Strike Fighter Squadron ONE FOUR SIX [VFA-146]
The "Blue Diamonds" of Strike Fighter Squadron 146 are an operational fleet squadron and fly the F/A-18C "Hornet". The transition from the A-7E "Corsair II" to the dual mission capable F/A-18 strike fighter was completed in 1990. The Blue Diamonds are attached to Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW 9), deployed onboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
On 1 February 1956 CDR E.V. Davidson assumed command of Attack Squadron 146, the Navy's newest jet attack squadron. In ceremonies held at NAS Miramar, VA 146 was commissioned at 0900 as a unit of Air Group 14. The squadron's original nickname was the Blacktails, which was derived from its assigned color as the sixth squadron of the air group. Since there were no replacement squadrons at this time, VA 146 started with only a handful of aircraft and began an "in-house" training schedule for the F9F-8 Cougar in the squadron spaces.
The squadron's first WestPac deployment began 21 January 1957 as CVG 14, embarked in USS HORNET (CVA 12)and departed from San Diego. Upon the squadron's return in July, the "Blacktails" began transitioning into the new FJ-4B Fury. In 1959, the squadron under CDR W.W. Alldredge adopted the Blue Diamonds nickname. On 12 May 1962, the squadron moved to their current home in California's San Joaquin Valley - Lemoore Naval Air Station. At that time they transitioned from F4JBs to A4D-2n (A4C) Skyhawk.
The squadron found itself westward bound again embarked in USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) on 5 May 1964. Unknown when they departed, this cruise would mark the beginning of the Blue Diamonds' lengthy combat experience in Southeast Asia. The Diamond's next six deployments would center around combat operations in Vietnam. Two Blue Diamond Aviators lost their lives during combat over Vietnam, including the tenth commanding officer, CDR Herbert B. Loheed. CDR Loheed was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. In 1994, CDR Loheed's remains were positively identified, and he was declared KIA.
In December 1968, VA 146 was completely re-equipped with the Navy's newest attack aircraft, the Vought A-7B Corsair II, and shortly thereafter, the A-7E. On January 5, 1973, VA 146 headed west with Carrier Air Wing Nine embarked again in USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64). This cruise would bring to an end Navy's participation in the Vietnam War. For the deployment, USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) AND CVW 9 were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the last Vietnam combat cruise.
The Blue Diamonds spent the majority of the Cold War deployed with CVW 9 and USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) to the Western Pacific. During the 1980 deployment, the squadron spent 110 days at sea, the longest continuous at-sea period for any West Coast carrier since world War II. On 25 April 1980, VA 146 was named the safest A-7 squadron in combined Navy-Air Force history by surpassing all previous records for accident-free flight operations at 36,175 hours.
A 14-year association with Carrier Air Wing 9 was broken in 1983 when VA 146 was reassigned to Carrier Air Wing Two. Upon their return from a WestPac in August 1984, the Diamonds were reassigned to CVW 9. CVW 9 and USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) made two more deployments which culminated in the 1987 World Cruise which brought the carrier back to the East Coast for entry into the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). In September 1988, the Blue Diamonds and CVW 9 embarked in USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) for a Western Pacific deployment. The highlight of this cruise was operations in the Sea of Japan during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
In the spring of 1989, VA 146 was redesignated VFA 146 and transitioned to the multi-role F/A-18C Night Strike Fighter. The Blue Diamonds were the first fleet squadron to receive this new version of the Hornet. VFA 146 made its first deployment with the Hornet on USS NIMITZ (CVN 68)in 1991, arriving on station just after Operation Desert Storm. In 1994, the Blue Diamonds were presented a series of awards. Among these were the Scott F. Kirby Ordnance Proficiency Award, the Boola-Boola Award, the Captain Jack McAuley Award, and the Captain Michael Estocin Award. The Blue Diamond's outstanding performance culminated in their selection as the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency Award winners for the previous year.
The Blue diamonds next deployment in December 1995, with new airplanes and improved avionics, brought the squadron to both the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch as well as Yankee Station off the coast of Taiwan. In May of 1996, the Diamonds returned to Lemoore and began training for their next deployment while at the same time winning the Boola-Boola Award for the second time in three years.
The Blue diamonds spent the majority of 1997 preparing for a World Cruise on board USS NIMITZ (CVN 68), and extended their 13-year history of over 55,000 hours without a Class "A" safety mishap. The highlight of the work-up cycle was a 96-hour surge operation in which the Diamonds flew 226 sorties. On 4 September 1997, the Blue Diamonds departed San Diego with the NIMITZ Battle Group in support of Operation Southern Watch. The Battle Group surged to the Arabian Gulf and provided a stabilizing influence to the region at a time of heightened tensions. After four months of supporting Operation Southern Watch, the crisis subsided allowing the Diamonds to return home on time. During the deployment, the Blue Diamonds earned the CVW 9 Top Hook Award for the 14th consecutive time and maintained a 99% sortie completion rate while participating in Operation Southern Watch. Shortly after their return to Lemoore, the Blue Diamonds were named the 1997 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" winner. The Diamonds were also awarded the Captain Michael J. Estocin, Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky and the Scott F. Kirby Awards.
In July 1998, the Diamond's handed over their Lot XVI Hornets for Lot XI aircraft. The arduous process began, getting these older Hornets ready for their upcoming cruise onboard the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74). Maintenance efforts were outstanding evident by twelve competent Hornets trapping on the deck of the STENNIS as it pulled out of San Diego on January 7, 2000 in support of Operation Southern Watch. During the Millennium cruise the Blue Diamonds' amassed over 1900 sorties and 2900 flight hours with a phenomenal sortie completion rate of 97%. Diamond aviators flew 136 sorties over Iraq destroying several Iraqi targets as a result of precision ordnance delivery. The Diamonds captured the Top Hook award for all three line periods giving them an unprecedented twenty-one consecutive Top Hook awards, a record in Naval Aviation. The Blue Diamonds also received the CINCPAC Pearl Harbor Retention Excellence Award by surpassing all commands in retention rate.
The Blue Diamonds then began preparation for their next deployment on the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) in the beginning of 2002 as part of the CVW 9 team.
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