Naval History and Heritage Command

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Notable Squadrons


Fighter squadron seventeen (VF-17). Officers pose with the unit's scoreboard, circa February 1944. The commanding officer Lieutenant Commander John Thomas Blackburn, is in the front row, center. At the time, VF-17 was credited with 130 Japanese planes shot down. (80-G-255885)

Fighter squadron seventeen (VF-17). Officers pose with the unit's scoreboard, circa February 1944. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander John Thomas Blackburn, is in the front row, center. At the time, VF-17 was credited with 130 Japanese planes shot down. (80-G-255885)


The Blue Angels (active)

HAL-3 Seawolves (inactive)

  • Established and disestablished in country during the Vietnam War to meet the unique operational requirements of providing air support for riverine and special forces operations in the Mekong Delta.
  • Foundation of the modern employment of Navy rotary-wing assets supporting special operations forces (SOF).

HC-7 Seadevils (inactive)

  • A dedicated combat search and rescue helicopter squadron during the Vietnam War, the squadron rescued over 150 individuals during the war.
  • One of the most highly decorated squadrons in Vietnam, HC-7 aircrew received multiple awards of the Navy Cross and Lieutenant Clyde E. Lassen was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for a daring night rescue behind enemy lines in June 1968.

HS-1 Seahorses (inactive)

  • Established in October 1951, it was the Navy’s first helicopter antisubmarine squadron.
  • Involved in many of the recoveries of the Gemini space missions, including the final one flown by astronauts James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin.
  • Conducted the first refueling of a helicopter from a ship.

HSC-12 Golden Falcons (active)

  • Established in March 1952 as HS-2, it is currently the oldest operational fleet helicopter squadron.
  • Notable accomplishments include the first night rescue in North Vietnam and being the first squadron to operationally employ the SH-3 Sea King aerial refueling capability at night.
  • Flew combat operations in Operation Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and participated in tsunami relief flights in Indonesia in 2004.

HU-1 and HU-2 (both called Fleet Angels) (inactive)

  • The Navy’s first operational fleet helicopter squadrons that were established on the same day in 1948.
  • Lieutenant (j.g.) John Koelsch, the first helicopter pilot to receive the Medal of Honor, flew with both squadrons during the Korean War.
  • The squadrons pioneered shipboard use of the helicopter for plane guard duties.

VA-75 Sunday Punchers (inactive)

  • This was the first squadron to operate the A-6 Intruder and take it into combat.  Along with VA-196, which also disestablished on 28 February 1997, it retired the A-6 from active service.

VAH-1 Smokin’ Tigers (inactive)

  • Established in 1955, the squadron was the first to operate the A3D Skywarrior and the Navy’s first Heavy Attack Squadron with the primary mission of delivering nuclear weapons.
  • Resdesignated RVAH-1 and flew combat missions in Vietnam.

 VAQ-131 Lancers (active)

  • The oldest electronic attack squadron in the Navy, tracing its origins to 1950 and activation as a patrol squadron for service in the Korean War.
  • Combat operations in Grenada, Lebanon, Operation Desert Storm and Global War on Terror.

VAW-123 Screwtops (active)

  • One of the first Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadrons (VAW) established, its service dating to 1 April 1967, the squadron is one of the most recognizable E-2 Hawkeye squadrons because of the corkscrew design painted atop the radomes of its airplanes.
  • VAW-123 has an extensive history of combat service dating to the Vietnam War.

VF-3 Felix the Cat (inactive)

  • Commanded by famed fighter tactician Lieutenant Commander John S. “Jimmy” Thach, the squadron was the first to execute the “Thach Weave” in combat at the Battle of Midway.
  • The first naval aviator to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II, Lieutenant Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, was credited with single-handedly shooting down five Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth on a 20 February 1942, combat mission while serving in VF-3.
  • Swapped designations with VF-6 in 1943 and that squadron continues to serve as the VFA-31 Tomcatters.

VF-17 Jolly Rogers (inactive)

  • Record-setting combat record as one of the first Navy squadrons to operate the F4U Corsair. Flying from land bases in the Solomon Islands, VF-17 shot down 154 Japanese aircraft in 76 days of combat operations.
  • Although there is no direct lineage, the Jolly Rogers nickname endured and is currently carried by VFA-103.

VF-96 Fighting Falcons (inactive)

  • Leading squadron for MiG kills in the Vietnam War with eight shot down in 1972, including five by the crew of Lieutenant Randall Cunningham and Lieutenant (j.g.) William Driscoll, the Navy’s only aces of the war.

VFA-14 Tophatters (active)

  • Squadron celebrated 100 years of continuous operations in 2019, making it the oldest squadron in naval aviation.
  • Originally called the High Hats.
  • VFA-32 Swordsmen (active)
  • First combat was in World War II and this was the squadron in which the Navy’s first African-American naval aviator, Ensign Jesse Brown flew. An attempted rescue of Brown by squadronmate Lieutenant (j.g.) Tom Hudner, for which he received the Medal of Honor, is one of naval aviation’s most storied flights.
  • The squadron also shot down two Libyan aircraft over the Gulf of Sidra in 1989.

VFA-81 Sunliners (active)

  • The squadron scored the first MiG kills by the F/A-18 Hornet during Operation Desert Storm, splashing two MiG-21s on the first day of the air war.

VFA-87 Golden Warriors (active)

  • The squadron has participated in virtually every combat action from Vietnam to the present.
  • A squadron pilot scored both the Navy’s first air-to-air kill since Operation Desert Storm and first kill for the F/A-18E Super Hornet during combat over Syria in June 2017.

VFA-147 Argonauts (active)

  • The squadron was the first to take the A-7 Corsair II into combat in Vietnam and is also the first operational Navy squadron to fly the F-35C Lightning II, the carrier version of the Joint Strike Fighter.

VFA-195 Dambusters (active)

  • The squadron received its nickname after its role in completing one of the most unique operations in naval aviation history, a torpedo attack to knock out the Hwachon Dam during the Korean War.

VP-46 Grey Knights (active)

  • The oldest patrol squadron in service with its origins dating to 1931, the squadron flew combat operations in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

VR-6 and VR-8 (inactive)

  • Established in 1943 as part of the Naval Air Transport Service, both squadrons established records for cargo delivered during their service supporting the Berlin Airlift.

VT-10 (inactive)

  • One of the most decorated torpedo squadrons of World War II, VT-10 flew at Guadalcanal and subsequent battles, culminating in action over Okinawa and participation in participation in the sinking of the Japanese battleship Yamato.
  • The squadron was a pioneer in night operations, executing the first night attack by carrier aircraft in naval aviation history against Japanese shipping and land targets at Truk in February 1944.
  • Squadron Executive Officer Lieutenant Albert P. “Scoofer” was awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in combat in the Solomon Islands area during the period of 13-15 November 1942.

This select listing of naval aviation squadrons, compiled with the assistance of National Naval Aviation Museum Historian Hill Goodspeed, will be periodically updated and is not intended to be used as a definitive resource. 


<p>Photo #: 80-G-428678 Hwachon Dam Air Strikes</p>

Hwachon Dam Air Strikes, April-May 1951 Torpedo attack on the Hwachon Reservoir dam by AD Skyraiders of Attack Squadron 195 (VA-195) from USS Princeton (CV-37), 1 May 1951. (80-G-428678)



<p>Navy Armed Gunship Helicopter</p>

A Navy Armed Gunship Helicopter banks in for a low reconnaissance run over a suspected Vietcong staging area in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. This crew, as well as the other Seawolves of Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three, help keep the waters and canals of the Delta open to free trade and deny their use to the enemy during Operation Game Warden, October 1969. (USN 1131561)



Fighter Squadron Seventeen (VF-17)

Fighter Squadron Seventeen (VF-17). Three of the Squadron's leading "Aces" pose by a Vought F4U-1A "Corsair" fighter, after their unit left the central Solomons combat zone, 22 March 1944. They are (l to r): Lieutenant Commander Roger R. Hedrick (VF-17 X/O, credited with 9 "Kills"), Lieutenant Commander John T. Blackburn (VF-17 C/O, credited with 11 planes), Lieutenant junior grade Ira C. Kepford (credited with 16 planes and then the Navy's leading "Ace"). (80-G-220347)



Vought F4U-1A "Corsair" fighters, of VF-17

Vought F4U-1A "Corsair" fighters, of VF-17 in flight, possibly over Bougainville in early March 1944. Plane no. 29 is Bu. no. 55995, flown by Lieutenant Junior Grade Ira Kepford, then the Navy's leading "Ace," with sixteen "kills." Pilot of plane no. 8 is thought to be Hal Jackson. Plane no. 3, flown by Jim Streig, has an odd "star and bar" insignia, perhaps with the red outline that was replaced with blue the previous summer. Photo dated 15 April 1944, but probably taken early in the previous month. Some caption info comes from "Markings of the Aces," by Charles Graham and Richard Hill, 1972. (80-G-217817)



<p>Insignia: Fighter Squadron 31 (VF-31)</p>

Insignia: Fighter Squadron 31 (VF-31). Golden yellow insignia features Felix the Cat with a bomb. Plaque received in 1984. (NH 102701-KN)



Photo #: NH 97164  Stranding of Thai Frigate Prasae

Stranding of Thai Frigate Prasae. January 1951 Thorin, D.W., APC, prepares to take off in his helicopter with another load of survivors from the Thailand corvette, the HMTS Prasae, which ran aground during a blinding snow storm off the coast of Korea. Other members of the helicopters stand guard as the rescue was affected behind enemy lines. (Quoted from original caption) Photo is dated 16 January 1951, but was taken several days earlier. Prasae went aground on the North Korean coast on 7 January 1951 and was destroyed after attempts to pull her off were unsuccessful. Helicopter is a Sikorski HO3S-1 of squadron HU-1. Men guarding the rescue operation are armed with M-3 submachine guns. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. (NH 97164)



Fighter Squadron Six-A (VF-6-A)

Fighter Squadron Six-A (VF-6-A). Officers of the squadron, aboard USS Shangri-La (CV-38), en route to Pearl Harbor, 29 May 1947. (80-G-278962)


Published: Wed Jul 15 10:56:55 EDT 2020