VF-124 Squadron History

VF-124 Gunfighters
Base:NAS Miramar
Variant:F-14A, D

Commissioned into existence as VF-53 on the 16th of August 1948 the squadron became VF-124 at NAS Moffet Field on the 11th of April 1958, due to a need for an increased number of flight training squadrons, itself necessary because of intorduction of swept wing fighters into Navy service. As well as VF-53, the new VF-124 incorprated elements from VF-194.

In its new role VF-124 had three missions assigned, initial training of F-8 pilots, bringing them to a standard where they were ready to join a fleet squadron, refresher training for pilots for aviators returning to the Pacific Fleet and providing maintanence training for ground personnel on the F-8 Crusader. This last mission is often overlooked, but was and still is a crucial part of the training provided by a Fleet Readiness Squadron. In addition to these training roles VF-124 maintained its instructor crews as combat ready pilots, in case of national emergency.

After three years at Moffet Field VF-124 moved to NAS Miramar, its home for the rest of its existence. F-8 training continued throughout the years, increasing in tempo as the Vietnam war hotted up With F-14 production beginning in 1970 VF-124 was directed to become the Pacific Fleet FRS for the type and so began to train a cadre of personnel to develop the training program for the aircraft. The F-8 commitment was lost in August 1972, with responsibility for the small number of F-8's left transferred to VF-63. VF-124 received their first F-14A on the 8th of October 1972.

The first two active fleet F-14 squadrons, VF-1 and VF-2, were commissioned days later on the 14th of October, splitting off from VF-124 to become distinct squadrons.

December 1973 saw Marine Corps officers report to VF-124 to start training as instructors. Marine Corps involvement continued until mid 1976, when the Corps finally decided the F-14 was too expensive for its needs, ending their requirement for aircrew trained on the type.

The first set of replacement pilots trained by VF-124 took to sea in December 1974, flying day and night carquals off the deck of USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)

1976, while seeing the departure of the Marine Corps crews, saw the arrival of personnel from the Imperial Iranian Air Force, the F-14's one and only export customer. Initially this was seen as the start of a long term commitment to training for the Shah's air force but with his overthrow three years later this came to an abrupt halt.

The start of a new decade saw the introduction of a new mission for the F-14, that of reconnaissance with the TARPS pod. VF-124 gained the role of teaching new air and ground crew the best ways to operate this equipment.

By December of 1988 VF-124 had trained 1502 aircrew, over 14,400 maintenance personnel and flown for over 153193 hours. Fittingly 1988 saw VF-124 achieve 124 days without any Foreign Object Damage.

With the introduction of the F-14D VF-124 was assigned the role of training air and ground personnel for this type. The first F-14D was accepted by the squadron on the 16th of November 1990, with four of the type undertaking the first fleet F-14D carquals onboard the USS Nimtz (CVN-68) on the 2nd of October 1991.

With the downsizing of F-14 squadrons in the early 1990's it was clear that there was a reduced need for training squadrons, so VF-124 sadly disestablished in September of 1994. All responsibility for F-14 training on all variants now lies in the hands of VF-101.

Due to their status as FRS VF-124 have often been assigned responsibility for providing display aircraft for airshows and other special occasions. Two of the special schemes worn by aircraft for these occasions are shown below. The first shows a very colourful F-14A, marked for the bicentennial celebrations in 1976, with red white and blue stripes over it's standard light grey and white colour scheme.

Image Courtesy of Torsten Anft

The second image shows a low vis aircraft that has been livened up for the airshow circuit by the addition of a large Tomcat badge upon the tail.

Image Courtesy of Torsten Anft

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