Fighter Squadron THREE ONE [VF-31]
Strike Fighter Squadron THREE ONE [VFA-31]
The Tomcatters currently fly the most capable and formidable strike fighter in the U.S. Navy, the F-14D Super Tomcat. Ten fighter/reconnaissance aircraft constitutes VF-31. The Tomcatters will start transitioning to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in October of 2006. The Tomcatters will be redesignated VFA-31 upon completion of the transition training.
From 1952 to 1957, VF-31 flew the F2H Banshee. In 1957, the squadron switched to the F3H Demon, flying it through 1962. For two years after this the Tomcatters flew the F-3B before transitioning to the F-4B Phantom. After two years with the B model, the squadron switched to the F-4J, and flew this through 1981. Then in 1982 the Tomcatters began flying the F-14A Tomcat. VF-31 flew the F-14A for ten years before switching to its current aircraft, the F-14D Super Tomcat, in 1992.
Fighter Squadron (VF) 31 "Tomcatters" is the second oldest fighter squadron operating in the U.S. Navy today; their history dates from the commissioning of the VF-1B Shooting Stars in 1935, flying the Boeing F4B-4. The distinctive VF-31 "Felix the Cat" insignia has been used by the US Navy since 1929, when it graced the fuselage of the VB-2B biplane. Two years later, the Shooting Stars changed squadron designations to VF-6 and switched aircraft to the F3F-2. In July, 1943, VF-6 swapped designations with VF-3, The Felix Cat squadron, and began flying the F6F Hellcat. Both squadrons claimed the Felix mascot and call-sign after the switch, which caused a controversy for the next three years. After a bit of controversy between several squadrons, VF-31 won the rights to the Felix mascot and call-sign. Finally, in 1946, VF-3 became VF-3A, flying the F8F-1 Bearcat, while VF-6 was decommissioned. The Chief of Naval Operations approved the official adoption of the Felix the Cat name and call-sign by VF-3A.
On August 7, 1948, VF-3A became the VF-31 Tomcatters. The original VF-31, "The Flying Meataxes" destroyed 165 Japanese planes in aerial combat, tops among all CVL (light carrier) squadrons. They deployed with USS Cabot, CVL-28, from November, 1943 through September 1944.
The Tomcatters' combat experience includes battles in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as regional conflicts all over the world. In 1972, flying the F-4J Phantom, Tomcatter aircrew shot down a MiG-21 over North Vietnam and distinguished VF-31 as the only Navy fighter squadron to achieve aerial victories in three wars. Through the years the Tomcatters and their predecessors have served on some of the Navy's finest aircraft carriers, including the first, USS Langley (CV-1); the second, USS Lexington (CV-2); and the sixth, USS Enterprise (CV-6). They were aboard USS Enterprise during the bombing of Pearl Harbor as well as the Battles of Wake Island, Marcus Island, Midway, Guadalcanal, and the Eastern Solomons. In 1980, VF-31 and USS Saratoga (CV-60) concluded a 24-year period of continuous service together, the longest in naval history.
CDR James R. Barnett, commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 31 (VF 31), was temporarily relieved of command, 21 February 1995 pending completion of an investigation into the 13 January 1995 mishap in which two F-14D "Super Tomcats" from the Miramar-based squadron collided in mid-air. The F-14D "Super Tomcats" were on a routine training mission off the coast of San Diego when the collision occurred.
In late 1996 VF-31 returned from its second Western Pacific deployment aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), flying missions in the Arabian Gulf and over southern Iraq in support of Operations Southern Watch and Desert Strike. Following cruise the Tomcatters returned to NAS Oceana, where they resided five years earlier before moving to NAS Miramar. The squadron remains part of Carrier Air Wing 14 on the west coast, and returned from a deployment aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in December 1998, again in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Fighter Squadron (VF) 31 returned home to Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana on Oct. 31, 2004, from a five-month Western Pacific deployment with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). As part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, the squadron became the last to fly F-14 Tomcats over the skies of the Pacific Fleet. VF-31 was to then join the other F-14 squadrons still in commission at NAS Oceana to continue operating in the Atlantic Fleet until the aircraft retires from the Navy in 2006 after more than 30 years of service. Before the final Tomcats can be laid to rest, the pilots need to be retrained to fly the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.On March 10, 2005, VF-31 returned home to Naval Air Station Oceana following a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). VF-31, along with VF-213, completed the final combat deployment in the F-14D Tomcat aircraft. A pilot from VF-31 is credited for dropping the last bomb from a F-14D Tomcat on February 13, 2006. VF-31 will remain operational until September of 2006 when they will fly the last Tomcat in the Navy's inventory from NAS Oceana. Until then, VF-31 will continue to operate the F-14D with CVW-8 throughout the spring and summer of 2006 aboard Theodore Roosevelt during the ship's readiness and sustainment period. The Tomcatters will start transitioning to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in October of 2006.
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