Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE [VFA-195]
The "Dambusters" of Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE boast a long and proud history of participation in every major conflict since World War Two. Engaging in combat action and contingency operations in every theater on the world stage, the "Chippies", as they have become known informally, have flown from eight different aircraft carriers and operated five different aircraft during both peace and war.
It was the Korean Conflict which elevated the squadron's exploits to the status of legend. Flying the rugged AD-1 Skyraider from the deck of the USS Princeton, men from Attack Squadron ONE NINE FIVE (VA-195) sortied in a raid against the strategic Hwa Chon Dam. Heavily defended in a valley littered with Anti-Aircraft Artillery, the dam had defied all previous attempts at destruction by Air Force and Navy bombers. With the novel approach of using torpedoes to attack the dam, the squadron succeeded, securing a major strategic victory in the process and inspiring James Mitchener's acclaimed novel and movie The Bridges of Toko-Ri. The squadron continues to be known as the "Dambusters" to this day.
Throughout the next forty years, the men of the Dambusters continued the legend, seeing combat action in Vietnam with the A-4 Skyhawk and A-7E Corsair II. In 1991, the squadron was once again on the world stage as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, flying combat sorties-this time in the world's most advanced Strike Fighter aircraft, the F/A-18 - during the liberation of Kuwait.
In more recent times, the men of VFA-195 have found themselves on the front lines during crises in Taiwan and again in the Persian Gulf. Operating as a unit of the United States Navy's only forward deployed carrier airwing, homeported in Atsugi, Japan, since 1986, Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE continues to be at the very tip of the spear, the first to be called upon in times of crisis or war.
The DAMBUSTERS of VFA-195 took part in a flight deck re-certification aboard the USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63). The exercise, commonly known in Navy jargon as "Deck Cert," began on 24 February 2000 and was completed on 02 March 2000. Despite the short duration, deck cert offered valuable training to flight deck personnel who are responsible for safe and orderly flight operations in the dangerous carrier environment. The eight-day exercise also gave aircrew from each CVW-5 squadron a chance to sharpen their skills landing aircraft aboard KITTY HAWK. Deck cert integrates the ship's crew with the Wing prior to each deployment. The DAMBUSTERS conducted Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) at MCAS Iwakuni before going to sea in order to build the proficiency needed to land safely aboard the ship. VFA-195 maintenance personnel did a superb job preparing aircraft and the squadron did not miss a single sortie due to maintenance problems. Once on the ship, the Airframes shop saved the day and repaired a failed landing strut on one of the aircraft without losing a single sortie. The DAMBUSTERS tallied 178 traps, qualifying seven pilots for day and five pilots for night landings.
In April 2000 the DAMBUSTERS of Strike Fighter Squadron One Nine Five completed their first ever Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) detachment to Guam in preparation for their spring deployment. SFARP is an intensive training program in which pilots hone their skills planning and executing the various strike fighter missions that they may be called upon to perform in combat. On 02 April 2000, three weeks prior to deploying on USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63), 33 FA-18 Hornets, eight F-14 Tomcats and three E-2C Hawkeyes arrived in Andersen AFB, Guam. The detachment gave the DAMBUSTERS the opportunity to 'train like they fight,' using nearby unlimited supersonic airspace and a live-fire air-to-ground target range nearby.
Prior to departing for Guam, the DAMBUSTER aviators received ground school lectures on the latest strike fighter tactics and threat capabilities from the Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific Instructors from NAS Lemoore, CA. The Weapons School Instructors came to Atsugi, Japan and Guam to fly with the DAMBUSTERS as observers as well as playing the role of the "bandits" during air-to-air engagements.
The 2000 SFARP detachment was also the first time that two CONUS-based FA-18 reserve squadrons provided support overseas. Strike Fighter Squadron 204 from Atlanta, GA and Fighter Composite Squadron 12 from NAS Oceana, Virginia provided the adversary support and expertise. The main objective of SFARP is to get aviators from different squadrons and aircraft working as a team. Intensive daily flight operations tested the Chippy Maintenance Team as well, which was up to the challenge. With almost one hundred percent humidity and temperatures reaching into the high nineties, plane captains, ordnance loaders, avionics technicians, and aircraft mechanics worked grueling schedules preparing quality aircraft for each SFARP event. When not working the long hours at Andersen, the troops enjoyed some quality liberty in Tumon Bay, a local resort area.
The DAMBUSTER maintenance team boasted a near one hundred percent sortie completion rate, tallying 173 flights and expending over 128,000 pounds of ordnance, the highest in Air Wing FIVE. Their tireless efforts resulted in seventeen pilots successfully completing the SFARP syllabus. The Guam detachment was highlighted by a visit from the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jay Johnson. The CNO visited USS KITTY HAWK on April 17 to specifically praise the efforts of all hands involved in the first-ever overseas SFARP detachment in which the DAMBUSTERS played a key role. The Chippies departed Guam on April 20 en route to Singapore for a port visit, and to Thailand to participate in Exercise COBRA GOLD 2000, one of the largest exercises involving U.S. forces in the Pacific Command of the year.
Exercise Cobra Gold 2000, which began May 9, is a regularly scheduled joint/combined U.S. - Thai military exercise designed to ensure regional peace and strengthen the ability of the Royal Thai armed forces to defend Thailand or respond to regional contingencies. The Chippies along with CVW-5 and USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) joined the exercise on May 17, and for three days participated in intense training with units from the Thai and U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. Armed forces from Singapore also participated for the first time this year.
The aggressive Cobra Gold flying schedule required the Air Wing to increase its daily sortie count by nearly fifty percent. The Chippies dropped over ten tons of ordnance and enjoyed an air wing leading 95% sortie completion rate, thanks to a brilliant performance under pressure from the DAMBUSTER maintenance department. The surge in operational tempo gave the Chippies and the rest of the KITTY HAWK/CAG FIVE team a chance to demonstrate to international armed forces the superb efficiency and deadly effectiveness of a battle ready carrier task force. In addition to flying Cobra Gold missions from the flight deck of USS KITTY HAWK, CVW-5 operated F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats from a detachment site at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, approximately one hundred and sixty-five miles northeast of Bangkok. Detachment aircraft in Korat acted as aggressor forces conducted local bombing exercises on Chandy and Ban Chan Kren inert ranges.
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