STRIKE FIGHTER SQUADRON TWO ONE THREE (VFA-213) History.
We are looking forward to your arrival and are excited for you and your family to join the FIGHTING BLACKLIONS!
The Fighting BLACKLIONS of VFA-213 were commissioned on 22 June 1955 at NAS Moffett Field , California . The BLACKLIONS flew the F-2H3 Banshee during their first deployment aboard USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CV-31). They transitioned to the F-4D Skyray for their next two deployments on USS LEXINGTON (CV-16). By their third WESTPAC deployment aboard the “LEX,” they were flying the F-3H2 Demon, which gave the squadron the capability to shoot the newly released AIM-7 Sparrow Air-to-Air missile.
In June 1961, the squadron moved to San Diego , California where they were based at NAS Miramar, “FIGHTERTOWN USA .” Three years later, in February 1964, the BLACKLIONS took a huge step forward in fighter capability by accepting the first of their new F-4 Phantoms. In November 1965, VFA-213 joined Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) and began the first of six combat deployments to the South China Sea aboard USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63) where they flew numerous missions over Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War. This deployment marked the first use of the Phantom as a conventional bomber, which was a role destined to make the Phantom a mainstay of the US Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Throughout the war, the BLACKLIONS flew over 11,500 combat missions and delivered in excess of 6,000 tons of ordnance. On 20 December 1966, LT D. A. McRae and ENS D. N. Nichols downed an enemy AN-2 Colt for the squadron’s first kill. In March 1971, VFA-213 became the first fleet squadron to fly the Phantom more than 1,000 hours in a single month.
In December 1976, VFA-213 transitioned to the Navy’s premier supersonic fighter, the F-14A Tomcat. In April 1982, the BLACKLIONS added a new mission as they began training with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) and in September 1982, VF-213 deployed aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). During Indian Ocean Operations, the BLACKLIONS achieved a new milestone by flying the longest Tomcat flight from a carrier on a 1,775-mile TARPS mission.
The BLACKLIONS deployed again to the Western Pacific in 1988 where they took part in Operation PRAYING MANTIS, a naval conflict with Iran on 18 April 1988. The BLACKLIONS won the prestigious “BOOLA BOOLA” award in March 1989 for their aggressive professional completion of all missile test firings.
In 1991, the BLACKLIONS deployed on USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN’s maiden WESTPAC cruise in support of Operation DESERT STORM. Day and night Combat Air Patrol flights by the BLACKLIONS over Kuwait enforced the United Nations’ sanctions on Iraq , while TARPS missions recorded the devastation of Kuwait oil fields.
In 1992, VF-213 won the coveted “MUTHA” award for espirit-de-corps and took honors as the Pacific Fleet’s top fighter squadron when they won the 1992 Fighter Derby. The squadron deployed for the second time aboard USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN in 1993 and participated in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq and Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia. Upon their return, VF-213 began a turnaround for their next deployment, during which they again won the “MUTHA” award.
In 1995, the BLACKLIONS again deployed aboard “ABE” in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The maintenance department was showcased, as all fourteen Tomcats assigned were airborne at one time over Iraq and Kuwait .
VF-213 next moved their operations to the USS KITTY HAWK, where the squadron deployed for six weeks on RIMPAC 1997 and six months on WESTPAC 1997. During RIMPAC, the BLACKLIONS fired twenty-six Phoenix and six Sidewinder missiles, including an unprecedented six plane, twelve missile simultaneous Phoenix shoot. Aboard USS KITTY HAWK on WESTPAC ‘97, VF-213 set a new record for 804 consecutive Tomcat sorties and earned the CVW-11 “TOP HOOK.”
When the BLACKLIONS departed KITTY HAWK at the end of deployment, they flew across the country to Virginia Beach , Virginia and became permanently stationed at NAS Oceana. In December 1997, VF-213 completed its transition to the F-14D and moved to the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70). Aboard their new carrier, the BLACKLIONS returned to the Pacific to participate in RIMPAC 1998. Immediately following RIMPAC, they executed another first in a missile exercise when they fired an AIM-54C Phoenix with an aircrew on night vision goggles.
The BLACKLIONS next deployment was the 1998-99 WESTPAC to the Arabian Gulf . Two months into the cruise, the BLACKLIONS participated in Operation DESERT FOX, which was the Navy’s largest combat evolution since DESERT STORM. This successful deployment included the longest combat line period in over 25 years.
VF-213 again embarked on the USS CARL VINSON in July 2001 for another WESTPAC. On September 11th, 2001, the BLACKLIONS were preparing to enter the Persian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH when terrorists attacked New York and Washington D.C. The BLACKLIONS headed to the Northern Arabian Sea to lead the first strikes into Afghanistan against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces on October 7th, 2001 beginning Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF).
For the next ten weeks, VF-213 participated with honor in OEF by flying over 500 combat sorties, over 2,600 combat flight hours, and expending over 400,000 pounds of ordnance. VF-213 became the first Tomcat squadron to log more than 1,000 hours in two consecutive months. The BLACKLIONS also provided invaluable reconnaissance to the Task Force and Theater Commander with their TARPS pods. VF-213 received the 2001 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle “E”, CNO Safety “S”, CNO Clifton award and the COMFITWINGLANT Golden Wrench for their superb performance during 2001.
In 2002, the BLACKLIONS became a member of Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8). In January 2003 the squadron deployed aboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). On March 21, 2003 VF-213 along with coalition forces commenced combat missions over Iraq . CVW-8 and CVN 71 became the “Night Carrier” and conducted most operations in the dark, which inspired the aircrew to coin the phrase, “living after midnight, bombing ‘til dawn”. Over the course of OIF, the BLACKLION’S completed 198 combat sorties with a 100% sortie completion rate, 907.6 combat flight hours and expended 96 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and 102 Laser Guided Bombs.
In 2004, VF-213 again earned high honors as the winners of the “BOOLA BOOLA” award for excellence in maintenance and employment of Air-to-Air ordnance. The squadron deployed for a second time in support of OIF in September 2005. Flying over 3,500 combat hours in 581 combat sorties, the BLACKLIONS dominated the air over Iraq dropping over 5,000 pounds of precision guided ordnance. VF-213 also pioneered a new technology for the Tomcat in Remote Operated Video Receiver (ROVR) capability. This allowed the troops on the ground to see the Tomcat’s infrared display from the cockpit real time. Soon after, this ability became a requirement for all strike aircraft operating in Iraq .
On March 10, 2006, the BLACKLIONS marked the end of an era. Their “fly-off” from cruise back to NAS Oceana featured the last operational flight of the F-14D Tomcat. In a 22-jet formation, VF-213 and VF-31 closed the book on the Tomcat being an asset in the US Navy arsenal.
The BLACKLIONS were re-designated VFA-213 on April 2, 2006 as they transitioned to the F/A-18F Super Hornet. During 2007-2008, the squadron took the lead in developing new tactics and procedures for using the Navy’s newest airborne radar. The experience gained and developments made by the BLACKLIONS provided for the smooth transition of several F/A-18E/F squadrons to the Advanced Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar and earned the squadron the Golden Wrench award.
In September 2008, VFA-213 deployed with CVW-8 aboard CVN 71 for the first time as an F/A-18F Super Hornet squadron. In October 2008, the BLACKLIONS and CVW-8 commenced combat operations in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF), which continued through March 2009. At the conclusion of the deployment, the BLACKLIONS had completed 680 combat sorties, accumulating more than 3,970 combat hours, while employing 26 precision guided bombs and over 2,000 rounds of 20mm ammunition. They achieved 100% ordnance on target; unmatched in the air wing. The BLACKLIONS received the CVW-8 Golden Wrench award for 2009.
During the 2014 calendar year VFA-213 participated in the USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH (CVN 77)’s maiden deployment. The cruise began with combat missions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan before shifting into the Northern Arabian Gulf to counter the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). VFA-213 fired the opening salvo of what would become Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, encompassing missions involving a multi-national coalition in both Iraq and Syria. The BLACKLIONS led CVW-8 with 74 combat expenditures of GBU-38 JDAM, GBU-54v2 Laser JDAM, AGM-65E Laser Maverick (LMAV), and 20mm, while leading the Air Wing with over 2,400 combat flight hours. VFA-213 was also chosen to lead the first Alpha Strike into Syria, leading a multi-national and joint force deep into the heart of ISIS territory in Syria.
The BLACKLIONS’ demonstration of combat power led to them being selected for the prestigious Battle Efficiency Award (Battle “E”) in 2014, as well as being selected for the 2014 Wade McClusky Award, given to the most outstanding attack squadron in the Navy.
On 21 January 2017, VFA-213 embarked aboard CVN 77 with the rest of CVW-8 to combat ISIS through Operation INHERENT RESOLVE once again. Over the course of this deployment, the BLACKLIONS were able to set new standards in the war on terror. In just 99 days of combat, they employed 488 air-to-surface munitions and 1300 rounds of 20mm, summing to over 550,000 pounds of ordnance on target with a 100% combat sortie completion rate. During this deployment, CVW-8 employed 1,739 air-to-surface munitions and 2 air-to-air missiles totaling to over 1,800,000 pounds of ordnance.
During the 2017 deployment, the BLACKLIONS also took part in Exercise SAXON WARRIOR. This exercise allowed the United States and the United Kingdom to enhance their warfighting capabilities in the process of the generation of the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group and the commissioning and IOC of the UK’s first aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Over the course of VFA-213’s history, no matter where the war was fought or what aircraft the BLACKLIONS were employing, the aircrew, maintainers, and families of VFA-213 have continuously embodied true fighter spirit. Whether performing air superiority and interdiction missions in Southeast Asia or striking deep into enemy territory in support of operations in the Middle East , the BLACKLIONS are proud to continue their forty-nine year history of HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT.