Fleet Composite Squadron EIGHT [VC-8]
Fleet Composite Squadron EIGHT (VC-8) "Redtail" conducts operational and training flights while providing Sea/Air Rescue and MEDEVAC support of US Forces and Allies. The Squadron employs the TA-4J "SKYHAWK" and UH-3H "SEA KING" aircraft; maintaining combat capability in both. VC-8 pilots train and evaluate combat capabilities of other operational units. While providing a variety of training and services, VC-8 significantly enhances the combat readiness of US Battle Groups along with Allied and NATO forces.
Fleet Composite Squadron EIGHT (VC-8) was commissioned as Guided Missile Service Squadron TWO at Naval Air Station Chincoteague, Virginia in July 1958. In January 1959 the squadron was transferred to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. It was re-designated Utility Squadron EIGHT (VU-8) in 1960 and the present designation of VC-8 was assigned in 1965. With over four decades of experience, the people and aircraft of VC-8 handle the most diverse missions ever assigned to an aviation squadron, in support of the U.S. Atlantic fleet.
VC-8's primary mission is providing support for the off-shore weapons ranges in the Puerto Rico Operating Area. The vast airspace above the eastern end of Puerto Rico is ideal for aerial drone launching and air combat exercises. The ocean surface below provides room for ships of the U.S. and Allied nations to conduct surface gunnery and missile exercises. Below the surface, MK-30 underwater targets provide fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises in tracking simulated enemy submarines. The island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico, has a Navy live-fire weapons range for ship to shore gunnery and aerial bombardment. The aircraft of VC-8 provide support for all aspects of fleet training around Puerto Rico.
VC-8 is the last squadron in the U.S. Navy to fly the TA-4J Skyhawk, after the Navy's training command retired the last A-4's from service in July of 1999. The A-4's mission at VC-8 includes tracking exercises for the fine tuning of ship's radar's, simulation of adversary aircraft in Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) for Allied aircraft, and launching AQM and BQM aerial target drones. Currently, VC-8 has seven Skyhawks that detach to various Naval Air Stations throughout the year to conduct dissimilar adversary training with U.S. Fleet Fighter Squadrons.
The squadron's six rotary-wing workhorses, the UH-3H Sea King utility helicopters, perform a number of diverse missions. They retrieve aerial BQM drones and MK-30 underwater targets from the ocean, transporting them by external cargo sling to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads for drop off and reuse. The Sea King also performs logistic flights for ships at sea, transports VIP personnel and supplies to and from range observation posts on the islands of Vieques and St. Croix, and additionally serves as a mobile platform for Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) and SEAL Team Paradrops. The VC-8 helicopter crews are on 24 hour Search and Rescue (SAR) and MEDEVAC alert, as the primary military SAR unit on the island of Puerto Rico. The VC-8 SAR crews also standby to conduct civilian SARs at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard.
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