Strike Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE [VFA-41]
Late in 2001 the Black Aces, flying some of the oldest F-14A's in the Fleet, began the transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet. Known for multiple historic combat accompishments, the squadron was selected to be the first naval fleet squadron to operate the Super Hornet. Along with this transition, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE departs NAS Oceana and travels to NAS Lemoore, California. In the Spring of 1994 Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE grew to a 14 aircraft squadron. During pre-deployment work ups in late 2000, maintenance provided 8 solid up jets for the Fallon air-to-ground Det, and provided 10 up jets for the subsequent two and a half week at sea period,
Fighting Forty One was established in September 1950 at NAS Oceana flying the F-4U Corsair. Through the years Forty One has flown the F-2H Banshee, F-3H-2 Demon, F-4B Phantom II, and, currently, the F-14A Tomcat. Forty One's constant pursuit of excellence earned awards and citations including the Golden Tailhook Award, Clifton Trophy, Grand Slam, and several Battle E and Safety S. Most recently, the Aces received the Fred D. Dillingham Tactical Reconnaissance Trophy, and is the first Fighter Squadron to receive the Wade McLusky Trophy for excellence in strike warfare. The squadron has distinguished itself in Vietnam, over the Gulf of Sidra, the Persian Gulf, and Kosovo in addition to numerous other deployments.
Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE's distinguished history began on 1 June 1945, when it was commissioned at Naval Air Station, Chincoteague, Virginia. Flying the chance-Vought F4U Corsair, the squadron moved to Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, in 1947. In July 1948, the squadron was designated Fighter Squadron THREE-B and in September of that year was re-designated Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE. The squadron made early deployments to the Mediterranean aboard the USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CV 42) and USS MIDWAY (CV 41) before changing its home port to Jacksonville, Florida in January 1949. After being decommissioned for a short period of the Black Aces were re-commissioned in 1950 at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia.
The Black Aces transitioned to the jet age with the F-2H Banshee in May 1953, making deployments to the Mediterranean and Far East aboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62). In 1959, the Banshee was replaced by the F3H-2 Demon. Equipped with radar-guided forward quarter missiles, the Demon was the first all-weather jet fighter in the Navy inventory.
In February 1962, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE transitioned to the McDonnell-Douglas F-4B Phantom II and made a special deployment to Key West, Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In May 1965, as part of Carrier Air Wing SEVEN, the Black Aces deployed to the western Pacific for seven months of combat operations in the Vietnam Gulf. In addition to providing fighter escort during major air strikes, the squadron was tasked with day and night interdiction missions, photo reconnaissance escort and flak suppression.
Fighting Squadron FORTY-ONE renewed old ties with USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT and deployed with her in January 1970 and again in September 1973 where the air wing participated in a major peacekeeping role during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In 1975 Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE, deployed with the F-4N Phantom II aboard the USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT prior to transitioning to the F-14A Tomcat in 1976 and joining Carrier Air Wing EIGHT and USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) in January 1978 and September 1979. In January 1980 Carrier Air Wing EIGHT and USS NIMITZ were diverted to the Indian Ocean. The USS NIMITZ Battle Group was assigned to station in the Arabian Sea in response to the Iranian/Afghanistan crisis. During this time, the Black Aces spent 144 continuous days at sea, the longest period since the days of World War II.
While at sea and during work-ups prior to the 1981-1982 Mediterranean Sea deployment, tragedy stuck as an EA-6B Prowler crashed on the flight deck of the USS NIMITZ. Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE personnel courageously assisted in bringing the ensuing fire under control, bravely, but sadly, the Black Aces lost three shipmates and three aircraft in the catastrophe.
While on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea on 19 August 1981, during a routine combat air patrol mission over the Gulf of Sidra, two Libyan SU-22 Fitter aircraft were shot down by Black Ace aircraft after an unprovoked firing on the F-14 section. The incident marked the first Navy air combat confrontation since the Vietnam War and the first ever for the F-14A Tomcat.
In November 1982, the squadron embarked on an extended deployment off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, in support of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force.
During 1985, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE again spent 68 days off the coast of Lebanon in response to the hijacking of a TWA airliner.
The squadron's next major deployment was to the Mediterranean Sea in December 1986. As that deployment ended in June 1987, the Black Aces left USS NIMITZ at her new home port on the West Coast and returned to Naval Air Station, Oceana.
In August 1988, the Black Aces deployed for six weeks to the North Atlantic Ocean and Norwegian Sea on board USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) for Exercise TEAMWORK 88, and in late December, deployed with the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT on her maiden Mediterranean Sea deployment.
On 28 December 1990, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE embarked in USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT to support multinational forces in Operation DESERT SHIELD and arrived in the Arabian Gulf shortly after hostilities with Iraq began during escort and combat air patrol missions. It was the most intense flight operations in the squadron's history. Missions expanded to include patrols deep into Iraq in search of enemy aircraft. By the end of the war on 28 February 1991, the squadron had amassed over 1,500 combat flight hours, with an unprecedented 100% sortie completion rate.
The Black Aces and USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT remained in the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea as part of a military presence enforcing the Operation DESERT STORM cease fire until late April 1991, when USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT was repositioned to the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Turkey to provide air support for ground forces assisting Kurdish refugees in Northern Iraq during Operation PROVIDE COMFORT.
Returning to Naval Air Station, Oceana in October 1991, training concentrated on air-to-ground ordnance delivery and deep strike escort missions. Black Ace aircrews detached to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma for Exercise CORONET SENTRY 92-1, a joint war games exercise involving the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Air National Guard Units. Training remained intense in November and December as the Black Aces completed a Fleet Fighter Air Combat Maneuver Readiness Program with VF-43 participating as adversaries.
During the Summer of 1992, the Black Aces began preparation for a Spring 1993 deployment in USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT. However, with the integration of U.S. Marine Corps aircrew and aircraft aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE remained at Naval Air Station, Oceana. Carrier Air Wing EIGHT deployed without the Black Aces in March 1993. However, the Black Aces did remain part of Carrier Air Wing EIGHT, maintaining operational readiness if called upon to re-constitute the Air Wing within 72 hours.
In Spring 1993 the Black Aces sent detachments to Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada and Cold Lake, Canada, in support of Exercise RED FLAG and Exercise MAPLE FLAG, and in May 1993 received the Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Grand Slam" Award for excellence in air-to-air weaponry. Through the Summer and Fall of 1993 The Black Aces deployed twice to Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix, Arizona conducting dissimilar air-to-air combat training with the U.S. Air Force.
In the Spring of 1994 Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE grew to a 14 aircraft squadron and received their first Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) equipped aircraft and additional personnel required to prepare for their upcoming Mediterranean Sea deployment in USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT. After the decommissioning of VF 84 Jolly Rogers in 1995, the Black Aces assumed the duties of a Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System squadron. Since then, VF-41 has excelled at the mission and to incorporated new equipment into the Tomcat's reconnaissance and tactical capabilities.
On 22 March 1995 the Black Aces embarked in USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT for a six month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Arabian Gulf, Persian Gulf, and Adriatic Sea. During this deployment the Black Aces conducted combat operations during Operation DELIBERATE FORCE and Operation DENY FLIGHT over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq logging over 600 combat hours and 530 sorties. During Operation DELIBERATE FORCE the Black Aces became the first F-14 squadron to deliver air-to-ground ordnance in conflict with an enemy force.
In March 1996, the Black Aces embarked in USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) and participated in her "shakedown" cruise and Exercise ORANGE AIR. In June 1996, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE embarked in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) and made the first ever port visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier to Dublin, Ireland, and a subsequent port visit to Portsmouth, England.
On 29 April 1997, the Black Aces departed for a six month deployment embarked in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY. During deployment the Black Aces participated in NATO Exercise INFINITE ACCLAIM in Jordan; Exercise BEACON FLASH in Oman; Exercise DYNAMIC MIX in Greece and Exercise I'LES DOR in France. Fighter Squadron FORTY-0NE flew missions in support of Operation DELIBERATE FORCE over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq. Also, during this deployment the Black Aces enjoyed extended liberty in Marseilles, France; Palma, Spain; Bennidorm, Spain; Cannes, France; Corfu, Greece; Rhodes, Greece; Haifa, Israel; Bahrain, Tarragona, Spain and an historic visit to Koper, Slovenia where USS JOHN F. KENNEDY was the first-ever U.S. aircraft carrier to visit that country.
Upon successfully completion of many detachments and training exercises to include an Orange Air Missile Shoot in support of CVW-17 in Puerto Rico and a Guns-det in Key West, the Black Aces once again joined forces with the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). The CVW-8/TR Team completed a flawless turn around cycle. On 26 March 1999 the squadron embarked for a six month deplyment and within nine days of leaving home, the Black Aces were flying combat missions over Kosovo in support of OPERATION ALLIED FORCE. The Black Aces logged over 1,100 combat hours during 384 sorties. During these flights, VF-41 dropped over 160 tons of laser guided munitions with a unprecedented 85% success rate becoming the first squadron to test and prove the combat effectiveness of the LANTIRN targeting system. Additionally, VF-41 Forward Air Controller (Airborne) aircrew directed over one million pounds of ordnance including the AGM-65 LASER MAVERICK helping to provide a swift end to the conflict. The tactical wizardry of VF-41 FAC(A)s led to remarkable advances in the integration of F/A-18 Laser Spot Trackers to control the delivery of AGM-65E Laser Mavericks and validated the first-ever combat employment of ordnance utilizing the IZLID III. The the squadron successfully engaged hundreds of stationary and mobile targets, inflicting severe damage to the fielded forces of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.
Throughout the long and illustrious history of the venerable F-14, no Tomcat squadron has ever been awarded the RADM Clarence Wade McClusky Award. This prestigious award had been reserved for the finest attack squadron in the Navy, previously only going to A-6 or F/A-18 units. The "Black Aces" of Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE, however, were selected as the Navy's premier attack squadron for 1999 -- the most decorated unit to emerge from the conflict in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.
In July 1999, the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT with Carrier Airwing EIGHT was ordered to the Persian Gulf in support of OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH where the Black Aces wrote another page in the history books by becoming the first squadron to expend ordnance in two theaters on a single deployment. Most importantly, the squadron returned home safely in late September 1999 having dropped over 400 laser guided munitions. Hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation devices were used by all F-14s in the Battle Group. These devices proved invaluable for the successful combat employment of the Tomcat in Operations ALLIED FORCE and SOUTHERN WATCH.
Six aircraft and more than 20 aircrew from the Black Aces of Fighter Squadron 41 (VF-41) arrived at NAS Pensacola on 20 March 2000 as part of a Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8) detachment in support of Battle Group Operations originating from the deck of the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON. The detachment to Pensacola marked the first squadron deployment since their return from combat. For two weeks, Black Ace Tomcats launched daily sorties to provide realistic opposition presentations to the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing SEVENTEEN (CVW-17), who were engaged in their final series of training exercises prior to an upcoming six-month deployment.
The Aces kicked off pre-deployment work ups with air-to-air and air-to-ground Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP). With the guidance of SWATS and the bogey support of VFC-12 and 13, VF-41 marched through the 18 mission syllabus efficently and professionally. Maintenance worked feverishly to smoothly meet the intense scheduling demands. Their superior work provided 8 solid up jets for the Fallon air-to-ground Det. The Aces flew 190 sorties during the 4 week exercises in Oceana and then Fallon and delivered a variety of ordnance including 20 LGTR, 74 Mk82, 64 BDU-45 and 20 Rockeye. In addition to the syllabus flights, the Aces showed off their reconnaissance expertise with several TARPS missions to update Fallon target information for the Airwing Fallon Detachment. FORTY-ONE spent the weeks since returning from Fallon preparing for TSTA which began 18 September 2000. VF-41 joined their fellow Carrier Airwing 8 squadrons aboard the USS Enterprise. FORTY-ONE maintenance provided 10 up jets for the two and a half week at sea period, far ahead of turn around schedule. The Aces spent the early days and nights of the exercise reaquainting themselves with carrier landings and approaches. New aircrew, welcomed to the squadron since May 2000, had their first taste of fleet carrier life. Over the course of the following weeks, the Aces logged over 200 traps. The numerous sorties familiarized new aircrew with carrier procedures and tactical missions. Subsequently the Aces, along with the rest of Carrier Airwing Eight, tackled the challenges of the Airwing Fallon Det.
After successful completion of their duties on the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE arrived in the continental United States and moved to Lemoore, California where they became Strike Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE. In November of 2001, VFA-41 started the transition from the F-14 Tomcat to the F/A-18F Superhornet with VFA-122, the Fleet Replacement Squadron in Lemoore. The Black Aces finished up training with VFA-122 and NAMTRAU while standing up the squadron and, after being declared Safe for Flight in April 2002, began operational training in the first fleet F/A-18F. VFA-41 began workups as part of CVW-11 in July.
Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE's list of distinguished unit awards include: The Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon for Operation DELIBERATE FORCE in 1995; Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Golden Anchor" Award for 1995, 1996 and 1997; Commander, Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Bronze Anchor" for 1993. 1994. 1995, 1996 and 1997; Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Athletic Excellence" Award for 1994; Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Battle "E" Award for 1981, 1985 and 1989; Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Safety "S" Award for 1975, 1981, 1989 and 1992; Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Grand Slam" Award for 1992; Commander, Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Banner Blister" Award for 1994; Commander, Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Bronze Anchor" Award for 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996; Commander, Fighter Wing U.S. Atlantic Fleet "Fred P. Dillingham TARPS" Trophy for 1995; and the 1981 "Joseph P. Clifton" Trophy.
On October 18, 2002 two F/A-18F “Super Hornets” assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 based at Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif., crashed at sea approximately 80 miles southwest of Monterey, Calif., this morning. The aircraft were operating with six other aircraft from the same squadron and were conducting routine training. They did not have any weapons on board. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
VFA-41 was formerly an F-14 “Tomcat” squadron, having made the transition to the F/A-18F “Super Hornet” this summer. The “F” model is the two-seat variant of the Navy’s newest strike fighter. This is the first crash of a Super Hornet.