Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO TWO [VFA-102]
Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO TWO [VF-102]
VFA-102, DIAMONDBACKS, is based at NAF Atsugi in Japan. They were redesiginated VFA-102, from VF-102, in 2002. This redesignation was to reflect its transition training the F-18 Super Hornet. VFA-102 had previously been flying the F-14 Tomcat.
The VF-102 DIAMONDBACKS were established on July 1, 1955 in Jacksonville, Florida. The first aircraft to carry the distinctive DIAMONDBACK markings was the McDonnell F2H BANSHEE, a twin engine fighter-bomber with four 20MM internal cannons.
The Diamondbacks inaugural cruise took place aboard the USS RANDOLPH in July 1956. After the deployment the squadron transitioned to the Douglas F-4D-1 Skyray, this aircraft in addition to the internal cannons carried the new AIM-9b Sidewinder missile. The squadron's outstanding performance in the SKYRAY resulted in their entry into the 1958 "All Navy Weapons Meet"
After a final cruise with the SKYRAY aboard the USS FORRESTAL in 1960, the Diamondbacks moved to NAS Oceana and transitioned to the F4B PHANTOM. The mach 2 capable aircraft was crewed by a pilot and a rio (radar intercept officer) with a missile only weapons load for air-to-air missions. This was the beginning of a twenty year association with the PHANTOM. Highlights of this period were participation in Operation SEA ORBIT, the first Nuclear Task Force circumnavigation aboard USS ENTERPRISE, winner of the battle "E" in 1964 and 1966, combat operations off Vietnam in 1968, Meritorious Unit citation in 1970 for the Jordanian Crisis Deployment, and cross deck operations aboard H.M.S. ROYAL in 1975 and 1978.
The Diamondbacks bade farewell to the PHANTOM in June of 1981 after returning from an Indian Ocean Cruise on board the USS INDEPENDENCE. During that summer the squadron transitioned to the Grumman F-14A TOMCAT. The Tomcats design provides the pilot and rio with the most formidable air-to-air radar and weapons system ever devised. The principle feature of the long range AWG-9 radar and its multiple track, multiple launch capable Phoenix missile system, the Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, along with the six barreled 20 MM Vulcan Cannon fill out the Tomcats weapons suite. With the arrival of arrival of the Tomcat, the Diamondbacks also received a new mission in addition to the traditional fighter role, that of photo-reconnaissance. VF-102 became a TARPS (Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System) fighter squadron performing both roles.
In March of 1986 the Diamondbacks departed Norfolk aboard the USS AMERICA headed directly for the Gulf of Sidra. The Diamondbacks will long remember the operations below the so-called "Line of Death", especially our part in the history making raid of April 15th.
In the fall of 1990, the Diamondbacks completed an accelerated work-up phase, and deployed in late December to join USS JOHN F. KENNEDY and USS SARATOGA in the Red Sea as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD. Just two days after entering the Red Sea, the Diamondbacks began flying strikes against Baghdad and other strategic targets in Iraq. VF-102 logged more than 1400 combat hours during the six week campaign flying a variety of missions from both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The Diamondbacks boarded USS AMERICA again in December 1991, for a six month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. Highlights of this cruise included Operation BEACON FLASH with the Omanis, EAGER ARCHER with the Kuwaitis, SAND STORM with the Saudis, and EBONY FLAME with the Djiboutis. In December 1992 the squadron commenced work-ups for a Med deployment the following August. Work-ups included Fleet Fighter ACM Readiness Program (FFARP), REFTRA, Advanced Attack Readiness Program (AARP), and Air Wing Strike Training out of Fallon Nevada. Work-up deployment included five weeks in the Puerto Rico Op area for COMPTUEX in April-May 1993 and two weeks on the eastern US seaboard for FLEETEX in July 1993.
In late July 1993, Fighter Squadron THIRTY THREE was disestablished and the Diamondbacks became Carrier Air Wing One's only fighter squadron, receiving four additional aircraft, thus expanding Fighter Squadron 102's compliment to fourteen aircraft. Additionally the wardroom expanded to forty-four officers and the enlisted ranks increased to nearly three hundred men.
With the addition of general-purpose bombs and cluster munitions, the Diamondbacks led the way in day and night bombing, giving the Tomcat a new capability as a multi-role fighter aircraft. The Grumman F-14A was capable of shooting air-to-air missiles, 20MM gun, dropping general purpose bombs, cluster munitions, and acquiring valuable photo reconnaissance (TARPS).
In early August 1993, Fighter Squadron 102 as a member of Carrier Air Wing One embarked onboard USS AMERICA to begin a third Mediterranean deployment in three years. During the deployment the Diamondbacks conducted US humanitarian operations off the coast of Bosnia-Herzegovina supporting Operations PROVIDE PROMISE and DENY FLIGHT. In late October they transited the Suez Canal for the fifth time in three years in support of Operation RESTORE HOPE off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia. By mid December the Diamondbacks were challenged with supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq. This was a history making deployment for the Diamondbacks breaking records in total flight hours, sorties flown, and consecutive sorties flown. In March 1994 the Diamondbacks were awarded the Grand Slam Award for excellence in Air-to-Air Weapons Delivery.
After an Orange Air detachment to Roosevelt Road, Puerto Rico, in June 1994, where the Diamondbacks worked in support of the USS EISENHOWER battle group, they returned home and began their transition to the f-14b aircraft. They quickly adapted to the increased thrust of the new engine and completed carrier qualifications aboard USS AMERICA in July and USS ENTERPRISE in October. November brought about a detachment to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana where the Diamondbacks worked jointly with both the Air Force and Army in Close Air Support (CAS) exercises.
The squadron embarked with USS AMERICA again in December 1994 for Refresher Training (REFTRA) as work-ups for an August 1995 deployment. The Diamondbacks broke into 1995 as the first Tomcat squadron to detach to MCAS Yuma for the air-to-ground portion of SFARP. following this highly successful two-week period in Arizona, the squadron returned home to NAS Oceana for the air-to-air portion of SFARP. Work-ups started in earnest in March with a very successful air wing detachment to Fallon and continued with phases I and II of COMPTUEX from April to June aboard USS AMERICA. June also saw the Diamondbacks take part in the Navy's first ever FAC(A) training course producing four fully qualified crews. The Diamondbacks returned to USS AMERICA for JTF-EX for two weeks in July and moved aboard at the end of August for USS AMERICA's final deployment.
The Diamondbacks 1995-96 Mediterranean Cruise began with an emergency sortie to the Adriatic to take part in Operation DELIBERATE FORCE. Most of the cruise was spent in the Adriatic of the coast of Bosnia. The Diamondbacks participated in operation BRIGHT STAR with the Egyptians in November en route to the Persian Gulf. While in the Persian Gulf, they flew missions in support of operation SOUTHERN WATCH but the placing of US forces on the ground in Bosnia led to another emergency sortie back to the Adriatic in December. The Diamondbacks remained in the cruise, logging more than 4000 hours and over 1900 traps during the deployment. These record setting numbers helped earn VF-102 its first Battle "E" in the squadrons 40 year history. In addition the Diamondbacks were awarded the Grand Slam, Safety S. and the Clifton awards for 1995.
The Diamondbacks 1996-97 turnaround cycle was filled with intense training as VF-102 transitioned to the F-14B Upgrade. The transition included software upgrades as well as the ability to carry the LANTIRN targeting pod. The new capability allowed the Diamondbacks to perform precision strike role while continuing to be an air superiority fighter. The work-up cycle included a very successful detachment to NAS Fallon in February as well as STAI/II, COMPTUEX, and JTFEX aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON during the months of June through August. At the annual Fighter Fling, the Diamondbacks were awarded the VADM "Sweetpea" Allen Precision Strike Award for their role in expanding the tactics and mission envelope of strike warfare.
The Diamondbacks 1997-98 Mediterranean Cruise began with operations off of Egypt in support of Operation BRIGHT STAR. As tensions increased between the United Nation and Iraq over the Weapons Inspection Process the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON Battle Group was sent to the Arabian Gulf in November to maintain multi-carrier support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The Diamondbacks spent the remainder of the deployment supporting Operation Southern Watch.
Returning home in April 1998, another turnaround cycle began for the squadron. This period saw the introduction of EGI (Embedded GPS/INS) and FTI (Fast Tactical Imagery) to the TOMCAT community, with VF-102 again leading the way. Following a detachment to Fallon in February and March of 1999, the DIAMONDBACKS embarked in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY. The squadron spent the summer flying in preparation for the "Millennium Cruise" on JFK.
Following a brief delay due to Hurricane Floyd, the DIAMONDBACKS left for deployment in September 1999. Arriving in the Mediterranean, VF-102 enjoyed their first port call to Malta. Meanwhile, a small contingent flew to Leeuarden Air Base, Holland, to participate in Operation FRESIAN FLAG. October 1999 found the DIAMONDBACKS participating in Operation BRIGHT STAR off the coast of Egypt. Transiting the Suez Canal, the squadron arrived on station in the Persian Gulf in support of SOUTHERN WATCH in November. As Iraqi forces continued to violate United Nations resolutions and fire on UN aircraft, VF-102 was called into action it's first night on station, destroying several radar and anti-aircraft artillery sites during the four months in the Gulf.
The "Diamondbacks" of VF 102 have returned to NAS Oceana following their six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Gulf aboard Kennedy. Two air crewmen from Fighter Squadron (VF) 102 received minor injuries when they safely ejected from their F-14 Tomcat aircraft near Bermuda. Both men were recovered from the water and returned to the Mayport, Fla.-based aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). The incident happened at approximately 10:30 a.m. EST Friday, 17 March 2000 during routine flight operations about 250 miles southwest of Bermuda. An S-3 Viking aircraft from Sea Control Squadron (VS) 32 located the downed crew and an SH-60 helicopter from Helicopter Anti Submarine Squadron (HS) 11 recovered them a short time later.
After returning home to NAS Oceana in the spring of 2000, the DIAMONDBACKS witnessed two major changes to the squadron. First was the introduction of DFCS, or Digital Flight Control System. This modification improves the maneuverability of the already agile TOMCAT by enhancing flying characteristics at slow airspeeds, improving landing configuration performance and adding spin-resitance features. Second, the squadron welcomed its first two female aircrew as Carrier Air Wing ONE moved to become fully integrated with females prior to the 2001 deployment on USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71).
In November 2000 the Diamondbacks began their IDTC with the air-to-air portion of SFARP at NAS Oceana followed in February 2001 with the air-to-ground SFARP at NAS Fallon, Nevada. Airwing Fallon came in April and TSTA III/COMPTUEX in June. During COMPTUEX, VF-102 again proved its superiority as CVW-1 awarded the Diamondbacks the Airwing One Golden Wrench. The IDTC ended in August with the completion of JTFEX in preparation for the September 2001 deployment aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
In mid-September of 2001, the VF-102 Diamondbacks departed NAS Oceana for the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks upon the United States, VF-102 began its scheduled deployment as a part of Operation Infinite Justice. The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived on station in the Arabian Sea in mid-October and Fighting 102 began combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Following the return from deployment and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, VF-102 was assigned to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific and transferred to NAS Lemoore, California to begin transition training in the Navy's newest Strike Fighter, the F/A 18F Super Hornet, and would now be known as VFA-102. The Diamondbacks were certified Safe for Flight on October 5th, 2002 and began the Inter-Deployment Training cycle in preparation for a home port change to Atsugi, Japan and assignment to Carrier Air Wing FIVE.
The homeport change for the Diamondbacks officially took place on November 1st, 2003. Shortly thereafter, the squadron flew its 13 aircraft across the Pacific to a warm welcome from the Japanese people and CVW-5.
In the beginning of 2004, VFA-102 started to prepare for their first underway period onboard the USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) as part of CVW-5. THE KITTY HAWK set sail in February for a three month Western Pacific deployment, From an operational standpoint, the Diamondbacks first Super Hornet deployment was a complete success.
The Diamondbacks returned home for a short rest before deploying again in July 2004 in support of Summer Pulse 2004 and Joint Air Surface Exercise (JASEX). Summer Pulse 2004 was the Navy's first demonstration of its new operational construct, the Fleet Response Plan. which resulted in increased force readiness and the ability to provide significant combat power to the President in response to a national emergency or crisis.
The Diamondbacks are currently preparing for their upcoming deployment.
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