VA-115 Squadron History

VA-115 Arabs/Eagles

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VA-115 Arabs/Eagles History Page []
Blog Post Based on Ralph Brannan's VT-11/VA-12A/VA-115/VFA-115 History Page
VA-115 Arabs/Eagles History Page []
VA-115 Arabs/Eagles History Page []
VFA-115 Eagles History Page [wiki]

VA-115 Arabs/Eagles Squadron History
From the 1982-83 Cruise Book

On 10 October 1942, ten months after Pearl Harbor, the predecessor of Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN (VA-115), was commissioned as Torpedo Squadron ELEVEN (VT-11) by the Navy Department. So began the history of one of oldest squadrons still in commission in the Pacific Fleet. They flew the Grumman TBM Avenger, a carrier based torpedo bomber affectionately known in the fleet as the "Turkey".

VT-11 was part of Air Group ELEVEN (CVG-11) and in June 1943 conducted the first daylight raids against Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, from the USS Hornet. CVG-11 accounted for over six hundred aircraft destroyed and twenty-four destroyers, three cruisers, and more than two hundred thousand pounds of merchant shipping sunk during the two years at the battle front.

At the conclusion of the war, VT-11 returned to North Island California and in November 1946, in accordance with the redesignation of all carrier based squadrons, Torpedo Squadron ELEVEN became Attack Squadron Twelve Able (VA-12A).

VA-12A underwent extensive training and rebuilding along with it's Air Wing until, in August 1947, they embarked aboard USS Valley Forge (CVA-45), then the Navy's newest aircraft carrier. The globe-circling cruise that ensued was the first for any Navy Air Group and naturally a milestone for the squadron and Valley Forge. A symbolic globe was later to become part of the squadron's official emblem. [Note: The VA-115 emblem reflects the squadron's mission, "We cover the world day and night"]

On 15 July 1948, VA-12A was once again redesignated, this time as Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN (VA-115). In addition, the Navy's newest, most powerful, and what proved to be it's last edition of a propeller driven fighter bomber, the Douglas AD2 Skyraider replaced the TBM's. The Skyraider could carry an ordnance load equal to that of a four-engined B-17 from World War II.

When war again wracked the Far East, in Korea, the stage was set for a dual baptism in July 1950. Aboard the USS Philippine Sea (CVA-47), VA-115's pilots were members of one of the first Air Groups into combat; and it's aircraft, the improved AD4, was making its initial appearance under fire. During two combat tours with elements of the Seventh Fleet off the Korean Peninsula, VA-115 flew 2268 combat missions. For its outstanding performance the squadron received the Presidential Unit Citation.

During the peacetime cruise that followed, the squadron adopted the nickname ARABS after passing through the Suez Canal, and found itself the winner of the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" for FY 1960. That year also saw the Arabs honored again as being a part of the skeleton Air Group which would break in the new super carrier, USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) and accompany her around Cape Horn to her new homeport, San Diego. With the arrival of Kitty Hawk to the West Coast, the squadron moved to NAS Moffett Field, California.

After an eight month training cycle, VA-115 rejoined Air Wing ELEVEN onboard their new home, Kitty Hawk, for deployment to the Western Pacific as part of the Seventh Fleet. While at sea, the squadron was notified that it had been awarded the Battle "E", once again signifying the best among West Coast prop attack squadrons for the competitive cycle ending October 1962.

Undergoing a short "turn-around" period during the summer of 1963, the squadron was required to move its operations to the Navy's newest Air Station, NAS Lemoore, California. In addition, the pilots took part in Kitty Hawk's firepower demonstration for the late President John F. Kennedy off San Diego. Shortly thereafter, in October 1963, VA-115 left for WESTPAC aboard Kitty Hawk returning in July 1964 after concluding one of the longest peacetime cruises on record. The squadron earned its second "E" in a row by receiving the Excellence award for the cycle ending in February 1964.

It was back to training during the spring and summer of 1965 for VA-115, in which the Skyraiders were relocated to NAS Miramar, California and the squadron's first combat tour since the Korean War. In October 1965, the squadron returned to the Southeast Asia area with the Kitty Hawk and Air Wing ELEVEN this time to the aid of South Vietnam with AH1's, or SPADS as the they were affectionately known to the pilots. The SPAD proved to be one of the most effective aircraft of this war, utilizing to maximum advantage its high and varied ordnance load capacity, unmatched ability to remain on station for very long periods, and slower speed for better target acquisition through heavy jungle cover. While on the line in the Gulf of Tonkin, VA-115's six months produced 2051 sorties, 8012 hours for her twenty pilots, and an Air Wing high of 6,920,000 pounds of ordnance delivered to enemy targets. Close air support, armed reconnaissance (coastal and land), rescue combat air patrol, convoy cover, and destroyer patrol were but a few of the milestones handled by the pilots.

With its battle tested veterans, VA-115 returned to NAS Lemoore, California in June 1966. In September, VA-115 became an integral component of Carrier Air Wing FIVE, going to the Seventh Fleet in January 1967. In July 1967 the squadron was decommissioned. In 1970 the squadron was recommissioned and relocated to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington and began their transition to the Grumman A-6A Intruder.

As part of CVW-5 aboard the USS Midway, VA-115 made their first WESTPAC cruise in the A6 in 1971. In April 1972, Midway and VA-115 departed NAS Alameda, California for Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam. For their role in support of South Vietnam, VA-115, CVW-5, and USS Midway received the Presidential Unit Citation.

In September of 1973, Midway, Carrier Air Wing 5, and VA-115 changed their homeport to Yokosuka, Japan. During their period of forward deployment aboard USS Midway, VA-115 conducted operations in various WESTPAC areas and worked with the Armed Forces of Japan, Korea, and the Philippines as well as with a multitude of US Forces. In April 1975, Midway was again called to the coast of Vietnam to participate in "Operation Eagle Pull", and once again in April for "Operation Frequent Wind", the evacuation of Saigon. For these actions Midway and VA-115 were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and Armed Forces Expeditionary medal.

VA-115 was the last actively commissioned Navy squadron to fly the A6A/A6B. The squadron transitioned to the newer more reliable A6E in the summer of 1977. In March 1978, VA-115 changed her squadron name from Arabs to Eagles and continued its outstanding performance as the Navy's largest A6 squadron in the fleet. As Eagles, VA-115 proved themselves once again off the coast of Korea during "Team Spirit '78". During the exercise the squadron flew two weeks of round-the-clock bombing strikes to points just south of the DMZ. Throughout the year numerous successful "war-at-sea" strikes were lead by VA-115 against Task Forces spearheaded by the carriers Kitty Hawk, Constellation, and cruiser Oklahoma City. Eagle aircrews successfully executed 7,900 bombing runs to twenty-seven target areas located in seven different countries by the end of 1978.

Awards received by VA-115 during this period include the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" Efficiency, CNO Safety "S", and Adm. C. Wade McClusky awards all in 1979. June 1980 brought added improvement and recognition as the squadron received the new A6E TRAM aircraft and won its second consecutive Battle Efficiency award from COMNAVAIRPAC. This, coupled with their second consecutive CNO Safety and CINCPACFLT Golden Anchor award served to highlight the Eagle's impressive record during this period of its history.

In the following years leading up to Desert Storm the USS Midway and Carrier Air Wing 5 made many cruises throughout WESTPAC and the Indian Ocean. The NORPACS of Sept/Oct 1982 and Feb/Mar 1983 was the first time a Carrier Battle Group had operated in these waters since World War II. The weather conditions in the waters off the Alaska were some of the worst imaginable. Heavy seas, numbing cold, and dense fog made air operations extremely hazardous. This excerpt from an issue of VA-115's "Far East Chronicles", Ed. Lt. Doug "Hound Dog" McClain, highlights the "War at Sea" exercise with the USS Enterprise during the first NORPAC in 1982;

North To Alaska...Or How The WEST(PAC) Was Won
"...Prepared for all climates, the Eagles headed to sea to find their next operating area would be the North Pacific participating in two-carrier operations with the newly revamped USS Enterprise. The "Big E", another of the West Coast supercarriers, with its entourage of "tourists", was making its transit into Midway's homewaters, their immediate objective being to ascertain the position of Midway and launch a strike upon her before the elderly WWII circa carrier could do the same.

A quick call to Las Vegas would have found that Jimmy "the Greek" refused to take bets on the one-sided affair. With one exception, Air Wing ELEVEN operates with aircraft far more capable than those found aboard the Midway. In the case of the S-3, the Midway does not even possess a counter part. Facing "insurmountable" odds the Eagles were tasked to formulate and lead the long range strike against this modern day Goliath. With CAG Larry Vernon and Eagle XO "Goose" Gouslin manning the lead aircraft, Air Wing FIVE set out expecting to be intercepted at any time by the Big "E"'s finely tuned team of E-2C's and F-14's. Such was not the case. Unopposed, the Eagle A-6's rolled in on its prey, turning up to Enterprise tower frequency broadcasting for all to hear a hearty, "WELCOME TO WESTPAC".

How could such a feat be performed? It is far better to ask why do such things happen. Quoting from an old "ARAB" inscription found on a cocktail napkin hidden in the voids of bunkroom 8; "The answer is experience--experience and operational readiness. We do this day in and day out all year. While the "Tourist" ships come over and make their visits to this port and that port, our time is spent at sea keeping the Air Wing fit to fight. It shows every time. We're experienced in night flying and night fighting. We're ready to go to it at any time. The moral is: before you play you gotta pay. Next question is - who's next?"

In addition, the Eagle's had two successful STARM-ex missile exercises. The first STARM shoot was on 29 November 1982 with LT. Billy Dennis and BN LT. Tom McKay successfully firing the STARM from aircraft NF 510. The second live firing occured during the summer 1983 during the Philippines in port period with CDR "Buz" Radican (CO) and LT. "Spud" Murphy firing the Standard ARM missile.

[BUTTON: back] Complete list of at-sea periods from June 1981 through April 1991

Attack squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTHEEN flew off the Midway on 24 March 1986 back to CONUS while the Midway went through modifications to allow the F/A-18 Hornet to operate from her. In October the squadron TRANSPAC'd back with the rest of the new CVW-5 to NAF Atsugi and the newly refurbished Midway.

The Eagle's first cruise after returning to the Midway occurred on 9 January 1987, a three month WESTPAC. After two IO cruises and one other WESTPAC VAW-115 flew combat sorties during Desert Storm from 10 October 1990 to 17 April 1991. In August 1991 the Midway left Yokosuka, Japan for the last time to be decommissioned. Between August 22-27 CVW-5 transferred from the Midway to the USS Independence at Pearl Harbor in what is known as "The Great Carrier Air Wing SwapEx".

VA-115 and the USS Independence are still forward deployed and homeported in Yokosuka, Japan. 1996 will see the last Intruder squadrons decommissioned as the A6E is retired. The lone squadron that will remain active is VA-115 which will transition to the F/A-18 Hornet after the completion of RimPac-96 in June and move to Lemoore for transition to F/A-18 Hornet.

In October 1996 VA-115 transitioned to the FA-18C Hornet, moved to NAS Lemoore, and was redesignated VFA-115. The Eagles new Carrier Air Wing also switched to CVW-14 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). In June 1998 the Eagles deployed to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch and in February 1999 was awarded the 1998 LTJG Bruce Carrier Memorial Award for Maintenance and Safety Excellence.

VFA-115 was chosen to be the first Navy fleet squadron to receive the new F/A-18E Super Hornet. They were also the first fleet squadron to receive the state of the art Advanced Tactical FLIR. In July 2002, the Eagles embarked on the first Super Hornet combat cruise. Flying 214 combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Southern Watch with a 100% combat sortie completion rate, the Eagles dropped 22 JDAM on 14 targets earning them CVW-14's Battle E nomination. The Eagles also took part in the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom. VFA-115 dropped 380,000 pounds of ordnance and passed three and a half million pounds of fuel in the tanker support role. This outstanding wartime performance earned the Eagles and the Lincoln Battle Group the Navy Unit Commendation (the sixth awarded to VFA-115), and was the crowning achievement in a record-breaking nine and a half month cruise.

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