AIRLANT’S FIRST AND FINEST
VFA-131 SQUADRON HISTORY
1940’s – 1980s
Strike Fighter Squadron ONE THREE ONE (VFA-131) traces its traditions back over 70 years to March 1944 when the VF-81 NIGHTCAPPERS were established at Quonset Point, Rhode Island as part of CAG-81 flying F6F Hellcats. VF-81 was first embarked aboard USS WASP. The squadron was active during World War II and destroyed 42 enemy planes during that time. In November 1946, VF-81 was re-designated as VF-13A. Again re-designated in 1948, VF-131 served aboard USS PRINCETON, flying F8 Bearcats, until being disestablished in November 1949.
VF-131 was reestablished in 1961, flying the F3H-2 Demon. The NIGHTCAPPERS deployed on the USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) until May 1962 in response to the Berlin Crisis. VF-131 was disestablished in October 1962 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida. The VFA-131 WILDCATS were formally established at NAS Lemoore, California, on 2 October 1983. They received their first F/A-18A Hornet in May 1984. In January 1985, the WILDCATS moved to NAS Cecil Field, Florida, becoming “AIRLANT’S First and Finest” Hornet squadron.
As a part of Carrier Air Wing THIRTEEN (CVW-13), the WILDCATS deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in October 1985 onboard USS CORAL SEA (CV 43) and participated in air strikes against Libya. In 1986, they were awarded the AIRLANT Battle “E”, CNO Aviation Safety “S” (the first AIRLANT Hornet squadron to receive this award), the Silver Anchor award for personnel retention excellence, and the CAPT Michael J. Estocin award for the best F/A-18 squadron in the U.S. Navy. Following the second Mediterranean deployment aboard USS CORAL SEA (CV 43), the squadron joined Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW 7), and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in March 1990.
In August 1990, USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and the WILDCATS were among the first U. S. units to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD. In September 1990, the squadron transitioned to F/A-18C Lot XIII Night Strike Hornets. One year later following a rapid turnaround, the squadron again deployed aboard the “IKE” to the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf in support of Operation DESERT STORM. The deployment concluded with operations above the Arctic Circle in support of Exercise TEAMWORK 92.
In May 1994, the WILDCATS were part of the maiden deployment of the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) and flew sorties in support of Operation DENY FLIGHT over Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as over southern Iraq in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. In October 1994, the WILDCATS returned to the Arabian Gulf and participated in Operation VIGILANT WARRIOR in response to Iraqi aggression. In November 1994, the squadron returned to Cecil Field and again received the CNO Aviation Safety “S” and CAPT Michael J. Estocin Awards.
In April 1996 the WILDCATS once again deployed aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) to the Mediterranean/Adriatic Seas and Arabian Gulf in support of Operations DECISIVE ENDEAVOR and SOUTHERN WATCH. In February 1998, they deployed for the “Around the World” maiden deployment of USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74), again supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq. Upon return in December 1998, they relocated from NAS Cecil Field, Florida, to NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
In 1999, VFA-131 integrated females into the squadron, deploying in February 2000 to the Mediterranean/Adriatic Seas and Arabian Gulf aboard EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in support of Operations JOINT GUARDIAN, DELIBERATE FORGE, SOUTHERN WATCH, JUNIPER STALLION and INDIGO ANVIL.
September 11, 2001 found the WILDCATS underway aboard USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67). Within hours of the terrorist attacks, armed WILDCAT Hornets were conducting air patrols over the nation's capital and New York City in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE. In February 2002, the WILDCATS deployed to the North Arabian Sea to take part in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM aboard USS KENNEDY (CV 67), flying combat sorties over Afghanistan. Upon their return, they were awarded the 2002 AIRLANT Battle “E”, CNO Safety “S”, and Captain Michael J. Estocin Awards.
During the summer of 2003, the squadron executed a complete aircraft swap, upgrading to Lot XIX Hornets. From January to July 2004, VFA-131 deployed aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CV 73) in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. On October 3 2006, the WILDCATS again deployed onboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) to the North Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf to support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. During the deployment, they defined “Ready-On-Arrival” by becoming the first CVW-7 squadron to deliver ordnance supporting Coalition troops on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq. On May 23rd, 2007, the WILDCATS successfully completed their eight-month deployment and returned home to Naval Air Station Oceana, VA.
The WILDCATS embarked aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CV 73) for a “Partnership of Americas” (POA) cruise in April-May 2008 and were awarded the 2007 Battle “E” in recognition of the squadron’s exemplary performance.
The WILDCATS deployed as a part of Carrier Air Wing SEVEN aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER on February 21, 2009 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM flying a total of 353 combat missions and resulting in a 99% combat sortie completion rate. The squadron successfully employed over 12,000 pounds of ordnance providing support to Coalition ground forces. While on station, they were awarded the 2008 CNO Aviation Safety “S” Award for their exemplary safety record as well as the Fleet Forces Command Retention Excellence Award for 2009. Successfully completing their mission in the Arabian Sea, the WILDCATS returned to Norfolk, Virginia completing their five-month deployment on July 30, 2009.
2010’s – Present
Just three short months after returning home, the WILDCATS responded once again to the call of duty and began an abbreviated workup period embarking aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69). On January 2, 2010 the Carrier Strike Group deployed to the Northern Arabian Sea to provide Close Air Support for coalition forces in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Conducting a total of 564 combat missions and 3,343 combat flight hours, the WILDCATS routinely delivered effects to enemy forces on the ground often in close proximity to Coalition Forces. On July 28, 2010 the WILDCATS successfully completed their seven-month deployment and returned home to Naval Air Station Oceana, VA.
Their outstanding professionalism and stalwart dedication earned the highest praise throughout the fleet and in August of 2010, the WILDCATS received the coveted “Golden Wrench” award for maintaining the best F/A-18C Hornets on the East Coast and the 2010 Fleet Forces Command Retention Excellence Award. In June 2012, the WILDCATS deployed to the Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf with CVW-7 onboard the USS EISENHOWER. The WILDCATS executed combat operations in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and other regional tasking in the Arabian Sea. The WILDCATS returned home in December 2012 for the holidays, and were awarded the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS) Pennant and the EISENHOWER Captain's Cup Trophy.
After an unprecedented two-month turnaround, the WILDCATS again deployed in February 2013 onboard USS EISENHOWER to the north Arabian Sea in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. During the back-to-back deployments, the WILDCATS flew over 2,000 sorties and 450 combat missions, equating to more than 2600 hours in country supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The professionalism and incredible talent of the maintainers working day and night to ensure mission readiness resulted in a100% combat sortie completion rate. Upon return to homeport, the WILDCATS were awarded the USS EISENHOWER's Captain's Cup Trophy for the second consecutive deployment. In addition, they were awarded the 2014 Battle "Efficiency" Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the 2014 "Grand Slam" Award.
In November 2014, the WILDCATS transitioned to Carrier Air Wing THREE and from June - December of 2016 deployed aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. The squadron flew 328 combat missions, encompassing over 2200 hours in direct support. During those missions the squadron dropped 269 precision guided munitions totaling 213,000 pounds of ordnance. Once again, the “one team one fight” work ethic resulted in a 100% combat sortie completion rate. The Wildcats showed their professionalism and aviation prowess by winning the “Top Hook” award as the best ball flying squadron in the Air Wing for the 2016 deployment.
The Wildcat War Machine closed out the last quarter of 2017 with a historic milestone: after nearly four decades as a Hornet squadron and 27 years with the legendary F/A-18C, the WILDCATS said goodbye to the final F/A-18C and began transitioning to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. VFA-131’s tireless work ethic and dedication ensured the Legendary F/A-18C made its mark on Naval Aviation as the workhorse of the strike fighter community.
The squadron began 2018 in final stages of the short fused and accelerated airframe transition from F/A-18C legacy Hornets, to new lot 37 and 38 F/A-18E Super Hornets. In the months prior to Safe-for-Flight Certification, the WILDCAT Maintenance Department completed the acceptance of 10 aircraft, stood up 40 maintenance programs, and trained and qualified 172 personnel. The squadron also passed the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI) with flying colors, earning the highest score on the entire flight line. These efforts culminated in the Wildcats earning Safe for Flight Operational Certification on 30 March 2018, and enabled the WILDCATS to operate autonomously as a Super Hornet Squadron. The processes developed by the WILDCATS and the performance of WILDCAT Sailors created the model by which the remaining three operational Navy F/A-18C squadrons planned and executed their own transitions.
On 6 June 2018, the squadron departed for Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, where the WILDCATS executed more than 100 sorties and flew more than 430 hours in support of Red Flag Alaska 18-2. During the joint/multi-national exercise, the squadron supported full-spectrum air operations. The squadron took the show back on the road to Joint Exercise Northern Lightning, taking place at Volk Air Force Base, Wisconsin and just two weeks later supported yet another detachment to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada as the test and evaluation squadron for the Navy’s Secure Live/Virtual/Constructive Advanced Training Environment (SLATE) program capstone.
As November rolled into December 2018, VFA 131 sprinted to the finish, shifting focus from CQ to building block air-to-air training, focusing on the fundamentals of employment, briefing and debriefing. What was supposed to be a quieter year for the Wildcats became an extremely busy, dynamic, and demanding one instead. Despite all this, the Wildcats met each challenge with sterling resolve and unwavering work ethic and exceeded expectations at every step.
In January of 2020, the WILDCATS set sail for COMPTUEX followed immediately by a deployment to 5th Fleet Area of Operations aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. The squadron endured 206 consecutive days at sea without a port call, a US Navy record. The WILDCATS returned from deployment with the distinction of being named the “Top Hook” for Carrier Airwing THREE. Along the way, the WILDCATS helped their sister squadrons through their own difficult times and continued to be THE go-to squadron in the Air Wing and on the flight line. It’s been said before and it bears repeating; There is not another squadron in the Navy that can be trusted more to do so much, and expect success every time. “One Team, One Fight!"
ONE TEAM, ONE FIGHT!