The Red Rippers were commissioned in 1927 as VF-5S in the earliest days of Naval Aviation at Hampton Roads, Virginia, flying the Curtis F6F-3 Hawk.
Since then they have served in both theaters of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Southern Watch in the Iraqi Theater. From the decks of the USS Langley, America's first aircraft carrier, to the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), the most powerful warship and Air Wing in the history of the world, the Red Rippers have written the history of Naval Aviation.
From their commisioning in 1927 until WWII, the Rippers flew a number of propeller aircraft including the Boeing F3B-1, F4B-1, F4B-2, Grumman FF-1 and F3F-1 and had the following squadron designations: VF-5S, VB-1B, VF-5 and VF-4.
During WW II, the Rippers (VF-41) supported the allied invasion of North Africa downing 16 enemy aircraft in the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, and conducted the first air strikes against German forces in Norway in September 1943. The Red Rippers (redesignated VF-A) transferred to the Pacific theater in 1944 on board the USS Bunkerhill and USS Essex and flew the first air strikes against Tokyo in the Grumman F6F Hellcat.
In 1948, the Red Rippers became Fighter Squadron ELEVEN (VF-11), a designation current today. In the post WW II years, the Red Rippers first flew the F8F Bearcat and then leaped into the jet age flying the McDonnell F2H-1 Banshee.
They flew the Banshee during the Korean war from the flight deck of the USS Kearsage. In 1959, the Rippers transitioned to the Chance-Vought F-8 Crusader on board the USS Roosevelt and helped quell unrest in the Dominican Republic in 1961. In 1965, the Rippers moved to NAS Oceana flying the F-4B Phantom II and saw action against North Vietnam in 1967 off the USS Forrestal (Carrier Air Wing 17).
VF-11 converted from the F-4 Phantom to the F-14A in 1980. The squadron, while having the same insignia and tradition as the original Red Rippers, cannot claim their lineage as the original Red Rippers were disestablished on 15th of February 1959, one day before the present VF-11 stood up. Squadron markings consist of a boar's head above a dark blue shield on which is a thunderbolt and two circles.
VF-11's combat debut occurred on the 4th of December 1984. The squadron flew combat air patrols over a US Navy strike force. The strike was in response to Syrian anti-aircraft fire directed at VF-31 Tomcats the previous day. Unfortunately two of the twenty-eight strong attacking force were shot down in the course of the raid. However neither of these were from VF-11, the losses being one A-7E from VA-?? (USS Independence) and one A-6E from VA-75. The A-7E pilot was rescued, but one member of the A-6E crew died on impact, while the other was held prisoner by the Syrians for a year, then released.
After cruises on Kennedy the squadron shifted air wings and carriers, joining CVW-6 on board USS Forrestal (CV-59), staying with this carrier until December 1991 when Forrestal replaced USS Lexington (AVT-16) to become the training carrier. On July 12, 1992, the Red Rippers joined Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) at NAS Miramar and began turn-around training in the F-14D. At the 1993 Tomcat Ball, the Red Rippers were awarded the famous and elusive MUTHA award for being the most outstanding and spirited fighter squadron at NAS Miramar. In February 1994, the Rippers deployed on board USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for WESTPAC '94 in support of Operation Southern Watch, the first cruise for the "Super Tomcat ". Once again in May 1996 the Rippers left with USS Carl Vinson for it's last cruise with CVW-14 on WESTPAC '96. During that deployment, VF-11 flew missions all summer long in support of Operation Southern Watch as well as escorting B-52 bombers as a part of Operation Desert Strike in early September 1996.
In 1994 VF-11 added another upgrade to the F-14, giving it the capability to use NVG's (Night Vision Goggles). These literally allow pilots to see in the dark, replacing instrument flying with a clear (but green tinted) view of the world around them. While having their limitations, NVG's provide a big leap in night time capability, especially in roles such as precision night bombing, forward air control and combat search and rescue, where accuracy and being able to correctly identify the target are essential.
The NVG's are mounted onto the pilot's helmet and flip up out of view when not needed. As NVG's multiply available light hundreds of times changes had to be made to the F-14's internal and instrument lighting, which if left at their normal level would blind pilots wearing NVG's. Thus VF-11 developed a set of filters and lenses to fit over F-14 cockpit instruments and controls to allow the flight crew to change between normal and NVG lighting.
Unusually the VF-11 NVG system was developed in house by the squadron, rather than first being tested by Naval test and evaluation squadrons. This has saved much time and money over normal methods. Up until 1996 the squadron only had one modified Tomcat, but by the time the squadron deploys to the western Pacific it will have 6 aircraft with the NVG system installed. Long term Navy plans envisage the system being fitted to all F-14's, providing an excellent complement to the LANTIRN night vision and targeting system that is now in use with all VF squadrons.
VF-11, as with all Pacific fleet F-14 squadrons, moved to NAS Oceana. This happened after their 1996 cruise onboard the Vinson was completed, with both VF-11 and VF-31 arriving at Oceana in the first two months of 1997.
Soon after arriving at NAS Oceana VF-11 started to convert from the F-14D Tomcat to the less capable F-14B. This move was necessary due to the limited numbers of F-14D airframes in the fleet, which has made it impossible to support 3 active squadrons, the RAG and various test units. VF-11 had completed conversion by May 1997 and has also acquired a number of LANTIRN modified airframes. After receiving the modified aircraft the Red Rippers began intensive work-ups for their 1998 cruise, which features three firsts:-their first cruise as part of CVW-7, their first cruise with the F-14B and their first cruise with the LANTIRN upgraded F-14. This is also the first operational deployment of USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), the Navy's newest aircraft carrier. Having departed Norfolk on the 26th February 1998 USS Stennis crossed the Atlantic, Mediterranean and took up station in the Persian Gulf, relieving the USS George Washington. Since leaving the Gulf the carrier and airwing has traveled across the Pacific, visiting Perth, Australia in early August. Next stop was Pearl Harbor, Hawaii before arriving in the carrier's new home of North Island at the end of August.
Red Rippers Squadron Awards:
Battle Efficiency B in 1986 and 1996
Safety Award S in 1986 and 1996
Clifton Award in 1996
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