Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic’s mission is to provide U.S. Atlantic Fleet commanders with combat-ready F/A-18 strike fighter squadrons that are fully trained, properly manned, well-maintained and supported. It is commanded by a Navy captain, who is also known as the wing commodore. The wing staff consists of approximately 87 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel.
The Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic (CSFWL) reports directly to Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va. He is responsible for the readiness, training, administration and maintenance support of all Atlantic Fleet F/A-18A-F Hornet and Super Hornet squadrons. Although this basic responsibility extends throughout the deployment cycle of individual units, direct operational control of fleet squadrons is generally retained by carrier air wing commanders, whether deployed or not. The wing is also the lead advocate for issues, maintenance developments and operational readiness factors impacting the
Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic is the U.S. Navy’s largest type wing with 16 operational fleet squadrons flying more than 312 aircraft composed of six different variants of the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. The wing, based at NAS Oceana, is also home to the East Coast F/A-18 fleet replacement squadron (FRS), which trains pilots and weapon systems officers (WSOs) in the Hornet and Super Hornet before they are assigned to operational fleet squadrons.
The fleet squadrons deploy as part of carrier air wings (CVWs) on aircraft carriers on both the East and West coasts.
STRIKE FIGHTER WEAPONS SCHOOL, ATLANTIC
Strike Fighter Weapons School, Atlantic’s (SFWSLANT) primary mission is to prepare fleet aviators, ordnance handlers, avionics technicians and intelligence personnel to succeed in combat by providing realistic, graduate-level training in F/A-18 strike fighter systems and tactics. This training includes mission planning, strike intelligence and air-launched weapons handling, loading arm/de-arm procedures and mission employment for Navy, Marine Corps and Naval Reserve units.
The weapons school was established in 1987 as the Light Attack Weapons School, Atlantic, at NAS Cecil Field at Jacksonville, Fla. In 1999, it moved to NAS Oceana. With the integration of the F-14 and F/A-18 aircraft at NAS Oceana, the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Atlantic, consolidated with the F-14 Weapons School March 22, 2002, to allow a synergistic approach in the training of the strike fighter community.
Tasks within the primary mission of the weapons school include:
Managing and implementing the strike fighter weapons and tactics training programs.
Serving as the Navy’s advanced tactical training program model manager for all U.S. Atlantic Fleet FA-18 squadrons.
Managing the Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program and the Forward Air Controller (Airborne) Program.
Developing courseware for and conducting weapons effectiveness, mission planning and squadron weapons training officer courses.
Participating in chief of naval operations special projects.
Managing the East Coast Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and APG-79 Advanced Electronically Array Radar Model programs and conducting these systems’ training syllabus for all Atlantic Fleet FA-18 squadrons.
The centerpiece of the weapons school support is the Strike Fighter Readiness Program, which provides advanced unit-level air-to-air and air-to-ground training in preparation for subsequent deployments with carrier air wings. The school also trains aviation ordnance and avionics personnel to safely and properly handle, load, and perform release and control checks for all conventional ordnance carried by F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. It also provides initial and intermediate-level training to intelligence officers and specialists in mission planning and support for precision weapons employment.
As naval aviation roles expand and tactics continue to develop, the Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic will increasingly be called upon to train the aircrew and enlisted personnel of the strike fighter community to succeed in combat.
NAVY LANDING SIGNAL
The U.S. Navy Landing Signal Officer (LSO) School is located in Building 150 at NAS Oceana. The school is the only institution of its kind in the world and provides ground instruction for all landing signal officers in the Navy and Marine Corps — as well as several foreign countries.
The courses include training in glide slope geometry, aircraft characteristics, shipboard catapults and arresting gear, administrative duties and most importantly, safety.
Students in the course also acquire hands-on, real-time training utilizing the Landing Signal Officer Trainer (LSOT). The LSOT is a fully functioning, full-size mock-up of an actual LSO platform, complete with detailed, computer-generated displays. Instructors have the ability to manipulate all conditions of aircraft, ship motion and environment to maximize student LSO training.
Length of courses provided is two weeks for initial formal ground training (new LSOs), three days for the FRS/TRACOM course (replacement squadron and training command LSOs), and three days for the advanced formal ground training (prospective air wing LSOs) course.
Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic (FRCMA) performs scheduled integrated maintenance inspection and repair, unscheduled emergency in-service repair, structural and electronic system modification, weight and balance and nondestructive inspections on numerous carrier-based aircraft, as well as aircraft launch and recovery equipment (ALRE) on aviation-capable ships, saving the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) thousands of dollars while maintaining state-of-the-art warfighting capability.
The FRCMA vision is to be an enduring, world-class, aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organization, focused on leveraging the full potential of their diverse capabilities and skills with the center of their attention on warfighting mission requirements, quality products and services for their customers, and cost-wise readiness. FRCMA is dedicated to delivering products and services to customers safely, professionally and on-time (SPOT).
FRCMA is the industrial leader in the region. It features intermediate and depot-level support and its workforce is comprised of nearly 2,500 military, civil service and contract personnel who take great pride in their contributions to fleet readiness and the defense of our country.
In October 2006, FRCMA was established aboard NAS Oceana and realigned under Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and Commander, Naval Air Forces. Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic is one of seven fleet readiness centers devoted to the maintenance of naval aircraft and provides full-spectrum aircraft maintenance operations, possessing all of the key capabilities required to maintain high-performance tactical aircraft in support of warfighter readiness.
The FRCMA staff is located in Hangar 200. FRCMA also consists of seven different sites that are dispersed across five geographical locations: FRCMA Oceana, FRCMA Norfolk, FRCMA New Orleans, FRCMA Washington (D.C.), FRCMA Patuxent River, Voyage Repair Team (VRT) Norfolk and Mayport, and FRCMA Aircraft Department (Oceana and Norfolk). These sites support the F/A-18, E-2, C-2, H-60, CH-46, AH-1, UH-1, EA-6B and H-53 aircraft/helicopters, ground support equipment, associated F-404, T-56, T-700, T-400 and T-64 engine models, and ALRE.
As the East Coast fleet replacement squadron, the Gladiators’ mission is to train F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet replacement pilots and weapons systems officers (WSO) to support fleet commitments. Every six weeks a class of eight to 12 newly winged Navy and Marine Corps pilots and naval flight officers begins the nine-month training course in which they will learn the basics of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions culminating in day/night carrier qualification and subsequent assignment to a fleet Hornet squadron.
VFA-106 began as Bomber-Fighter Squadron 17 (VBF-17) at Agana Air Field, Guam, on
Jan. 11, 1945. One month later, flying F6F-5 Hellcats, VBF-17 embarked aboard USS Hornet (CV 12) to participate in combat operations against the Japanese. Operations included strikes against Tokyo, Iwo Jima and Okinawa as well as the first major airstrikes against the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.
In late 1946, the squadron moved to NAS Norfolk, Va., was redesignated as Fighter Squadron 6 Baker (VF-6B) and began flying the F4U-4 Corsair. Redesignated again in July 1948 as Fighter Squadron 62 (VF-62), the squadron transitioned to F8F Bearcat aircraft. In August 1950 the squadron received F2H Banshee aircraft and moved to NAS Cecil Field, Fla. VF-62 officially became the Gladiators April 16, 1952. Combat action in the Korean conflict came in 1953 from USS Lake Champlain (CVA 39) when the Gladiators were tasked with striking key bridges on the Korean mainland.
The squadron was redesignated as Attack Squadron 106 (VA-106) in March 1955 and received F9F-8B Cougar aircraft later that year. In June 1958 the transition was made to Douglas A4D-2 Skyhawks.
During the ensuing peaceful years, the Gladiators participated in various Atlantic Fleet exercises and numerous Mediterranean cruises aboard USS Essex (CVA 9), USS Shangri-La (CVA 38) and USS Saratoga (CVA 60). These years of training concluded July 17, 1967, as the Gladiators launched into combat over Vietnam from the deck of USS Forrestal (CVA 59). VA-106 returned home in September 1967 for a brief turnaround prior to deploying aboard USS Intrepid (CVA 62) in June 1968. The Gladiators remained on station flying combat missions into Vietnam for more than six months before returning home in February 1969. The squadron was subsequently decommissioned Nov. 7, 1969.
Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) was commissioned at NAS Cecil Field April 27, 1984, flying the Navy’s newest tactical aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet. In the summer of 1999, VFA-106 moved from NAS Cecil Field to NAS Oceana, Va. Since its commissioning, VFA-106 has earned numerous awards including the Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation and two Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety awards.
VFC-12 “FIGHTING OMARS”
Fighter Squadron Composite 12 (VFC-12) is a U.S. Navy Reserve fighter squadron based at NAS Oceana, providing adversary training to East Coast air wings. VFC-12 reports to Commander Tactical Support Wing, a component of Commander, Naval Air Reserve Force. The Fighting Omars represent NAS Oceana’s only Naval Reserve squadron, and is manned by selected reservists, full-time reservists (FTS) and active-duty personnel.
The squadron’s primary focus is support to the Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP), which trains operational fleet F/A-18 squadrons. SFARP is an intense three-week training exercise, conducted by the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Atlantic, which allows fleet strike fighter aircrews to hone their warfighting skills against a creditable adversary prior to deploying. In addition to the SFARP program, VFC-12 supports the F/A-18 fleet replacement squadrons at Oceana and with detachments to NAS Key West.
The Omars often average more than 200 days a year on detachments (deployments away from home station).
The first Fighter Squadron Composite 12 was commissioned VC-12 on Oct. 6, 1943, at NAS Sand Point, Seattle, Wash. The squadron operated the F4F Wildcat and TBM-1 Avenger aboard USS Card (CVE 11) in the Western Pacific until the carrier changed homeport to Norfolk, Va., in 1944. In the Atlantic theater, VC-12 flew combat missions against German U-boats, logging 34 engagements. On June 7, 1945, VC-12 was decommissioned.
The second VC-12 was established Sept. 1, 1948, when Carrier Air Early Warning Squadron 2, based at NAS Norfolk, was redesignated Fleet Composite Squadron 12. VC-12 operated TBM-3 Avengers from Atlantic Fleet carriers. VC-12 saw combat during the Korean War while operating from USS Bon Homme Richard (CV 31). The second VC-12 was decommissioned Sept. 9, 1953.
The current squadron was commissioned Sept. 1, 1973, at NAF Detroit Michigan as VC-12 — the Navy’s first reserve fleet composite squadron. The squadron employed the
single-seat A-4 Skyhawk and dual-seat TA-4Js in providing multiple support services, including air intercept and dissimilar air combat maneuvering (ACM) training for Atlantic and Pacific fleet units.
In 1975, VC-12 moved to its current home at NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Va. In June 1988, VC-12 was redesignated Fighter Squadron Composite 12 (VFC-12) to more accurately describe the squadron’s mission of dissimilar air combat training.
In 1994, the unit transitioned to the A-B models of the F/A-18 Hornet. In 2004, the A models were upgraded to the A+, which included upgraded mission computers and weapons capabilities. In 2006, VFC-12 traded these F/A-18A+ models (which had low arrested landing fatigue life) for F/A-18Cs from VFA-87.
VFC-12 was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award in 1978, 1980, 1981, 1992 and 1998. VFC-12 was awarded the Noel Davis Trophy for squadron readiness for 1980, 1984, 1985, 1995 and 1998. In January 1989, the Fighting Omars received a Meritorious Unit Commendation for sustained superior performance from April 1, 1987, to March 31, 1988. In 1998, VFC-12 was awarded the Battle “E,” Noel Davis Award for recognition as the best squadron in category for Carrier Air Wing 20. Also in 1998, Commander Naval Air Reserve Force recognized VFC-12 with an Aviation Safety Citation for achieving another year of Class A mishap-free flying.
SUPPORT SQUADRON 56
Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 56 (VR-56) was commissioned at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va., in July 1976. As one of 15 logistics squadrons in the United States Navy, VR-56 provides flexible and responsive air logistics support to sustain our military forces both abroad and at home. A combination of active and reserve personnel at VR-56 operate and maintain three C-40A Clipper aircraft.
The C-40A is a unique Navy version of the Boeing 737NG. It was designed with an aft stairway and forward cargo door to accommodate both passengers and cargo simultaneously. The aircraft is capable of transoceanic flight, giving it a range of approximately 3,500 miles. Its two CFM56-7 engines provide 24,000 pounds of thrust, allowing it to cruise at a maximum speed of 0.82 mach and up to a service ceiling of 41,000 feet. The typical crew consists of two pilots, a crew chief, a loadmaster and a 2LM. With a maximum capacity of 121 passengers and a maximum takeoff weight of 171,000 pounds, the Navy C-40A serves a wide variety of logistics missions.
From its inception, the squadron’s operations have been closely linked to many major U.S. military operations. In the 1990s, the squadron mobilized for Operation Desert Storm to transport personnel and essential supplies in theater. The squadron also supported U.S. operations in Croatia, Somalia and Yugoslavia. Since 9/11, the squadron has continually supported operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. VR-56 assisted in the disaster relief efforts resulting from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Also in 2005, VR-56 detachments flew vital medical supplies and personnel providing humanitarian assistance for the Indonesian tsunami and the Pakistan/Afghanistan earthquake relief efforts. In 2010, the Globemasters were called upon to deliver urgent supplies and personnel in direct humanitarian support of Operation Unified Response, in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
In recognition of such operations and as a testament to the pride and professionalism exhibited by squadron personnel over the years, VR-56 has received numerous accolades. Specifically, the squadron has earned a Naval Unit Commendation, three Meritorious Unit Commendations, six Noel Davis Battle Efficiency awards, the Chief of Naval Operations Annual Aviation Safety Award, the Commander Naval Air Reserve Force “Readiness through Safety” Award, the JOSAC Unit of the Year Award (large jet category), two JOSAC Large Aircraft Unit of the Quarter awards, two Armed Forces Service Medals, one Armed Service Expeditionary Medal and a Humanitarian Service Medal. Additionally, the Globemasters have received two Congressman Bill Chappell awards as the best operational fleet logistics support squadron, and three James M. Holcombe awards as the top maintenance department within the fleet logistics support wing. In 2010, the squadron accomplished a “clean sweep” of all fleet logistics awards, receiving the Noel Davis Battle “E,” Maintenance “Golden Wrench,” the CNO Safety “S,” Medical Blue “M” for superior medical readiness, Joint Operational Support Airlift Center Unit of the Year Award (large jet category) and the Congressman Bill Chappell Operations Excellence Award.
VR-56 has completed more than 257 overseas detachments covering six continents and
40 million miles. In July 2010, the squadron surpassed 161,000 hours and 34 years of Class A mishap-free flying, safely carrying more than 5 million passengers and 32 million pounds of cargo to countless destinations. Safety, versatility and dependability are key words in describing the mission of the Globemasters. The men and women of VR-56 take great pride in the squadron’s accomplishments and contributions, and continue to look ahead to provide world-class logistics support to U.S. forces wherever they may be deployed.