THE REAL LIFE VFA-147 ARGONAUTS
The Mighty Argonauts of VFA-147 have a strong tradition of pride and professionalism that dates back to their beginnings as an A-7 squadron. Attack Squadron 147 was commissioned as the Navy's FIRST A-7E Corsair II squadron on February 1, 1967 in Lemoore, California. VA-147 was the FIRST squadron to employ the Corsair II into the Southeast Asian Conflict while deployed to the Western Pacific aboard the USS RANGER (CVA-61), and amassed a total of five combat deployments conducting air operations over Vietnam. Throughout the Argonauts' Corsair II years, the Squadron won the coveted Battle "E" in 1977 as the top Corsair squadron in the Pacific Fleet, three CNO Safety Awards, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for bombing excellence. The A-7E was retired following a Western Pacific, Indian Ocean deployment in February 1989, and Attack Squadron 147 was officially re-designated as Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA 147) on 20 July, 1989.
The first FA-18C arrived on 6 December 1989. A complete transition to state-of-the-art technology resulted in new tools, newly graduated technicians, and 11 new LOT XII aircraft to commence integrated warfare training. The Argonauts were the FIRST squadron to receive the new Lot XII "Night Attack" Hornets and quickly put them in action on their first WESTPAC deployment to the Persian Gulf in March of 1991. Combat air patrol missions over Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Storm during troop withdrawal operations highlighted the deployment.
The Argonauts continued spearheading the F/A-18's maturation as the Navy's premiere strike aircraft by being the Navy's FIRST operational night attack squadron to employ Target and Navigational Forward Looking Infra-Red PODS (NAV FLIR) and night vision goggles. Concurrently, VFA-147 won an unprecedented 12 of 14 CVW-9 "Top Hook" awards for landing grade proficiency and received the 1994 Scott Kirby Award for excellence in the air-to-ground arena. In June 1995 the Argonauts completed the transition to new LOT XVI/XVII FA-18C, won the LTJG Bruce Carrier Award for Excellence in Maintenance, and quickly prepared for deployment. The Argonauts made three more cruises to the Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH aboard the USS NIMITZ (CVN-68). During these operations, Argonaut pilots conducted vital combat air sorties over Southern Iraq enforcing the no-fly zone.
In May of 1998 the Argonauts groomed their Lot XVI Hornets for an unusual but highly successful transfer to VFA-195 stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. In return VFA-147 received twelve Lot XI Hornets, and also a new home aboard the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN-74). After the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, the Argonauts participated in Operation NOBLE EAGLE, flying combat patrols over Los Angeles. During Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and ANACONDA, Argonaut pilots, flying off the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN-74) conducted numerous strikes into Afghanistan against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces. During these missions, VFA-147 also helped refine the employment of JDAM (Joint Direction Attack Munition) for the Strike Fighter community. Finally, VFA-147 dueled with French Naval Air Force Rafaels and German Air Force MiG 29's to test the Argonauts' skill in aerial combat. In recognition for the Argonauts' proficiency in employing the F/A-18C while defending America at home and abroad, VFA-147 received the 2000 and 2001 Boola-Boola award for air-to-air missile capability, the 2002 LTJG Bruce Carrier Award for Maintenance Excellence, and the 2002 Battle E, recognizing the Argonauts as the top squadron in the Pacific Strike Fighter Wing.
When tensions in Iraq began to rise in late 2002, VFA-147 performed a quick turn around and deployed on the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) on 17 January 2003 to the Western Pacific for an 8-month deployment. During Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the Argonauts and CVW-9 maintained U.S. presence in the South China Sea and the Western Pacific. During their time abroad, VFA-147 executed missions over two continents, an archipelago, numerous small islands, two active volcanoes and more than a dozen training ranges. Pursuing tactical training, the Argos delivered more than 120 Mk-80 series weapons, 1,300 Mk-76's, 40 LGTR's, six air-to-air missiles, and 12,000 rounds of 20MM. Between bomb dropping, pitching decks, and keeping the North Koreans wary, the Argonauts and CVW-9 hit eleven classic WESTPAC port stops, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, Yokosuka, Perth, and Pusan. This deployment returned the Argos to an earlier time when "showing the flag" and conducting "goodwill port visits" was the primary mission of the carrier strike group. As one of four Hornet squadrons in CVW-9, VFA-147 led the air wing in every competitive category, including sortie completion rate, sorties flown, hours flown, ordnance dropped, boarding rate, landing grades, and FMC/MC rates. Four of the "Top Ten" pilots for WESTPAC 2003 were Argonauts.
The Argonauts left Lemoore yet again for their next deployment on the USS CARL VINSON with CVW-9 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in January of 2005. Team Argo quickly jumped back into the swing of things showing an impressive sortie completion rate of 99% for the Joint Training Force Exercise off the coast of San Diego and winning the Golden Wrench award for the first line day. Loaded the GBU-38's, GBU-12's and AGM-65's, VFA-147 would accept only the best to support our troops on the ground, and made two combat drops on insurgent targets in Iraq. In keeping with the tradition of leading the way in competitive categories within the air wing, the Argonauts produced five "Top Ten" pilots, including a pilot who was number one for every line period.
The Argonauts maintained their readiness level during 2006 with multiple unit-level training missions and work-up detachments. An Air-to-Air Training Detachment to NAS Key West, FL in late winter was highly successful. During the Pre-Deployment work-up cycle, the Argos executed two work-up detachments conducted at NAS Fallon and two more while part of CVW-9 onboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74).
Team Argo deployed from their home station in Lemoore, CA in mid-January and, along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing NINE, lead the fight to promote security and stability in the Middle-East during their time in the Gulf. VFA-147 supported Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and were called upon daily to support our troops on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Argonauts flew over 4,500 hours, to include 409 total combat sorties while amassing over 1,700 traps. While supporting coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Argos worked with the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish as well as U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. VFA-147 began transitioning to F/A-18E Super Hornets in October, 2007, and completed transition in February 2008.
VFA-147 was awarded the Battle "E", and was named the Navy's top F/A-18C Hornet Squadron for 2007 earning the Capt. Michael J. Estocin award for meritorious achievement by an F/A-18C Squadron during their 2007 combat cruise. The award is in memory of Captain Michael J. Estocin, USN, who distinguished himself as a combat pilot during the Vietnam War. While attached to VA-192 embarked in USS TICONDEROGA (CVA-14), Captain (then Lieutenant Commander) Estocin displayed conspicuous gallantry and leadership as a flight leader assigned targets in the Haiphong, North Vietnam area during April, 1967, listed as Missing in Action and, after 10 years, listed as Killed in Action. For his actions on two Haiphong strikes, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After successfully completing pre-deployment work-ups in late 2008 the Argonauts deployed again in January 2009 for 6 months aboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS with Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9) being there first combat cruise in the F/A-18 E Super Hornet. VFA-147 participated in Operations FOAL EAGLE in support of Seventh Fleet and NORTHERN EDGE. During their deployment, VFA-147 kept up their proficiency pursuing tactical training while dropping numerous Mk-80 series, Mk-76 series, LGTR's and 20mm rounds. During this classic WESTPAC, 147 visited ports at Hong Kong, Sasebo Japan, Padia Beach Thailand, Busan Korea, Singapore, and Hawaii. The Argonauts once again showed their dedication to their profession by earning the 2009 Golden Wrench Award and the LTJG Bruce Carrier Memorial Award for Maintenance Excellence, and having the CVW-9 Top Nugget as well as CVW-9 Top Hook overall for excellence in landing grades.
The Argos preserved their combat readiness through participation in the Sustainment Exercise 2009 aboard the USS JOHN C. STENNIS during November 2009, maintaining their edge and ability to operate "blue water" in the event of being called upon to deploy early in 2010. In May 2010, VFA-147 left CVW-9 and the JOHN C. STENNIS to become part of Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) and the USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76), beginning their workup cycle to combat deployment. In the middle of their workup cycle, the Argonauts and the RONALD REAGAN were privileged to participate in the 2010 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. An enormous, international exercise intended to facilitate cooperation and interoperability between allied nations and led by the U.S. Third Fleet, RIMPAC involved more than a dozen nations operating off the shores of Hawaii from June-August 2010.
During their 2010 pre-deployment workup cycle, VFA-147 was awarded the 2009 Pacific Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy for their enormous strides in battle efficiency since their transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. It remains clear that the Argonauts will be a force to be reckoned with as they conclude their preparations for a 2011 combat deployment.
2012 was a busy yet rewarding year for the Argonauts of VFA-147. The year was spent doing workups for deployment in support of Carrier Strike Group ELEVEN. Time was spent in the Pacific, Fallon, Florida, and onboard the USS NIMITZ (CVN 68). The men and women of VFA-147 provided combat ready aircraft for a variety of different missions in a variety of different location both on the carrier and off. From the Tyndall Detachment in Florida, RIMPAC off Hawaii, SFARP and Airwing in NAS Fallon, and C2X/JTFEX onboard the USS NIMITZ, the Argonauts succeeded at every turn. VFA-147 dropped tens of thousands of pounds of both live and inert ordnance and expended thousands of rounds of 20mm ammunition during multiple large force strike exercises all over the United States. In August, after a 2 month RIMPAC, and a two week turnaround in Lemoore, the outstanding Argonaut maintenance team produced a fleet of 12 ready for tasking aircraft which were sent to Fallon for SFARP for a month. After returning to Lemoore, 12 fleet ready aircraft were sent to the NIMITZ for a grueling month long Comptuex/JTFEX. In December, VFA-147 continued to excel, preparing for a SUSTEX in Fallon and an at sea SUSTEX on the USS Nimitz prior to leaving on deployment in April of 2013. After a port stop in South Korea and Thailand, the Argonauts of VFA-147 are currently in the Middle East flying combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. The Argo maintenance team has won the Golden Wrench Award and the LTJG Bruce Carrier Maintenance Award for the first part of cruise for their outstanding maintenance department and the ability to be the go-to squadron in Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN. The Argonaut pilots also demonstrated superior landing performance and brought home the Top Hook award for the entire cruise. After 2 extensions and port visits in South Korea, Thailand, Bahrain, Dubai, Italy, and Hawaii, the Sailors of VFA-147 finally returned home on December 12, 2013 and were reunited with their families with CDR Todd Cimicata relieving CDR Loughran as Commanding Officer.
2014 saw the Argonauts go on multiple detachments throughout the United States, including 2 detachments to Eglin AFB in Florida in support of the JSF FRS, VFA-101, as well as an air to air detachment focused on dissimilar air combat in Portland, OR. The year ended out with a mini AIRWING Fallon in Nevada and a trip onboard the USS NIMITZ for TGEX.
-From VFA147 Website