Friday, May 9, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 09 May

Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Paul George, from San Diego, directs an F/A-18F Super Hornet
assigned to the Bounty Hunters of VFA-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV)
I have decided to do a "series within a series" for the Friday Flyby starting today. This will cover some of the famous aviation units within the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Coast Guard and various foreign military flying units. That's a lot of ground to cover. Hopefully I can keep it interesting.

So what's on tap today you ask? (Though the lead in photo should have provided a hint.)

Strike Fighter Squadron 2, or VFA-2. Home based at NAS Lemoore in California and part of Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2) on board the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).

Hhmm, didn't I spend a day at sea a month ago today onboard Reagan, with my youngest The WSO who is a member of VFA-2? Why yes, yes I did. What a (not so) big surprise!

For this inaugural post I could have picked a unit from one of the big wars. Sure I could have picked one of the units I served with. But no. The WSO got me a ride on a carrier. Her husband Big Time got me an hour of F/A-18 Super Hornet sim-time. And, as she's the baby, she does get special treatment. All the time. Ask either of her siblings!

So here we go, I give you Famous Aviation Units of the World, Part One - VFA-2, The Bounty Hunters.
Strike Fighter Squadron 2 (VFA-2) also known as the "Bounty Hunters" is a United States Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Their tail code is NE and their callsign is "Bullet". The Bounty Hunters are attached to Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2), a composite unit made up of a wide array of aircraft performing a variety of combat and support missions that deploy aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, CVN-76. - Wikipedia
VFA-2 has existed as four separate squadrons since 23 September 1921. While officially the Navy doesn't recognize a direct lineage with disestablished squadrons if a new squadron is formed with the same designation, quite often (perhaps usually) a new squadron will assume the nickname, insignia, and traditions of the earlier squadrons. Real warriors recognize the value of tradition and of honoring a storied past. Bureaucrats not so much.

Prior to being equipped with the F/A-18, the Bullets were known as VF-2, Fighter Squadron 2, no "A" because they were not intended to "move mud" (i.e. perform ground support) but were used in the air defense / air superiority role. Especially when they flew the Aluminum Overcast, er, I mean the F-14 Tomcat. The "A" stands for "Attack". Why they are known as a Strike Fighter Squadron, only someone from Naval Aviation knows. I surely don't. (Much of the text which follows comes from Wikipedia.)

What I got for Christmas, 2013.
From The WSO

Now that very nice painting above (well, the bad photograph of a very nice painting) depicts the various aircraft flown by the Bullets throughout their long history.

The first aircraft they flew was the Vought VE-7.
The 1st VF-2 was originally established as Combat Squadron Four on 23 Sep 1921, home-based at Naval Air Station San Diego, California. The squadron was re-designated Fighter Squadron 2 on 1 Jul 1922, flying the Vought VE-7 biplane. The squadron, also known as the "Flying Chiefs," operated from Langley, the US Navy's 1st aircraft carrier. Between 1922 and 1925, VF-2/VF-2B experimented with carrier operations from Langley off the coast of California. Air activity was initially limited to scouting, but the Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet saw the potential of Naval Aviation and recommended that Lexington and Saratoga be completed as soon as possible. - Wikipedia
Vought VE-7 Bluebird

The "Bounty Hunters" of Strike Fighter Squadron TWO (VFA-2) can trace their roots back to the beginning of carrier aviation itself. From 1922 to 1927, it was the first squadron to be deployed aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS LANGLEY.  On board, the squadron's early biplanes were painted with a red, white, and blue stripe called a "Langley Stripe." More than 80 years later, the Langley Stripe is still proudly displayed on the squadron's F/A-18Fs. - VFA-2 Website
Insignia of USS Langley, CV-1
The Langley Stripe

Truth be told, The Langley Stripe is displayed just about anywhere a Bullet* can reach!

VFA-2's Squadron Bus

VFA-2's "CAG" Bird**

The 2nd squadron to be designated VF-2 was established on 1 Jan 1927. Over the next 10 years, it was referred to as VF-2B, BF-2S, VF-2B and VF-2. At the time of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, VF-2 was flying the Brewster Buffalo, but soon transitioned to the F4F Wildcat. - Wikipedia
Brewster F2A-2 of VF-2

F-4F Wildcat, Not VF-2 but VF-3
Sources I've seen indicate 9 rudder stripes  for VF-2, not 13 as shown.

The 3rd distinct squadron to be designated VF-2 was established on June 1, 1943, at Naval Air Station Atlantic City. VF-2, known now as the "Rippers," became the 1st World War II fighting squadron to bear the same designation as a previous unit in the war. Several pilots came from VF-6 and VF-10. The squadron initially deployed 8 FM-1s but soon received the F6F Hellcat. VF-2 trained on the east-coast until October 1943 when the squadron headed west to San Francisco and then Hawaii. In Hawaii, VF-2 participated in a Marine landing exercise and so impressed the influential "Butch" O'Hare that he requested that VF-2 replace VF-6 in his Air Group aboard Enterprise. A notable pilot in the squadron was fighter ace Arthur Van Haren, Jr. From November 1943 to January 1944, VF-2 saw action during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, Makin Atoll and Tarawa Atoll. They also participated in raids against the Marshall Islands of Kwajalein, Ebeye and Roi-Namur. VF-2 participated in O'Hare-designed "bat teams" of 1 TBF Avenger and 2 Hellcats for night interceptions. - Wikipedia
Crash landing of a VF-2 F6F-3 aboard Enterprise, 10 November 1943.
(Definitely not an "OK-3")

Twenty-seven years after disestablishment, a new VF-2, now known as the "Bounty Hunters," was established on October 14, 1972 flying the F-14A Tomcat.
VF-2 completed aircrew training and received its first Tomcats in July 1973, attaining full strength of 12 F-14As in the spring of 1974. The Bounty Hunters was the first Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) unit for both CVW-14 and later CVW-2.
VF-2's initial deployment was in 1974 with her sister squadron VF-1 aboard Enterprise. The squadron flew over Saigon in support of Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of US personnel in April, 1975. - Wikipedia
VF-2 F-14As aboard USS Enterprise during their first deployment, 1975.
Between 24–31 March 2006, during Foal Eagle 2006 exercises, strike squadrons VFA-2, VFA-34, VFA-137, and VFA-151 from Carrier Air Wing Two teamed with U.S. Air Force aircraft from the 18th Wing based at Kadena Air Base to provide combat air patrols and coordinated bombing runs via the exercise’s Combined Air Operations Center. - Wikipedia
(Just thought I'd throw that last bit in. The 18th being my old outfit from 1976 to 1978. Back when we flew biplanes and such...)

VFA-2 nowadays -

VFA-2 Rhino in "Go Fast" Mode

VFA-2 Rhino in "Go Faster" Mode
VFA-2 Rhino in "Now You're Just Showing Off" Mode

VFA-2 Rhino ready to go!

This post is dedicated to all of the men and women of VFA-2 and their predecessors. But especially to -
  • LUSH
  • Bubbles
  • Big Tittie Mike
  • Bobo
  • Lennie
  • Danica
  • Gandalf
  • Frodo
  • Korndog
  • Skipper and
  • The XO
(All of whom I've met with the exception of the Skipper and the XO. But how could I not mention them?)

And of course to all the men and women of CVW-2 and the USS Ronald Reagan!

*Members of the squadron are collectively known as Bullets, their squadron's callsign.

**The CAG bird is a specially painted aircraft, officially (but usually not really) flown by the commanding officer of United States Navy Carrier Air Groups. Every carrier-based aircraft squadron of the United States Navy has such an aircraft that wears modex usually ending with the '00' numbers. Due to their striking, colorful paint schemes, enthusiasts such as modelers and aircraft photographers show great interest in these aircraft. Similar terms for "CAG Birds" include:
  • Show Bird
  • Easter Egg
  • Boss Machine
  • Head Nuts
  • Double Nuts
  • Triple Nuts (F/A-18B used by VMFA-321 during mid to late 1990s).


  1. I like the idea! And, as always, nice addition to Friday.

    Couple of comments. Actually got to see one of the two remaining flyable F-4F Wildcats last weekend at Formation School. Didn't get the video, because he took off during the transition from dead battery camera to cell phone. More's the pity. Pretty cool.
    Liked the picture of the "Not OK" landing. Two things struck me. The LSO crew running FROM the fire and the crewman stepping up the side of the aircraft. Marching to the sound of the Guns has always been high on my list of admirable qualities, so to borrow a phrase from the Navy, BZ!

    1. Thanks Juvat.

      Bravery is doing the thing that has to get done, even when you're scared sh!tless.

  2. What Juvat said. A man is defined by how he reacts in a crisis. While others run out, a man runs in to help save the situation. There's one in that picture right there--the guy not wearing nomex as he climbs on a burning plane full of avgas to try to rescue the pilot.

    Other pics are sharp too, and as usual, Friday got cooler as soon as you posted.

    1. Thanks Murph.

      (I just got back from your blog. Love your Murphy and Belle stories!)

  3. This should be an interesting series.

    1. If you have suggestions as to units you'd like to see, let me know.

      (Do you know your Dad's squadron from WWII? Hint - Hint.)

    2. In answer about my father's outfit: no, and more's the pity. I don't even know the name of the base where he was stationed and the Ol' Man couldn't remember, either. I DID ask, but by the time he saw fit* to tell me a few "war stories" his memory was pretty much gone.

      * Like most guys of his generation, he never talked about the war. The stories came out when he knew he was dying.

  4. Just as an FYI, normally CAG is qualified in EVERY airplane on the flight deck... :-) And nice series!

    1. Cool. Every bit of Naval knowledge I can acquire is good. (So I can attempt to impress my kids!)

    2. LOL, It's always 'interesting', especially when one starts digging into the history of it...


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