VF-2 Squadron History

VF-2 Squadron Patch

VF-2 Insignia Courtesy of Darryl Shaw

VF-2 Bounty Hunters
Base:NAS Oceana

VF-2 Website

Established at NAS Miramar at the same time as VF-1 the squadron completed crew training and received it's first F-14s in July 1973. Squadron markings in the 70's were among the most colourful of all F-14 units. They composed a blue rudder with two white stars, the 'NE' tailcode and a blue/white/red sash on the forward fuselage, known as a "Langley Stripe", in reference to the markings carried by aircraft flying from the first ever US navy carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1). Most recent markings seem to be a small 'NE on the rudder and a skull on the tail.
As with VF-1 the squadron flew top cover over the Saigon evacuation in Operation Frequent Wind. The squadron formed the TARPS unit for both CVW-14 and CVW-2, deploying aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) at first, then switching to USS Ranger (CV-61) where they stayed till 1993, apart from a single cruise aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in 1984. Along with VF-1, VF-2 took part in trials of the "splinter" camouflage in the late 1970's. The CAG bird, BuNo. 158985, was the only plane repainted as far as I know. For more information please see VF-1 history.
During it's time as an F-14 operator VF-2 has been highly successful in the various awards it has collected. These include 3 COMNAVAIRPAC (Commander of Naval Air Forces Pacific) Battle "E"s during the 1980's. A Battle "E" signifies the squadron is the most efficient in the Pacific fleet. VF-2 also won 3 Boola-Boola awards between 1985 and 1987, a prize given to the squadron that accumulates the most points on it's annual missile shoot. The coveted Mutha trophy was also won 3 times, an award presented to the best F-14 squadron in the Pacific fleet. VF-2 has also won awards in the West Coast TARPS, Fighter Derby, ECCM and High Noon Gunnery competitions.
The squadron became the first to launch an F-14 from an aircraft carrier while towing an air to air gunnery target, this event occurring on 2nd of June 1984. In 1987 the squadron logged Ranger's 260,000th landing. As with VF-1 the unit took part in Desert Storm aboard USS Ranger, the carrier being one of two forward deployed into the Persian Gulf. Unfortunately the squadron did not have the opportunity to engage any Iraqi targets and had to be content with escort, recon and CAP missions, playing an important part in ensuring the safety of Navy bombers to and from targets.
When Ranger was decommissioned in 1993 the squadron was left without a carrier. In 1994 it was decided to make VF-2 one of only three squadrons that would be lucky enough to upgrade to F-14D Super Tomcat. Having completed the transition the squadron was assigned to the newly refurbished USS Constellation (CV-64) and as of March 1994 was completing carrier qualifications along with the rest of CVW-2.
After their 1995 cruise VF-2 returned to NAS Miramar, but were only in residence for a few months before beginning the process of moving to the new home of almost all F-14 Tomcat squadrons-NAS Oceana. The move began in April of 1996 and was completed within a relatively short space of time.
Once at Oceana VF-2 began training in earnest for their next deployment. During the later stages of this period the Bounty Hunters gained F-14's modified to carry the LANTIRN laser designation pod, giving them an all weather precision strike capability. Not all squadron aircraft were modified, the usual being 9 out of 14 (the others being the TARPS capable aircraft in F-14A & B squadrons, although all F-14D's are TARPS capable).
During this period the F-14 passed 25 years in Navy service. To commemorate the event Grumman repainted an a F-14D from VF-2 in the 1970's light gull grey and white camouflage scheme, adding a "25 years-The Cat is Back" logo on the inside of the tails. The aircraft was BuNo 159630 a F-14A rebuilt to F-14D standards and one of the oldest still flying. VF-2 received this honour as it is the squadron that has been flying the F-14 longest.

Click for a higher resolution image.
VF-2 F-14D specially painted to celebrate 25 years of Tomcat operations.
Image Copyright Jamie R. Wilcox
Once all training was complete VF-2 deployed onboard the USS Constellation once more, beginning a WESTPAC cruise that will last several months. The ship and squadron made a port visit to Australia (May 1997) and were featured in the May issue of AirForces Monthly.
Since returning from cruise VF-2 visited NAF Key West, in November 1997, to sharpen their ACM skills.
VF-2 demonstrated their weapons proficiency in July 1998, when they participated in live missile shoot. Aircraft from VF-2 launched an AIM-54C and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, sucessfully downing TALD targets launched from aircraft of VF-14, VF-211 and VF-101. August saw VF-2 move to the USS Harry Truman (CVN-75) for a week's worth of carrier qualifications. This was one of Truman's first training cycles with Fleet jets and saw many personnel gain all important experience of fast moving deck ops. VF-2's first jet was not only the first aircraft of the airwing aboard but in doing so logged Truman's 500th trap.
September saw VF-2 back on the missile ranges, this time flying from NAS Roosevelt Roads in Peurto Rico. A two day missile shoot was due to see 5 AIM-54's, 2 AIM-9's and an AIM-7 fly. Nature intervened,however, in the form of Hurricane George's. As a result the shoot was compressed into a single day, but still saw the successful launch of the AIM-54s and AIM-7. Four F-14D's launched 5 missiles in the space of one sortie. The end result, the Navy was short a few more drones. Once again the firepower of the F-14, and the dedication of the people who work on it, had been demonstrated.
Almost as soon as arrived back in Oceana the Bounty Hunters worked to demonstrate another quiver in the F-14's bow:- that of air-to-ground weaponry. The decommisioned cruiser USS Belknap was attacked by aircraft from VF-41 Black Aces, VF-2, VF-211 Fighting Checkmates and VF-143 Pukin Dogs. Four F-14D's from VF-2 made three attack runs each, dropping up to three bombs each time. Best results came when a VF-2 crew managed to drop bombs down the smokestacks. Suffice it to say that once the other squadrons had also finished the Belknap was headed to the bottom.
The end of September saw a unique expression of support for the Bounty Hunters. One of the events in the annual Fighter Fling is a hotly contested Golf Tournament. A few hours before the 1998 event was due to begin it was noticed that all 27 holes of the course had been marked with VF-2 art! Even stranger was to come a month later, when unknown persons spent several hours painting the legend "Bullets Rule" in large letters on top of Hangar 200!!
November saw the whole of CVW-2 gather onboard the USS Constellation (CV-64) in the Pacific. This three week period saw the airwing conduct the Tailored Ship's Training Asessment-the test that the wing is ready to deploy onboard ship for a full cruise. Early stages saw more CQ's, then moving onto live ordnance drops, TARPS and LANTIRN sorties. With only seven F-14D's the Bounty Hunters flew an AVERAGE of 16 sorties a day, racking up over 300 flight hours and 220 traps. Their skill on the ramp was demonstrated when the squadron ended the deployment with the best landing grades of the entire airwing.
Most people's thoughts turn to holdiay's in December, for the Bounty Hunters minds turned to ACM. For three weeks VF-2 underwent the air-to-air phase of the SFARP programme, participating in lectures from the masters of ACM at VFC-12 Fighting Omars, then spending two weeks building up to a finale ACM hop which saw eight Bullets against eight Omars. All eight Bullet's survived the 'fight' proving once again that adversary training is vital to hone and retain skills.
The image below shows the earliest style of VF-2 hi-vis markings, emphasising just how much today's markings are toned down.
Image Courtesy of Torsten Anft

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