Sea Control Squadron TWENTY ONE [VS-21]
Squadron mission is to provide combat-ready VS aircraft to the U.S. Pacific Fleet commanders. Fleet VS Commanding Officers are responsible for the operation, administration, training, readiness and overall performance of their squadrons in the current, primary and secondary areas assigned by the Chief of Naval Operations.
The U.S. Navy announced 27 October 2004 that Sea Control Squadron 21 (VS-21 "Redtails"), based at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan, would be disestablished effective 28 February 2005. The squadron's S-3B "Viking" aircraft were flown from NAF Atsugi back to the United States in November of 2004, where squadron personnel carried out disestablishment procedures. VS 21 decommissioning was implemented in accordance with the CNO's S-3 Sundown Plan.
The disestablishment was part of the U.S. Navy's plan to phase out the 25-year-old S-3B, which is nearing the end of its service life. The S-3B's missions have been assumed by other naval aviation platforms. The carrier strike group SH-60B/F "Seahawk" helicopters and land-based P-3C "Orion" maritime patrol aircraft are conducting the anti-submarine warfare mission; carrier strike group F/A-18 strike fighters, SH-60B helicopters, and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft are conducting the anti-surface warfare mission; and the F/A-18E/F "Super Hornets" have taken on the carrier-based airborne refueling mission.
VS-21 was embarked in USS KITTYHAWK and was based at NAF Atsugi, Japan. In keeping with the S-3B's multi-mission capability, VS-21 was redesignated from Anti-Submarine to Sea Control Squadron TWO ONE in 1993. VS-21 was a participant in RIMPAC exercises since 1971 and advanced cooperative efforts with the host country and regional allies.
Sea Control Squadron TWO ONE was the Navy's only forward-deployed VS squadron. Stationed out of Atsugi, VS-21 deployed onboard the USS KITTY HAWK as part of Carrier Air Wing FIVE. Carrier Air Wing FIVE was comprised of nine squadrons flying seven types of aircraft. VS-21 flew the S-3B Viking Sea Control aircraft and was manned by approximately two hundred and fifty officers and enlisted. In addition to protecting the carrier battle group from all sea-borne threats, the S-3 was the carrier's only integral tanking asset, enabling the battle group to conduct extended strike and surveillance operations.
VS-21's distinguished history was highlighted by over 30 deployments in 18 carriers involved in supporting national interests in every theater of operation, and spanning over 75% of the earth's surface. A chronicle of VS-21's storied past includes participation in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Operations PRAYING MANTIS, EARNEST WILL, VIGILANT SENTINEL, SOUTHERN WATCH and support of Taiwan's first ever democratic presidential elections. In 1997 VS-21 deployed to the Arabian Gulf on one week's notice and is credited with checking Iraqi aggression in the region. They have been awarded eight Battle Efficiency "E" awards and numerous other campaign and unit level awards.
The origin of VS-21 can be traced back to 26 March 1945 when Carrier Escort Air Group FOUR ONE (CVEG-41) was established at NAS San Point, Washington. Comprised of Fighter Squadron 41 (VF-41) and Torpedo Squadron 41 (VT-41), CVEG-41 employed the Ryan FR-1 Fireball and TBM-3E Avenger, respectively. On 15 November 1946, both VF-41 and VT-41 established the new Carrier Escort Air Group ONE (CVEG-1) and were re-designated as Fighter Squadron 1 Escort (VF-1E) and Attack Squadron 1 Escort (VA-1E). Together, they formed the first of three air groups specifically established to conduct "hunter-killer" ASW operations. On 12 December 1946, while assigned to CVEG-1, the tail code "BS" (callsign Beef Steak) was used by VS-21 and remains its callsign today.
In the fall of 1948, CVEG-1 was re-designated Fleet Composite Squadron TWO ONE (VC-21). As a part of this re-designation, VF-1E and VA-1E were decommissioned, VC-21 was moved to NAS San Diego and the TBM-3W (hunter) and TBM-3S (Killer) aircraft became the hunter-killer force of the U.S. Navy. VC-21 was the first of seven ASW fleet composite squadrons to enter the fleet. The TBM-3S was outfitted with eight sonobuoys and was capable of attacking with depth bombs, rockets and ASW torpedoes; while the TBM-3W was equipped with a rotating search radar antenna.
On 23 April 1950, VC-21 was designated VS-21 and on Independence Day 1950 became the first carrier-based squadron to depart the United States in response to the Korean War. During this conflict, the squadron was responsible for the evacuation of 1st Marine Division wounded from Kotori airstrip near the Chosin Reservoir.
Upon their return to NAS North Island, San Diego as recipients of the 1950 Commander Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet VC Safety Award, the squadron transitioned to the Grumman AF-2 Guardian. The largest single-engine aircraft to ever serve in the U.S. Navy, the Guardian was built in two versions - the radar-equipped AF-2W (hunter) and heavily armed AF-2S (killer). Flying the AF-2 series, VS-21 made multiple deployments and spearheaded the 1954 ASW carrier (CVS) concept on Essex-class ships.
In December 1954, the squadron was chosen as the first command to transition to the S2F-1 (S-2D) Tracker. The twin-engine aircraft combined both hunter and killer roles within a single airframe for the first time. In 1955, the red lightning bolt was first displayed on the engine cowling and later the tail, establishing a tradition that lasts to this day. That next year, VS-21 became the first VS squadron to win the Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency "E" award.
The squadron was divided in April 1960 with the establishment of VS-29. The two VS squadrons, together with HS-6 formed Carrier Anti-Submarine Group FIVE THREE (CVSG-53) and embarked on that Carrier Group's inaugural Western Pacific deployment embarked in USS KEARSARGE (CVS-33). As part of that Carrier Group, VS-21 participated in the recovery of LCDR Wally Schirra, pilot of Mercury capsule Sigma 7, and MAJ Gordon Cooper, pilot of Mercury capsule Faith 7. During their third Western Pacific cruise together, KEARSARGE and CVSG-53 deployed to the South China Sea in response to the Gulf of Tonkin crisis to provide maritime surveillance as well as search and rescue services off the coast of Vietnam.
In 1965, VS-21 accepted the advanced S-2E and became the first VS squadron to operationally employ the AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-surface guided missile. Seventeen years after successfully testing the CVS concept, VS-21 joined the USS SARATOGA in 1971 to validate the multi-purpose CV Carrier concept that incorporated fixed-wing ASW assets into attack carrier airwings. This carrier/airwing experiment proved successful and has stood the test of time to present day.
In 1974, VS-21 was chosen as the first command to introduce the Lockheed S-3A Viking to the fleet. The twin turbofan powered Viking combined excellent flight characteristics with high endurance to counter the increasingly lethal Soviet nuclear submarine threat. Embarked in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) as a part of CVW-1, VS-21 deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in February 1975 as the first squadron to deploy with the S-3A Viking. That same year, the Redtails won the Battle "E", the CNO Safety Award and the Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophy for ASW excellence.
In April 1991, VS-21 was selected by Commander Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet as the first west coast squadron to transition to the Lockheed S-3B. The most advanced ASW and sea control platform in history, the S-3B incorporates an extensive weapons system improvement program that added an advanced imaging capable ISAR RADAR, Electronic Counter Measures, vastly improved anti-submarine technologies, and AGM-84D Harpoon air-to-surface missile employment. Additionally, the S-3B modification provided the aircraft with inflight refueling capability. As the only carrier-based refueling aircraft, the S-3B is the cornerstone of all carrier operations and strike capabilities within the airwing.
In August 1991, VS-21 embarked in USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62) and joined Carrier Air Wing FIVE as the only permanently forward deployed VS squadron.
Winning the Battle "E" and the "Golden Wrench" for 1999 was an honor, but it's really a tribute to the talent and sweat of 230 sailors, working day in and day out in the toughest environment in the world," said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Coats, VS-21's maintenance officer. "As ambassadors at home in our host country of Japan or as warriors supporting combat operations in Operation Southern Watch, the VS-21 professionals and their families exceeded every expectation. They maintained and launched aircraft, managed a dynamic operational schedule, processed reams of administrative paperwork, monitored safety programs, provided tactical and intelligence support, and administered a robust computer network,"
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