Fighter Squadron TWO ONE THREE [VF-213]
Strike Fighter Squadron TWO ONE THREE [VFA-213]
The World Famous Fighting Blacklions fly the F-14D Tomcat, based out of of Naval Air Station Oceana located in Virginia Beach, Virgnia. VF-213 was last stationed at NAS Miramar in San Diego, Califiornia and moved to Virginia Beach in 1997. VF-213 was part of Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11) based aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). The squadron is currently undergoing their transition training from the F-14D Tomcat to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The squadron will be "safe for flight" in September of 2006. When their training is finished, VF-213 will be redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron TWO ONE THREE (VFA-213).
The Fighting Blacklions of VF-213 were commissioned as a Navy Fighter Squadron on 22 June 1955 at NAS Moffett Field, California. The BLACKLIONS flew the F-2H3 Banshee during their first deployment aboard USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CV-31), then transitioned to the F-4D Skyray for their next two deployments on USS LEXINGTON (CV-16). By their third WESTPAC deployment aboard the "LEX," they were flying the F-3H2 Demon, giving the squadron their first capability with the newly released AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile.
In June 1961, the squadron moved to its new home at NAS Miramar -- "FIGHTERTOWN USA." Three years later, in February 1964, the BLACKLIONS took a quantum leap forward in fighter capability by accepting the first of their new F-4 Phantoms. In November 1965, VF-213 joined Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) and began the first of six combat deployments to Southeast Asia aboard USS KITTY HAWK (CV-64). This deployment marked the first use of the Phantom as a conventional bomber--a role destined to make the Phantom a mainstay of the US Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. O
ver the next seven years, the BLACKLIONS flew over 11,500 combat missions and delivered over 6,000 tons of ordnance. On 20 December 1966, LT D. A. McRae and ENS D. N. Nichols downed an enemy AN-2 Colt for the squadron's first kill. In March 1971, VF-213 became the first fleet squadron to fly the Phantom more than 1,000 hours in a single month.
In December 1976, VF-213 transitioned to the Navy's premier supersonic fighter -- the F-14A Tomcat. April 1982 found a new mission for the BLACKLIONS when they began training with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System, or TARPS. In September of that year, the squadron began their first deployment aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). During Indian Ocean Operations, the BLACKLIONS again set the standard by flying the longest tasked carrier flight for a Tomcat when they completed a 1,775-mile TARPS mission.
During WESTPAC '88, the BLACKLIONS took an active role in ensuring the safe transit of reflagged tankers through the Persian Gulf and the Straights of Hormuz. That same deployment saw VF-213 in action in the Operation Praying Mantis naval conflict with Iran on 18 April 1988. The BLACKLIONS won the prestigious "BOOLA BOOLA" award in March 1989 for their aggressive professional completion of all missile test firings. That fall, VF-213 and CVW-11 went around the world on USS ENTERPRISE's final WESTPAC deployment, dropping her off in Norfolk, Virginia for refurbishment.
In September 1990, VF-213 and CVW-11 went back to the shipyards of Norfolk, Virginia, to embark on the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72). After a successful transit around the horn of South America, "ABE" took up residence at her new home in Alameda, California.
In 1991, the BLACKLIONS deployed on USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN's maiden WESTPAC cruise in support of Operation Desert Storm. Day and night Combat Air Patrol flights by the BLACKLIONS over Kuwait enforced the United Nations' sanctions on Iraq, while TARPS missions recorded the devastation of Kuwait oil fields.
In 1992, VF-213 won the coveted "MUTHA" award for espirit de corps and took honors as the Pacific Fleet's top fighter squadron when they won the 1992 Fighter Derby. The squadron deployed for the second time aboard USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN in 1993, participating in Operation Southern Watch over Iraq and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. Upon their return to "FIGHTERTOWN," VF-213 began a turnaround for their next deployment, during which they again won the "MUTHA" award. From April to October 1995, the BLACKLIONS again deployed aboard "ABE" in support of Operation Southern Watch. The squadron made history by deploying with the first fully integrated Tomcat super squadron. Their maintenance department highlighted itself as all fourteen assigned Tomcats were airborne at once over the skies of Iraq and Kuwait.
Both air crew from a U.S. Navy F-14A have been safely recovered following a crash in the Pacific Ocean 800 miles west of Guam on 20 September 1995. The two aviators were safely recovered by a USS John Paul Jones' (DDG 53) small boat shortly after their aircraft crashed in the water approximately 56 miles from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). USS John Paul Jones was a part of the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group. The aircraft was from Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213), based at Naval Air Station Miramar, Calif. The squadron is part of Carrier Airwing 11. The Abraham Lincoln Battle Group was returning home after a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf.
VF-213 then moved its operations to the USS KITTY HAWK, where the squadron deployed for six weeks on RIMPAC '97 and six months on WESTPAC '97. During RIMPAC '97, the BLACKLIONS fired twenty-six Phoenix and six Sidewinder missiles, including an unprecedented six plane, twelve missile simultaneous Phoenix shoot. Aboard USS KITTY HAWK on WESTPAC '97, VF-213 maintained a most impressive 99 percent sortie completion rate and set the new record for consecutive Tomcat sorties at 804, while earning the CVW-11 "TOP HOOK" award.
After returning from cruise, the BLACKLIONS departed the USS KITTY HAWK and, five hours later, roared into Virginia. With NAS Miramar, now MCAS Miramar, in their rear view mirror, the Lions found a warm welcome at NAS Oceana. In December 1997, VF-213 completed its transition to the F-14D and moved to the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70). Aboard their new ship, the BLACKLIONS returned to the Pacific to participate in RIMPAC '98, during which the squadron executed another successful missile exercise, this time firing one Sidewinder and six Phoenix missiles. After RIMPAC '98, the BLACKLIONS executed another historic missile exercise; this time firing the first AIM-54C launched by an aircrew on night vision goggles.
Currently, the BLACKLIONS are stationed at NAS Oceana after returning from the CARL VINSON's 1999 WESTPAC deployment to the Arabian Gulf. Only two months into the cruise, the BLACKLIONS participated in Operation Desert Fox and made history by becoming the first F-14's to ever launch an AIM-54C in combat, launching two missiles against Iraqi fighters violating the Iraqi No-Fly Zone. The BLACKLIONS and AIRWING ELEVEN completed WESTPAC '99 successfully and were able to boast the longest combat line period in over 25 years.
With cruise only two months behind them, the Blacklions planned and conducted an eight-missile Phoenix shoot to expand the AIM-54 envelope. Despite marginal weather, the event went successfully due to the hard work and preparation from everyone involved. Less than one month later, the Lions were packing their bags for NAS Key West, Florida for a two-week air-to-air gunnery detachment. This was part of the annual High Noon derby, when Tomcat squadrons compete for top honors as the most proficient aerial gunners. After expending over to 7,000 rounds of 20mm ammunition into towed 40' x 8' banners, the Blacklions emerged as the High Noon champions, claiming the trophy for the first time in recent years. LT Joseph Dalton received honors for the highest percentage of bullets hitting the target. Winning the High Noon was the culmination of several weeks of effort by the Lion maintenance department preparing the aircraft for a flawless performance.
Returning from Key West in mid-August 1999, the Lions continued to train throughout the country. With a small detachment of personnel at NAS Fallon, Nevada, to support the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), the Lions used the opportunity to conduct unit level training practicing air-to-ground bombing and simulated strike missions on the extensive live-impact ranges in Nevada. The Lion crews dropped twenty-six MK-82 series bombs over their four weeks in Fallon and were able to participate in multiple exercises in support of the Weapons School. The dedication and perseverance of the Lions in Fallon was evidenced by the skeleton detachment successfully maintaining a 100% sortie completion rate, flying several times daily with live ordnance. While some Lions were bombing in Fallon, others were on the carrier, participating in deck certifications on two aircraft carriers. LCDR Vince Saporito and LTjg Andy Mickley logged the USS Truman's 5000th arrested landing. Two weeks later, the Lions sent two jets out to the USS Abraham Lincoln for its deck certification. This was important training for the Lions, since it was the first time performing sea-based operations since deployment. Four pilots renewed their day and night qualifications while on the LINCOLN and the squadron Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) had the opportunity to practice their waving skills.
Subseqnetly VF-213 returned from a two-week detachment at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Lions were invited by the Air Force to provide training support to the F-15 Strike Eagle Weapons School, similar to the Navy's TOPGUN school. The Lions flew as simulated bandits, or "Red Air," for the F-15 students, providing realistic presentations of what they could expect when flying against enemy air forces. Many of these missions were at night, allowing both the Lions and the Eagles to train using night vision goggles (NVGs). This was the first time that several of the Strike Eagle pilots and Blacklion crews had trained against each other. Both squadrons were very impressed by the others' capabilities, noting the similarities and differences between systems on the Tomcat and Eagle. The Lions also had the opportunity to dogfight F-16 Falcons from the Air Force 422nd, which was valuable training for both squadrons.
After the 9/11 attacks, VF-213 was embarked on USS Carl Vinson, and carried out long range attacks on Afghanistan starting in October of 2001. In March 2003, the Lions joined the rest of CVW-8 and were embarked on USS Theodore Roosevelt to complete sorties for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
VF-213 were deployed to the 5th Fleet's area of responsibility onbaord USS Theodore Roosevelt in September of 2005. That deployment was the last one for the F-14 Tomcats. Fighter Squadron (VF) 213's aircraft 204 was trapped at 12:35 a.m. on February 15, 2006. That marked the last recovary of a F-14 Tomcat from a combat mission. The Lions returned from deployment in March of 2006. The squadron will begin their transition training on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in April of 2006 and should be operational in September 2006. VF-213 will then be redesignated VFA-213.
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