was disestablished in 1987.[2]

Operational history[edit]

Vietnam War[edit]

The squadron made 9 deployments during the Vietnam War.[3]

From 1 August 1963 to 10 March 1964, VF-161 equipped with F-3Bs was embarked on USS Oriskany.

From 12 May to 3 December 1966, VF-161 equipped with F-4Bs was embarked on USS Constellation. On 13 June, one of the squadron's aircraft shot down a Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) MiG-17, using a Sidewinder missile. On 22 October F-4B #151009 was hit by antiaircraft fire, the pilot LTCDR Earl McBride was killed in action body not recovered, the copilot ejected successfully and was rescued.[4][5]

From 29 July 1967 to 6 April 1968, VF-161 was deployed on USS Coral Sea. On 28 December F-4B #150449 was hit by antiaircraft fire near Haiphong both crewmen ejected successfully and were rescued.[6] In March USS Coral Sea left Yankee Station to operate off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo.

From 7 September 1968 to 18 April 1969, VF-161 was deployed on USS Coral Sea.

From 23 September 1969 to 1 July 1970, VF-161 was deployed on USS Coral Sea. On 25 February F-4B #152286 was lost due to fuel exhaustion, both crewmen ejected successfully and were rescued.[7] On 17 May F-4B #152239 crashed on launch the pilot Lt Norman Westwood was killed in action, body not recovered while the radar intercept officer ejected successfully and was rescued.[7][5]

From 16 April to 6 November 1971, VF-161 was deployed on USS Midway.

From 10 April 1972 to 3 March 1973, VF-161 was deployed on USS Midway. From May to October 1972, the squadron participated in air strikes against targets in North Vietnam to interdict the flow of supplies and to reduce North Vietnam's ability to continue the war effort in South Vietnam. On 18 May squadron aircraft shot down two VPAF MiG-17s, a further two MiG-17s were shot down on 23 May.[8] On 12 January 1973, squadron aviators shot down another MiG-17, this was the last MiG to be shot down during the Vietnam War.[8]

From 11 September to 31 December 1973, VF-161 equipped with F-4Ns was deployed on USS Midway. From this deployment USS Midway and Carrier Air Wing Five were permanently homeported in Yokosuka.

In April and May 1975, squadron aircraft provided air cover for Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of American personnel from Saigon, South Vietnam, as the country fell to the communists.


In August 1976, embarked on USS Midway, the squadron conducted flight operations near the Korean peninsula following the Axe murder incident. In 1979, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, deployed to the Gulf of Aden to relieve USS Constellation and maintain a U.S. carrier presence following the outbreak of fighting between North and South Yemen and the fall of the Shah of Iran. Following the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran and the taking of American hostages on 4 November 1979, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, proceeded to the Gulf of Oman and remained on station until relieved in early February 1980.


From May–June 1980, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, operated off the coast of Korea due to the civil unrest in South Korea and the Kwangju massacre. In December 1981 due to tensions in Korea the squadron operated from USS Midway off the coast of Korea until the tensions subsided.

From May to October 1986, the squadron relocated to NAS Lemoore for transition training in the F/A-18 Hornet and redesignation as a Strike Fighter Squadron. VF-161 was one of only two F-4 fighter squadrons to be assigned the VFA designation.

From October 1986 to June 1987, following the transfer of the squadron from CVW-5 and awaiting transfer to a newly established air wing, the squadron was in an inactive status at NAS Lemoore.[1] The squadron was then briefly assigned to the newly re-established Carrier Air Wing Ten (CVW-10, Tailcode NM). VFA-161 conducted work-ups on USS  Enterprise and was scheduled to deploy on board USS Independence. Following budget cuts, CVW-10 was disestablished.[9] VFA-161 was disestablished in 1987.[2]

Aircraft assigned[edit]

The squadron operated the following aircraft, with the dates received as shown:

See also[edit]


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons.

  1. ^ a b c Grossnick, Roy A. (1995). Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons, Volume 1, Chapter 7, Section 4: Strike Fighter Squadron Histories for VFA-151 to VFA-195 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  2. ^ a b Polmar, Norman (2005). The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 376. ISBN 978-1-591-14685-8. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Carrier, Carrier Based Squadrons and Non-Carrier Based Squadron Deployments to Vietnam" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. 1995. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  4. ^ "McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II All Losses in USAF, USN & USMC Service (Part 2) 1966". Ejectionhistory.org. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "U.S. Unaccounted-For from the Vietnam War (Sorted by Name) Prisoners of War, Missing in Action and Killed in Action/Body not Recovered" (PDF). Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II All Losses in USAF, USN & USMC Service (Part 3) 1967". Ejectionhistory.org. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II All Losses in USAF, USN & USMC Service 1970". EjectionHistory.org. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Stoffey, Robert (2008). Fighting to Leave: The Final Years of America's War in Vietnam, 1972-1973. MBI Publishing Company. p. 326. ISBN 9781616732356. 
  9. ^ Morgan, Rick (2006). Tip of the Spear: US Navy Carrier Units and Operations 1974-2000. USA: Schiffer. ISBN 076432585X.