The Golden Warriors were initially established on 1 February 1968 as Attack Squadron (VA) 87 flying A-7B Corsair IIs from NAS Cecil Field, Florida. The first combat mission flown by the squadron was on 4 March 1969 from the deck of the USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14), striking enemy targets in South Vietnam. In August 1970, VA-87 joined Carrier Air Wing (CVW) SIX and over the next fifteen years completed twelve deployments with the air wing aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), USS America (CV 66), and USS Independence (CV 62).
In the fall of 1973, the Golden Warriors embarked aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) to protect U.S. interests during the Arab-Israeli War. After transitioning to the improved A-7E Corsair II, the squadron returned in October 1975 to the Middle East to assist in the evacuation of U.S. citizens following the assassination of the American Ambassador to Lebanon. During the Iranian hostage crisis and the Israeli-Syrian disputes of 1981, VA-87 deployed to the region for 195 days. One year later the Golden Warriors were back in the fray, supporting U.S. peacekeeping operations in Lebanon for 172 days.
In October 1983, the Golden Warriors provided close air support to U.S. forces in Grenada during Operation URGENT FURY, and later that year participated in retaliatory strikes against Syrian positions overlooking U.N. multinational peacekeeping forces. The Golden Warriors began a new era on 1 May 1986 when the venerable Corsair was retired and the squadron was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron 87. On 24 October 1986, the squadron accepted its initial McDonnell Douglas FA-18A Hornet, the first Naval aircraft designed from inception as a multi-role strike fighter.
After a temporary assignment with Carrier Air Wing ONE, the Golden Warriors embarked aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) while joining the world’s most powerful air wing, Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8), in December 1988. On 28 December 1990, VFA-87 deployed for Operation DESERT STORM, flying 629 sorties over 43 days of intense combat to liberate Kuwait. After returning from deployment, VFA-87 upgraded their aircraft again, this time to the FA-18C Hornet.
From March to September 1993, the Golden Warriors supported Operations DENY FLIGHT, PROVIDE COMFORT, and SOUTHERN WATCH, and returned to the skies of Iraq again in March 1995. On 30 August 1995, Golden Warrior jets were the first to strike Bosnian/Serbian targets during Operation DELIBERATE FORCE. The Golden Warriors then participated in Operation DELIBERATE GUARD during a 1997 summer deployment with USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), followed by sorties over Iraq before returning home in October to Cecil Field.
VFA-87 made history once again by participating in combat operations in two different theaters during a single deployment, operating from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). While enroute to the Arabian Gulf in April 1999, crisis erupted in the former Yugoslavian republic of Kosovo, prompting the largest aerial bombing campaign since the Vietnam War. In just 68 days, “War Party” FA-18Cs dropped 430,000 pounds of ordnance and flew 595 combat missions during Operation ALLIED FORCE. In July, VFA-87 returned to the Arabian Gulf and flew 176 combat missions in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Following this deployment, the Golden Warriors returned to their first new home in more than thirty years, NAS Oceana, Virginia.
The Golden Warriors left Oceana in April 2001 for the Mediterranean aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier. After completing six weeks of operations in the Arabian Sea, the ship had begun its transit home to Virginia when the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred. Following this tragedy, the Golden Warriors again answered the call by participating in a massive offensive against the Taliban and Al Qaida forces in Afghanistan, marking the birth of the war against global terrorism later known as Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
While preparing for a Spring 2003 deployment to the Mediterranean, escalating tensions in the Middle East again brought the “War Party” to action as a member of the CVW-8 team, embarked on USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Deploying to the eastern Mediterranean five months ahead of schedule, the Golden Warriors again made history by contributing to the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In September 2005 the “War Party” deployed in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM for a second time, ensuring a successful constitutional referendum and Iraq’s first free elections. The Golden Warriors were awarded their first ever Battle Efficiency Award in 2005 and repeated with the 2006 Battle “E” Award, an exceptional accomplishment for any fleet squadron.
In late 2006, VFA-87 transitioned from their combat-stressed FA-18C aircraft to the FA-18A+, and conducted two combat deployments with these aircraft. From September 2008 to April 2009, Golden Warrior pilots struck targets in Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Two years later, from May to December of 2011, the squadron embarked aboard USS George H. W. Bush’s (CVN 77) maiden deployment to support of Operation’s ENDURING and IRAQI FREEDOM. In 2012, VFA-87 transferred their aging FA-18A+ aircraft and again accepted ten FA-18C aircraft for their next combat deployment.
VFA-87 deployed aboard USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) from 15 February to 15 November 2014, initially conducting close air support (CAS) missions in support of coalition ground forces in Afghanistan. In June, CVW-8 shifted focus from Afghanistan to the emerging Islamic State threat in Iraq. The Golden Warriors played a critical role in major efforts in Iraq, including the liberation of Sinjar Mountain and Mosul Dam, the defense of key Iraqi infrastructure, and targeted strikes against Islamic State targets in both Iraq and Syria. While deployed, the squadron safely executed 623 combat sorties totaling 3,551 hours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Soon after returning from deployment, the “War Party” transferred its ten FA-18C aircraft in exchange for ten new Lot 37 FA-18E Super Hornet aircraft. Squadron pilots and maintenance personnel excelled throughout the transition period, bringing online an incredible improvement in operational capability and lethality.
On January 21, 2017 the Golden Warriors of VFA-87 again embarked aboard USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) for a historic deployment in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. Between 21 January 2017 and 21 August 2017, the “War Party” operated out of both the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Gulf, flying 443 combat sorties that encompassed 2800 flight hours with a 100 percent sortie completion rate in the skies above Iraq and Syria. Pilots in “War Party” aircraft employed 454 air-to-ground weapons, 1181 rounds of 20mm ammunition, and two air-to-air missiles in support of US and coalition ground forces. These efforts helped coalition forces drive the Islamic State out of Iraq, Iraqi forces liberate Mosul, and initiated the fall of the Islamic State capital of Raqqa. Additionally, a VFA-87 pilot shot down a Syrian Su-22 FITTER K in the vicinity of Raqqa, Syria, achieving the Navy’s first air-to-air kill since the Gulf War.
Post a historic 2017 combat deployment, VFA-87 maintained its warfighting effectiveness through multiple tactical detachments, and in October 2018 began the work-up process to project power at sea for its next scheduled deployment.
By October of 2019, VFA-87 completed five highly successful training detachments and one international exercise. VFA-87 sustained a higher level of readiness despite an unexpected and short-fused Immediate Superior in Command shift to Carrier Air Wing Eleven and transition from maintenance to basic phase of operations. In 2020, the “War Party” faced unprecedented challenges while on an Indo-Pacific deployment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Post an outbreak onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, VFA-87 was tasked to requalify 14 pilots during a carrier qualification detachment to Anderson AFB and support operation tasking in SEVENTH Fleet at only 48 percent manning.
Within one month of returning home, VFA-87 attended Air Wing Fallon and then deployed in November 2020, its second deployment in the same year. The cruise was packed full of unique training opportunities, international exercises, and joint real-world operations. USS Theodore Roosevelt made several passages through the South China Sea with the War Party at the tip of the spear. High tensions in the area kept Golden Warrior pilots on the alert, ready to project power in support of our Nation’s allies. The squadron also had the chance to conduct dual carrier operations with the USS Nimitz while in the region.
The War Party continued training for aerial combat alongside several military allies. They conducted dissimilar BFM against foreign built Malaysian Air Force jets. In addition, the Golden Warriors integrated with the Indian Air Force to simulate large scale airborne battles. These multinational exercises provided invaluable experience for VFA-87 to adapt in today’s dynamic battlefield.
After a final stop in Guam, the War Party steamed north towards less tropical waters. The squadron spent two weeks off the Alaskan coast to participate in Operation Northern Edge. VFA-87 jets flew in large force exercises with the US Air Force, improving warfighting capabilities across service lines. The towering mountain peaks and glaciers of the Last Frontier were a welcome sight after nearly six months of blue water ops. After a successful WESTPAC deployment the War Party returned home to Virginia Beach in May 2021.
War Party Rocks!