Fighter Attack Squadron ONE ZERO ONE [VFA-101]
The last F-35C belonging to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 “Grim Reapers” left its home base at Eglin, AFB in Fla. 23 May 2019 for Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) as the squadron deactivated after more than seven years of training F-35C pilots and Sailors and Marines.
Grim Reaper origins can be traced back to 1942. Homeported at NAS San Diego, the squadron was originally known as VF-10 and was flying the F4F Wildcat off USS Enterprise (CV 6) in the Pacific during WWII. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, they returned to the United States and transitioned to the F6F-Hellcat, redeploying to the Pacific aboard Enterprise before eventually transitioning to the F4U Corsair and re-engaging in Pacific air strikes during WWII. In 1945, VF-10 deactivated at NAS Almeda. In 1952, VF-101 was commissioned at NAS Cecil Field, Fla., assuming the nickname and traditions of the previous VF-10 “Grim Reapers,” thus continuing that legacy, flying FG1-D Corsairs in the Korean War. Since then, the Grim Reaper insignia has graced the tail flash of the F2H Banshee, the F4D Skyray, the F3H Demon, the F-4 Phantom II and the F-14 Tomcat. VF-101 was deactivated September 2005.
VFA-101 reactivated in May 2012, on the 60th Anniversary of the Grim Reapers, as the first Lightning II Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for the F-35C. Since then, the squadron has trained more than 75 Navy and Marine Corps F-35C pilots, accepted more than 30 aircraft, trained more than 1,200 F-35C maintainers and flown nearly 11,000 flight hours.
“The contributions that VFA-101 has made to the F-35C community will not diminish as this program grows,” said VFA-101 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Adan Covarrubias. “The original cadre of maintainers and pilots have left a legacy that is evidenced in all aspects of this community. Their influence will continue long after the squadron’s doors are closed.”
Almost 200 people attended the ceremony as the last Grim Reaper F-35C began its journey to Naval Air Station Lemoore. Attendees included past and present Grim Reaper pilots, crew and family members. Most notably, family members of the original VF-10 Grim Reapers, the Capt. William R. Kane family and the James H. Flatley family, of which there were three generations of Grim Reaper pilots, were in attendance.
The majority of F-35C pilots at VFA-101 will remain in the F-35C community, transferring to VFA-125, VFA-147, VX-9 and Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing. Roughly, more than 50 percent of Sailor maintainers from the Grim Reapers will also remain in the F-35C community either at Naval Air Station Lemoore with VFA-125 or VFA-147 or at VX-9 at Edwards Air Force Base.
The deactivation of VFA-101 will not change or alter, in any way, the U.S. Navy Enlisted Maintenance training that is conducted at the Academic Training Center (ATC) at Eglin AFB and the Navy’s support of Test & Evaluation joint development with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and the partners at Eglin Air Force Base.
Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) is the home-base for Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, the Navy’s F-35C fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VFA-125 that trains Navy and Marine Corps CVN-based JSF pilots. To accommodate the F-35C program at NAS Lemoore, several facilities were built or remodeled to facilitate specific F-35C requirements with regard to maintenance and training, including a Pilot Fit Facility, Centralized Engine Repair Facility, Pilot Training Center, and a newly-remodeled Hangar. Future projects are planned as additional Navy squadrons transition into the F-35C. Marine Corps F-35C squadrons will be based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA.
“When we assessed the requirements to establish and mature the F-35C community, NAS Lemoore was the right place to home-base our Sailors and aircraft,” said U.S. Navy F-35C Wing Commodore, Capt. Max McCoy. “Consolidating resources enables leadership to better support Fleet Replacement Squadron training and operational squadron transitions, both for the Navy and Marine Corps.”
McCoy also went on to explain the benefits of integrating F-35C assets with existing F/A-18E/F aircraft, currently stationed at NAS Lemoore. “Home-basing the F-35C at NAS Lemoore also gives Sailors the flexibility to move from ‘sea’ to ‘shore’ billets without leaving NAS Lemoore. The F-35C is part of the Navy’s Strike Fighter community. Co-locating 4th and 5th generation aircraft accelerates carrier air wing integration, making our carrier strike groups more lethal and survivable. NAS Lemoore is a catalyst for how we will train, maintain and sustain future carrier air wing capability.”
Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO ONE [VF-101]
The VF-101 Grim Reapers was the US Navy's sole Fleet Replacement Squadron for the F-14 Tomcat, training aircrew and maintenance personnel for the fleet. The squadron trains pilots, radar intercept officers, and enlisted personnel in the operation and employment of the F-14 Tomcat fighter. The squadron operates over 40 F-14A, B, and D aircraft at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Navy's Tomcat Demonstration Team represented the entire F-14 community in showing the capabilities of the venerable F-14 Tomcat. From air-to-air superiority and precision strike to tactical reconnaissance, the F-14 is perhaps the most versatile fighter aircraft in the world. The Demo Team consists of instructor pilots, radar intercept officers and maintainers from "The Grim Reapers" of Fighter Squadron 101. The aircrew and aircraft involved with the Demo Team seen performing over the weekend were likely engaged in training replacement 'nuggets' the day prior to the show and will likely do the same upon their return. While demanding on the aircraft, crews and maintainers, this gives the American public the unique opportunity to see a fully operational combat aircraft flying to its limits. This fact, along with their Hornet counterparts of VFA-106 and VFA-125, is what sets the Tomcat Demo Team apart from units like the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. The performance itself showcases the awesome capability of the Tomcat. The sound, speed and size of the Navy's most versatile aircraft always steals the show. While quite a different spectacle from the multiplane Blue Angels, the power of a single F-14 flown at the edge of the envelope is something to behold.
The original "Grim Reapers" were established as Fighter Squadron TEN on 3 June 1942 at NAS San Diego, flying the F4F WILDCAT. They deployed on board the USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) to the South Pacific where they participated in numerous engagements including the Battle of Guadalcanal. After returning to the United States, VF-10 reformed at NAS Sand Point flying the F6F-3 HELLCAT and again deployed to the South Pacific aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6). During its second combat tour, VF-10 participated in operations against the Marshall Islands, Jaluit, Emirau, Western Carolines, Hollandia, Truk Lagoon, and in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (Marianas Turkey shoot). VF-10 returned to NAS Alameda and was disestablished in November 1945.
Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED ONE (VF-101) was established 1 May 1952 at Cecil Field, equipped with the FG1-D CORSAIR which they employed in strikes during the Korean War. In late 1952, the squadron's propeller-driven era ended with the arrival of the F2H-1 BANSHEE. In this new fighter, the Grim Reapers deployed to the Mediterranean and participated in exercises throughout southern Europe and the middle east. August 1956 witnessed the introduction of the F4D-1 SKYRAY. Arrival of radar equipped aircraft gave impetus to development of radar intercept procedures and techniques.
In April 1958, VF-101 merged with the Fleet All-Weather Training Unit Atlantic and assumed the function of training all-weather fighter pilots in the F4D-1 SKYRAY and F3H-2 DEMON. VF-101 became a component of Readiness Attack Carrier Air Wing FOUR at that time. In June 1960, VF-101 Detachment "A" was established at NAS Oceana to train pilots, radar intercept officers and enlisted personnel in the F4H-1 PHANTOM II. The SKYRAY was phased out in March and DEMON training was phased out in December 1962. In February 1963, Detachment "A" was disestablished and F-4 training was moved to NAS Key West. On 1 May 1966, VF-101 again formed a detachment to NAS Oceana to support the mission of VF-101 by training F4B replacement pilots and radar intercept officers in conventional weapons delivery, aerial refueling, radar intercept techniques, air-to-air combat tactics, and missile firing. August 1967 saw the introduction of the F-4J to VF-101. This advanced version of the combat proven F-4B gave naval aviators the finest first line fighter plane in the free world.
In February 1971, VF-101 was assigned to the operational control of Commander Fleet Air Norfolk. On 1 April 1971 the squadron officially completed its move from Key West, leaving a permanent detachment at Key West to conduct the tactics portion of replacement aircrew training. In July 1971, operational control of VF-101 was reassigned to Commander Fighter Wing ONE.
In January 1976, VF-101 assumed the additional role of training F-14 aircrews and maintenance personnel while concurrently maintaining its traditional role as the Atlantic Fleet F-4J Readiness Squadron. In support of this requirement VF-101's ranks increased to over 1,200 personnel. In June, VF101 convened its first aircrew class in support of VF-41/84's transition from the F-4N PHANTOM to the F-14A TOMCAT. On August 5, 1977, VF-101 split into two distinct readiness squadrons. VF-101 was designated as the East Coast F-14 FRS and VF-171 was designated as the F-4 FRS. VF-171 disestablished in June 1984. April 1988 saw the arrival of the first F-14B, with its new higher thrust engines, at VF-101 and the Atlantic Fleet. Following the introduction of the F-14B, a new era in TOMCAT and naval aviation history was ushered in by the September 12, 1990 delivery of two MK-84 2,000 pound inert bombs from this versatile platform. Thus began VF-101's lead role in training the fleet in strike warfare.
On 30 September 1994, with the disestablishment of VF-124 Gunfighters (the west coast F-14 FRS), VF-101 became the single F-14 Fleet Replacement Squadron for the Navy, training crews in the F-14A, F-14B, and F-14D.
With the phase out of the F-14 Tomcat, the need for a replacement squardron no longer exists. Due to that fact, VF-101 was disestablished on September 30, 2005.
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