Strike Fighter Squadron 22 [VFA-22]
The Fighting Redcocks of Strike Fighter Squadron TWENTY-TWO have been a critical part of Naval Aviation for more than 50 years. Originally commissioned as Fighter Squadron SIXTY-THREE at Naval Air Station (NAS) Norfolk, Virginia in 1948, the squadron's official designation was changed to Attack Squadron 22 in July 1959. The first Redcock aviators flew the Grumman F-8F BEARCAT and succeeding pilots progressed through the Vought F-4U CORSAIR, Grumman F9F-2/5 PANTHER, Grumman F9F-6/8 COUGAR, North American FJ-4B FURY, Douglas A-4B/C/D/F SKYHAWK, and the Vought A-7E CORSAIR II. Today, the 177 enlisted men and women and 25 officers of VFA-22 are based in NAS Lemoore, California, maintaining and flying the McDonnell-Douglas FA-18C Night Attack HORNET.
When the SS Mayaguez, an American merchant ship, was seized the Fighting Redcocks were involved in its rescue. On May 12, 1975, the SS Mayaguez, in international waters off Cambodia's coast. The ship was being towed to Kompong Som. President Ford ordered the carrier Coral Sea and other Navy ships to the Gulf of Thailand and US military planes in the Philippines to find the Mayaguez and keep it in sight. On May 14, 1975 the Cambodians released the ship's crew as Cambodian targets were under attack by the US armed forces.
The Fighting Redcocks have been called into action repeatedly over the years, including three combat deployments during the Korean War and six combat deployments during the Vietnam War. On the final Vietnam deployment, VA-22 participated in the critical mining of Haiphong Harbor and intensive air strikes into North Vietnam, enabling a successful withdrawal from the conflict. In 1988, the squadron was deployed aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) and participated in escorting tankers through the Arabian Gulf during Operation Ernest Will. In April of the same year, the Iranian Frigate SAHAND fired missiles at two American A-6 Intruders. VA-22 jets assisted in retaliatory strikes against the aggressor frigate, sinking the vessel with precision guided weapons and free fall bombs in what was termed a "measured response" to Iranian actions in the Arabian Gulf. In 1993, the Fighting Redcocks deployed aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) to the Arabian Gulf and participated in Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the southern no-fly zone over Iraq. Before returning home, the squadron diverted to the coast of Somalia and provided air support during Operation Continue Hope. More recently, while deployed aboard the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) , VFA-22 conducted contingency operations against Iraq and once again helped enforce Operation Southern Watch. During transit, the Battle Group was instructed to expedite passage of the Pacific Ocean to assist the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) with Operation Desert Fox. VFA-22 had the distinct honor of leading the only CVW-11 air strike of Operation Desert Fox. VFA-22 provided four of the six FA-18 Hornets participating in combat operations, which significantly decreased Iraq's ability to produce and deliver weapons of mass destruction.
The Fighting Redcocks have also been involved in several peacetime missions. One such operation was in 1991 aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) during its first operational deployment. VFA-22 participated in Operation Fiery Vigil, providing assistance in evacuating American service members and their family members from the Philippines after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Following this event, the squadron continued to the Arabian Gulf, participating in operations during the withdrawal of forces from Desert Storm.
In 1985 the squadron made operational history by being the first West Coast squadron to successfully launch a direct hit using an AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile). This was the first firing of a HARM missile built in a ship's magazine. In 1993, VFA-22 again made history as the first squadron to deploy with the AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile) missile with the advanced FA-18 91C software. While on deployment to the Arabian Gulf in 1999, Fighting Redcock aviators became the first forward deployed aircrew to drop the AGM-54 JSOW (Joint Stand-Off Weapon) on enemy soil. VFA-22 marveled at the weapons 100 percent kill ratio.
During the command's fifty years of existence, the Fighting Redcocks have deployed on fifteen different Aircraft Carriers. Those carriers included: USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVB 42) , USS BOXER (CV 21), USS VALLEY FORGE (CV 45), USS PHILIPPINE SEA (CV 47), USS YORKTOWN (CVA 10), USS ESSEX (CVA 9) , USS SHANGRI-LA (CVA 38), USS MIDWAY (CVA 41), USS CORAL SEA (CVA 43) , USS RANGER (CVA 61), USS BONHOMME RICHARD (CVA 31), USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) , USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), USS KITTYHAWK (CV 63), and USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). The squadron has enforced policy under the command of five separate Operational Commanders, Carrier Air Group SIX (CVG-6), Carrier Air Group TWO (CVG-2) which was redesignated Carrier Air Wing TWO (CVW-2) in December 1963, Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5), Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN (CVW-15) and Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW-11). The Fighting Redcocks have been based aboard 5 separate Naval Installations, NAS Norfolk, VA, NAS Oceana, VA, NAS Alameda, CA, NALF Santa Rosa, CA and finally in September 1961 became a permanent fixture aboard NAS Lemoore, CA. The squadron has a long and distinguished list of Fighting Redcocks skippers. Since the squadron's inception, VFA-22 has been under the direction of 42 Commanding Officers.
Throughout the squadron's history, VFA-22 has won many distinctive honors. In 1981 the command was distinguished as the best Attack Squadron in the United States Navy and received the RADM Clarence Wade McClusky Award and was Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific's (COMNAVAIRPAC) nominee for the award again in 1983. In 1980, the squadron received the Commander Light Attack Wing Pacific (COMLATWINGPAC) John L. Nicholson Retention Award and in 1981 received the award once again along with the Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT) Golden Anchor Retention Award. VFA-22 has been the recipient of two Meritorious Unit Commendations and twice the winner of the prestigious LTJG Bruce Carrier Award for excellence in Aviation Maintenance. The Fighting Redcocks also won the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency "E" five times, three consecutive years from 1979 through 1981, an unprecedented accomplishment. In 1999, the Secretary of the Navy awarded the squadron, along with Commander, Carrier Group THREE (COMCARGRU THREE), the Navy Unit Commendation for its significant role during Operation Desert Fox.
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