VF-14 Squadron History

VF-14 Squadron Patch

VF-14 Insignia Courtesy of Darryl Shaw

VF-14 Top Hatters
Base:NAS Oceana

VF-14 Homepage

VF-14 is the oldest US Navy squadron in existence, being able to trace it's history all the way back to 1919, although many re-designations occurred in the first twenty-five years. Before becoming VF-14 the Tophatters were known by the designations VF-1, VS-41, VB-4, VA-1A, VA-14 and finally gaining the VF-14 title on the 15th of December 1949.
When first established as a Pacific Fleet Air Detatchment, in September of 1919, the Tophatters flew the JN, or as it was more often called the 'Jenny'.
During WWII VS-41 flew SBD-3 Dauntless torpedo bombers from the deck of USS Ranger in the North African theatre during 1942. By November of the next year the squadron had been redesignated once more, this time becoming VB-4. Aircraft had also changed, now SBD-5 Dauntlesses were used instead, this time to attacks against German forces in Norway. Late 1944 had seen a move to the Pacific theatre of war. Now flying SB2C Helldivers off the carrier USS Bunker Hill the Tophatters fought in the latter stages of the island hopping campaign. In 1945, for the last few months of the war, they switched to the USS Essex and took part in actions over Iwo Jima, Tokyo and Okinawa.
The high numbers of units involved in WWII meant that the Tophat design was used by another squadron, VF-1, who flew in the Pacific theatre for most of the war. Best evidence seems to suggest this was simply due to confusion, the 'new' Tophatters being unaware that the original squadron still existed. One of the most famous incidents in this Tophatter's history occurred when Lt. Paul Pablo encountered a swarm of Japanese fighters in the Bonin Islands. Having previously flown an entire tour without seeing a Japanese aircraft the Lieutenant was understandably anxious to meet the enemy. When he finally did it was a huge swarm of fighters. Pablo was not heard from again, but his last transmission, "I've already got four, and I've got thirty cornered" symbolises the fighter pilot's credo, that only a spirit of attack will preveil. The 'new' Tophatters were disestablished shortly after the war ended, leaving the original squadron to carry on.
After the war the Tophatters received two changes of designation in a short period of (as was the case for most Navy squadrons at this time, as an effort was made to organise the rather chaotic numbering system). VB-4, as the Tophatters had ended the war, became VA-1A in November of 1946, changing again to become VA-14 in August 1948. The final designation change, to the present VF-14, occurred upon the 15th of December 1949.
The redesignation to VF-14 coincided with the squadron's entry into the jet age, and thus with their receipt of F3D Skynights. The association with the Skynight was not to last long, however, F3H Demon's arriving in the first months of 1950. VF-14 flew the Demo's for 13 years, not relinquishing them unitl F-4B Phantom II's arrived in May of 1963. Flying their new mounts VF-14 became the first Phantom squadron to operate from the USS Roosevelt (not the present CVN-71).
1966 saw VF-14 become involved in the Vietnam war, whilst flying form the Roosevelt VF-14 took part in 967 combat sorties and dropped 651,624 tons of ordnance.
For their next cruise, in 1968, VF-14 returned to the East Coast, flying off the newest aircraft carrier, USS John F.Kennedy.
Receiving their first F-14s in September 1974, the squadron worked up for it's first deployment as part of CVW-1 onboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) in the Mediterranean. The cruise lasted from June 1975 to January 1976, the first time F-14A's had been deployed with the Atlantic fleet. This was followed by two similar deployments onboard Kennedy, starting in August 1980 and July 1981 respectively.
During the 1980 cruise VF-14 won the COMNAVAIRLANT (Commander Naval Air Forces Atlantic) Battle "E" award for the second year in a row. In June 1982, the squadron shifted to CVW-6 onboard USS Independence (CV-62). In this and all subsequent deployments VF-14 was partnered by VF-32.
In 1983 the squadron took part in two conflicts, firstly the US invasion of Grenada,then the US airstrike on the Lebanon in December of that year.
On April 1st 1985 VF-14 was on the move again, returning to USS John F. Kennedy, but this time as part of CVW-3. The year featured some eventful deployments for the Tophatters, who took part in Red Flag 85-4 during June. Red Flag is a world famous series of exercises, the aim of which is to put pilots and planes in the most realistic simulation of war that can be created within peacetime safety rules. Red Flag has emphasised composite force tactics from the very beginning, the aim being to integrate fighters, strikers, recon and transport aircraft into a package that can work fluidly and well together. VF-14's deployment probably consisted of a good range of interception and strike escort missions. Two months later, in August, VF-14 took part in it's annual FFARP (Fleet Fighter ACM Readiness Program), the first to feature the F-21A Kfir as aggressor aircraft.

Click for a higher resolution image.
VF-14 markings from the mid to late 1980s
Image Copyright Jamie R. Wilcox
The Tophatters were proud to be able to celebrate their 70th anniversary in 1989, being the first Naval squadron to reach this grand age. Among other celebrations the squadron emblazoned the "70th Anniversary" legend across the tails of their two high visibility F-14's.
It was as part of CVW-3 that VF-14 took part in Desert Storm, the carrier and air wing having been rushed to the area once the crisis had broken out. Receiving the call to duty on 10th August 1990 the carrier deployed just five days later. The next five months were spent enforcing the U.N. sanctions and preparing for Desert Storm. The squadron took part in the air campaign, unfortunately scoring no kills, but thankfully taking no losses either.
After Desert Storm the squadron had several detachments, culminating in a successful missile shoot at NAS Roosevelt Roads and three weeks onboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).
December 1991 saw perhaps the biggest change to the squadron since transitioning to the F-14. In line with other Navy F-14 squadrons VF-14 began to work up an air-to-ground capability, starting with the Tomcat Advanced Strike Syllabus (TASS) and progressing to air wing workups at NAS Fallon. Thus VF-14 became 'Bombcat' qualified and can carry a wide range of iron bombs, cluster weapons and in future guided munitions. After the workups another cruise followed. As tensions in the Persian Gulf rose again in July of 1992, Kennedy and her squadrons were emergency deployed, but then recalled within days as the problems cooled. The scheduled cruise thus began in October of 1992 and included VF-14 participation in "Deny Flight" sorties over the former Yugoslavia.
In late 1995 the squadron was detached from CVW-3 and directly assigned to Fighter Wing One at NAS Oceana.
1996 saw much uncertainty for VF-14, with much debate over whether they would continue to fly the F-14 or would become VFA-14 flying the F/A-18 Hornet and helping to fill the lack of Hornet squadrons. Late 1996 saw the decision made in favour of keeping VF-14 as an F-14 squadron and the summer had seen VF-14 participate in their first cruise for several years, joining CVW-8 onboard USS John F. Kennedy for a Mediterrenean cruise which also saw a port visit to Portsmouth. While Kennedy was in Portsmouth at least one VF-14 aircraft took part in the static display of the 1996 RNAS Yeovilton airshow, along with aircraft from VF-41, VS-24, VAW-124 and VFA-15. At the same time much of the rest of CVW-8 flew in to RAF Lakenheath for an overnight stop. By joining CVW-8 the squadron restored it to two F-14 squadrons, the other being VF-41. This meant that for a short while both Atlantic and Pacific fleets had one airwing apiece that had two F-14 squadrons, rather than the now more normal one. The Pacific equivalent of CVW-8 is CVW-14, which had both VF-11 and VF-31 assigned. However with the move of VF-11 from CVW-14 to CVW-7 in early 1997 it is now only the Atlantic Fleet that has any airwings with two F-14 squadrons.
VF-14 cruised as part of CVW-8 in the summer of 1997, taking their F-14A's across the Atlantic and into the Persian Gulf. In a fairly astounding piece of work the squadron was awarded the "Golden Wrench" award for this cruise-an award which goes to the squadron with the best availability record during the cruise. This is amazing because the F-14 is not the easiest aircraft to maintain, as even it's most fervant supporters will admit, and is even more impressive as VF-14 have some of the oldest airframes in the Fleet.
Looking even further into the future VF-14 is due to become the only F-14 squadron that will receive the F/A-18E, sometime in 2001. All other F-14 squadrons are due to convert to the F/A-18F.
The image below shows VF-14's first markings for the F-14, extremely high visibility compared to the present markings. As well as the red tail the airwing code was carried in black on the inner surfaces of the tails. The aircraft carries its carrier name, USS John F. Kennedy, on the lower edge of the intake, a practice common among several F-14 squadrons in the early years of flying the F-14. Present practice generally sees the name carried on the wing root, just aft of the glove vane.

Image Courtesy of Torsten Anft

Today's VF-14 markings are much more subdued, if the triangle on the tail is carried at all it is only as a dark grey outline. The Tophat also tends towards dark grey. A dark grey tailcode is carried on the inner surface of the tails. The squadron's hi-vis aircraft are slightly more colourful, having the triangle in red and carrying the Tophat on a white background. VF-14 also has two aircraft that carry the 'Topcat' insignia with the legend 'Fighting 14' underneath.

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