Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ONE THREE [VFA-113]
Strike Fighter Squadron 113 is a United States Navy unit of twelve F/A-18C Hornets homebased at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. It is comprised of approximately 25 officers, 12 chief petty officers, and 193 enlisted men and women. Its mission is to conduct sustained combat operations while embarked at sea when directed by national authority.
VFA-113 is currently assigned to Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14), a composite unit made up of a wide array of aircraft performing a variety of combat and support missions. CVW-14 is now attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), one of the United States' twelve aircraft carriers. The "Stingers" make regular six month deployments to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf. Between deployments VFA-113 is either training at home in Lemoore or on training detachments to various bases including NAS Fallon, Nevada.
Strike Fighter Squadron 113 originated as Fighter Squadron 113 on 15 July 1948. Attached to Air Group 11, the "Stingers" proved themselves in the first strikes flown by the Navy in Korea where the squadron operated the F4U "CORSAIR" on board the USS PHILIPPINE SEA (CVA-47) and the USS VALLEY FORGE (CVA-45). VF-113 won six engagement stars and the Presidential and Navy Unit Commendations in two combat tours before trading the F-4U "CORSAIR" for the F-9F "PANTHER." The squadron went to sea the latter part of 1956 into the early part of 1957, TAD to the USS Essex, then know as CVA-9. VF-113 was one of the last squardrons to operate on that carrier before it went to the east coast and was coverted into a sub chaser. VA-113 went aboard with F9F-8 Cougars.
After four years of flying the Grumman "PANTHER" and "COUGAR" jets, the "Stingers" were given a new role, a new designation, and a new aircraft. Soon after returning to Miramar, VF-113 replaced the F9F with the A4D-1. Fighter Squadron ONE ONE THREE was redesignated an Attack Squadron in March 1956, and equipped with the A-4D "SKYHAWK." A short two years later the squadron was awarded the Battle Efficiency "E" for 1958, denoting it as the best Attack Squadron on the West Coast. October 1965 brought the "Stingers" back to WESTPAC, this time for combat, flying the A-4C version of the "SKYHAWK." The squadron flew numerous missions into North Vietnam against enemy lines of communications, as well as close air support in South Vietnam. The "Stingers" recorded their second tour in Vietnam aboard the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) and received the Navy Unit Commendation for direct support during this period. In 1968, the "Stingers" again won the coveted Battle Efficiency "E" and in December transitioned from the A-4 "SKYHAWK" to the A-7 "CORSAIR II" aircraft.
VA-113 returned to combat operations in Southeast Asia during December 1970 on board the USS RANGER (CV-61). The squadron's performance during this deployment earned them the Admiral McClusky Award, given annually to the "Outstanding Attack Squadron in the Navy." Additionally, VA-113 earned the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for Fiscal Year 1971.
VA-113 departed Alameda, California in November 1972 for its sixth combat cruise to Southeast Asia. During this deployment the squadron participated in air strikes during Linebacker II and saw action over South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam. May 1974 found the "Stingers" again returning to WESTPAC as an integral part of the Carrier Air Wing 2/USS RANGER fighting team. VA-113 continued this association for the next eight years, completing four more peacetime WESTPAC deployments while compiling an awesome accident-free safety record in the A-7E "CORSAIR II." In August 1982 the "Stingers" surpassed 40,000 accident-free flight hours which represented the longest accident-free period in the entire Navy A-7 community. In recognition of superior safety awareness and operations, the squadron was presented the prestigious Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 1982.
25 March 1983 marked the dawning of the Strike Fighter Squadron era as VA-113 was redesignated VFA-113 and traded their stalwart A-7 "CORSAIRS" for the brand new F/A-18 "HORNETS." They completed the historic transition to the new multi-role Hornet and on 14 December 1983 became the first fleet operational, combat ready Strike Fighter Squadron. The squadron soon embarked for the first carrier deployment of the multi-mission F/A-18 with Carrier Air Wing 14 on board USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64) from February to August 1985.
From April to October 1987, the squadron again deployed to the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. The "Stingers" played a key role in the armed escort of American flagged merchant ships in the war-torn Persian Gulf region.
Following a rigorous turnaround cycle, the "Stingers" deployed in December 1988 aboard USS CONSTELLATION. In June of 1989, they completed a six-month deployment to the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. Safety and proficiency milestones were set again in May 1990, as the "Stingers" advanced the Navy's Tactical Aviation Safety Record to 16 years and over 70,000 mishap-free hours.
In June 1990, the "Stingers" once again sailed to the Western Pacific, this time on board USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62). As the world's eyes focused on the Persian Gulf crisis, the "Stingers" found themselves first on the scene, combat ready and dedicated to draw the line against the advance of terror. Following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces in August 1990, USS INDEPENDENCE, as part of Battle Group Delta, was the first aircraft carrier on station. Immediately making their presence known with missions flown over the northern Persian Gulf, VFA-113 contributed to the U. S. Navy's bold effort to forestall further Iraqi aggression until other U.S. and foreign forces could arrive in theater. The "Stingers" returned from this deployment on 20 December 1990. In February 1994, the "Stingers" deployed on board the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) as part of Cruiser Destroyer Group Three. During this deployment, the "Stingers" conducted operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Ocean Theatres. In addition to missions off the coast of Korea during International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations negotiations, they also flew multiple missions into Iraq in support of Operation "Southern Watch." By now the "Stingers" had compiled a record 21 years and over 93,000 mishap free flight hours, and received three consecutive Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Awards from 1991 - 1993.
In May 1996, the VFA-113 "Stingers" deployed as part of Carrier Air Wing 14 embarked on the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70). WESTPAC 96 included participation in Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and DESERT STRIKE, and in Exercise RUGGED NAUTILUS. As the world focused on terrorist attacks againt U.S. military facilities and on Iraqi intrusion into United Nations-declared Kurdish safe area, the "Stingers" led in all areas of combat operations. After being on station for over three very busy months, the "Stingers" returned from deployment on 12 November 1996 having flown over 97,000 mishap free flight hours.
In March, 1997, LT Kieth "Gunny" Henderson and the "Stingers" made Naval Aviation history when he and aircraft 301 broke the 100,000 mishap free flight hour mark. No tactical fleet squadron has even come close to such a milestone, making the "Stingers" the safest tactical carrier squadron in aviation history.
The “Stingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 conducted the last flight of a fleet F/A-18C Hornet based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore 17 February 2016. The flight was conducted by VFA-113’s maintenance officer Lt. Cmdr. Kristen “Dragon” Hansen.
VFA-113 completed the transition from the A-7E Corsair II to the F/A-18A Hornet Dec. 14, 1983, making the Stinger’s the Navy’s first fleet operational combat ready strike fighter squadron, and establishing the squadron motto of “First and Finest.” In 1989, VFA-113 accepted delivery of the upgraded F/A-18C hornet. In March 2016, VFA-113 began transitioning to the F/A-18E Super Hornet.
In August 2014, the squadron embarked on its final combat deployment with the F/A-18C and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The Stingers flew 367 combat missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“The legacy F/A-18 has served the Navy brilliantly as a supersonic fighter for over 30 years,” said Cmdr. Eric C. Doyle, the commanding officer of the Stingers. “While we remain proud of all the good work we have done with the F/A-18C, we are excited to begin transitioning to some brand new F/A-18E Super Hornets.”
“It has been an honor and a privilege to fly the F/A-18C Hornet across the Lemoore flightline for the last 10 years,” said Hansen. “Although I am excited about receiving our new jets, the ‘Charlie’ has served me and the majority of the Lemoore Hornet community well over the course of our careers. Our maintainers have done a spectacular job of keeping these aging aircraft combat ready despite the many challenges associated with high-flight-hour jets. I’ll appreciate the extra gas, but admit that I’ll be a little sad when I have to say ‘Rhino Ball’ vice ‘Hornet Ball’ behind the boat!”
After the completion of carrier qualifications for the pilots of VFA-113, the final step in the transition process to the F/A-18E being certified as “Safe-for-Flight.” Part of that process involves the loading and delivery of live ordnance. Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific will conduct the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI) for VFA-113 at the beginning of June. Following the completion of CWTPI, the Stingers will become the newest member of the Super Hornet community, making NAS Lemoore an all Super Hornet flightline.
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