History of the Diamondbacks
Fighter Squadron 102 was established on July 1 , 1955 in Jacksonville, florida. The first aircraft to carry the distinctive DIAMONDBACK markings was the Mc Donnell F2H BANSHEE, a single seat, twin engine fighter-bomber with four 20mm internal cannons. The DIAMONDBACKS' inaugural cruise took place aboard the USS RANDOLPH (CV-15) in July 1956. After returning fromdeployment the squadron transitioned to the Douglas F-4D-1 SKYRAY. In addition to four 20mm internal cannons, the SKYRAY carried the new AIM-9B Sidewinder missle. The squadron's outstanding performance in the SKYRAY resulted in VF-102 being AIRLANT's entry into the 1958 "All-Navy Weapons Meet."
After a final cruise with the SKYRAY on board USS FORRESTAL (CV-59) in 1960, the squadron moved to NAS Oceana, Virginia beach, Virginia, and transitioned to the F-4B PHANTOM. The Mach 2-capable PHANTOM was crewed by both a pilot and a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) with a missile-only weapons load for air-to-air missions. This was the beginning of a twenty-year association with the PHANTOM. Highlights during this period included participation in "Operation Sea Orbit," (the first Nuclear Task Force circumnavigation onboard the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65)) winning the Battle "E" in 1964 and 1966, combat operations off Vietnam in 1968, a Meritorious Unit Citation in 1970 for the Jordanian Crisis deployment, and cross-deck operations aboard HMS ARK 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 (CV-62). During that summer, the squadron transitioned to the Grumman F-14 TOMCAT. The TOMCAT'S design provided the pilot and the RIO iwth the most formidable air-to-air radar andweapons system ever devised, the principal feature being the long-range AWG-9 radar, with its multi-rtack, multi-launch Phonex missle system. The sparrow and sidewinder missiles, along with the barrled 20mm Vulcan cannon fill out the TOMCAT'S weapons suite. With the arrival of the TOMCAT, the DIAMONDBACKS also recieved a new mission in addition to the traditional fighter role, the of photo reconnaissance. VF-102 became a a TARPS (Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System) fighter squadron capable of performing both roles.
In March of 1986, the DIAMOND BACKS departed Norfolk aboard the USS AMERICA (CV-66), headed directly for the Gulf of Sidra. The men of Fighter Squadron 102 will long remember the operations below the so-called "Line of Death," as well as their support in the raid on 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 (CV-67) and USS SARATOGA (CV-60) 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 in support of Operation "Desert Storm." VF-102 logged more than 1,400 combat hours during the six-week campaign, flying a variety of missions from both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The DIAMONDBACKS boarded the USS AMERICA again in December 1991, for a six month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. Highlights of the cruise included operation "Beacon Flash" with the Omanis, "Eager Archer" with the Huwaitis, "Sand Storm" with the Saudis, and "Ebony Flame" with the Djiboutis. In December 1992, the squadron commenced workups for a Med deployment the following August.
After an Orange Air detachment to Roosevelt Roads Puerto Rico, in June 1994, the DIAMONDBACKS returned home and transitioned to the F-14B aircraft. They quickly adapted to the increased thrust of the new engines and completed carrier qualifications aboard USS AMERICA in July. The squadron embarked in USS AMERICA again in december 1994 for Refresher Training (REFTRA) as they began workups 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. June saw the DIAMONDBACKS take part in the Navy's first ever Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FCA(A) training course, producing four qualified crews. The DIAMONDBACKS returned to USS AMERICA at the end of august for the ship's final deployment. The DIAMONDBACKS 1995-1996 Mediterranean Cruise began with an emergence sortie to the Adriatic to take part in Operation "Deliberate Force." VF-102 also participated in Operation "Bright Star" with the Egyptians in November enroute to the Persian Gulf. While in the Persian Gulf, they flew missions in support of "Southern Watch," but the placing of U.S. ground forces in Bosnia led to another emergency sortie back to the Adriatic in December. The DIAMONDBACKS remained in the Adriatic for the remainder of the cruise, logging more than 4,000 hours and over 1,900 traps during the deployment. The record-setting numbers helped earn VF-102 the Battle "E." In addition, the DIAMONDBACKS were awarded the "Grand Slam," Saftey "S," and Clifton awards for 1995.
The 1997 turnaround cycle was filled with more training as VF-102 transitioned to the F-14B Upgrade, which added LANTIRN and laser guided weapon delivery capabilities, as well as software upgrades. The DIAMONDBACKS were able to demonstrate these new capabilities with a very successful detachment to NAS Fallon in February of 1997. That same year, VF-102 deployed onboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73), participating in Operation "Bright Star." Immediately detoured to the Persian Gulf with the onset of potential histilities, the Diamondbacks lead the way in Operation "Southern Watch," deterring the threat in Iraq once again. Returning in April of 1998, yet 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 once again leading the way. Following the Carrier Air Wing One detachment to Fallon, Nevada in February and March of 1999, the DIAMONDBACKS embarked in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67). The squadron spent the summer flying in preparation for the "Millennium Cruise" on JFK. Following a brief delay do to Hurricane Floyd, the DIAMONDBACKS left for deployment in late September 1999. Arriving in the Mediterranean, the Diamond enjoyed their first port call to Malta. Meanwhile, a small contingent flew two TOMCATS to Lwwuarden Air Base, Holland, to participate in Operation "Frisian Flag." October of 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 Operation "Southern Watch" in November. As Iraqi forcescontinued to violate United Nations resolutions and fire on UN aircraft, VF-102 was called into action its first night on station, destroying several radar and anti-aircraft artillery sites during the four months in the Gulf.
Returning home to NAS Oceana in the spring of 200, 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-resistance features. Second, the squadron welcomed it's first two female aircrew as Carrier Air Wing One moved to become fully intergrated with females prior to the 2001 deployment on the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71).
In November 2000 the DIAMONDBACKS began their inter-deployment training cycle with the air-to-air portion of SFARP at NAS Oceana followed in February 2001 with air-to-ground SFARP at NAS Fallon, Nevada. Airwing Fallon came in April and TSTAIII/COMTUEX 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 USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
On September 19, 2001 the VF-102 DIAMONDBACKS departed NAS OCEANA for the Northern Arabian Sea. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist atacks upon the United states VF-102 began its scheduled deployment as a part of Operation "Infinite Justice." USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived on station in the Arabian Sea in mid-October and Fighting 102 began combat operations in suport of Operation "Enduring Freedom." During that deployment VF-102 flew 3,346 combat hours and dropped 645 bombs. The Diamondbacks were also awarded a Navy Unit Commendation and the Battle E as a result of their participation.
Following their return from deployment toe squadron 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 Boeing F/A 18F. The Diamondbacks were certified Safe For Flight on October 5th 2002 and began the inter-deployment training cycle in preparation for a homeport change to NAF Atsugi, Japan and assignment to Carrier Air Wing FIVE.
The work-up cycle started with a fighter detachment to NAF Key West, Florida, continued with SFARP and Air Wing training in Fallon, NV, and then finally COMPTUEX on board the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). In each of these training events, the Diamondbacks honed thir skills in the new aircraft and demonstrated its capabilities prior to the move to Japan.
The homeport change for the diamond backs 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 and CVW-5. The Commanding Officer, M. A. Vizcarra, was welcomed to Japan by CAG-5 Captain J. A. Aucoin and CVBG63 Rear Admiral J. D. Kelly as well as members from the Japanese media.
In the beginning of 2004, VFA102 started to prepare for their first underway period on board the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) as par of the CV63 battle group. this included a 5 day FCLP detachment to Iwo Jima starting on February, 3rd 2004. The Kitty Hawk set sail on February 18th, 2004 to begin training and a 3-month deployment around the Wester Pacific. Ports included Hong Kong, Sigapore, Perth, and Korea. From an operational standpoint, the Diamondbacks first cruise was a complete success. they flew a total of 1024 sorties totaling 1571.6 hours and expended over 47 tons of ordnance. This included 42 live weapons, a majority of which were dropped during Operation "Orange Crush," a strike exercise off the coast of Guam. As the squadron stood up its role as an air borne refueling platform, VFA-102 transferred over 76,601 gallons of fule to other air wing aircraft. These missions were successful due to the professionalism of the aircrew operating in the carrier environment. By the end of cruise the Diamond backs had ammassed 1008 traps, 431 of them at night. LT Kevin "Shaka" Chlan and LT James "Sleestack" Reeve had the honor of the 1000th Diamondback trap on May 20th, 2004.
The Diamondbacks returned home for a short rest before deploying again on July 19 in suport of Summer Pulse 2004 and JASEX Summer Pulse 2004 was the Navy's first demonstration of its new operational construct, the Fleet Response Plan, which results in increased force readiness and the ability to provide significant combat power to the President in response to a national emergency or crisis. JASEX, a joint exercise with the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, involved air and sea training which focused on integrating joint training and improving interoperability and teamwork between the two carrier strike groups, as well as with land-based Air Force and Marine Corps units forward deployed to the region.
After their summer deployment, the Diamondbacks will have time to rest and conduct unit level training in preparation for their next deployment this spring. -history provided by the diamondback website
Nov 08 2004 05:46:11:000AM