Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Strike Fighter Squadron 213

caption= VFA-213 Insignia
dates= June 22, 1955 - present
country= United States
branch= United States Navy
type= Fighter/Attack
role= Close air support
Air interdiction
Aerial reconnaissance
garrison= NAS Oceana
nickname= "Blacklions"
motto=Audentes Fortuna Juvat
battles= Vietnam War
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Desert Fox
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom

Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213) is a U.S. Navy strike fighter squadron based at NAS Oceana. Their tail code is "AJ", their radio callsign is "Lion", and they fly the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet.



The Blacklions were established as VF-213 on June 22, 1955 at NAS Moffett Field, California. The first cruise was aboard USS|Bon Homme Richard|CV-31|6 flying the F2H Banshee. When they returned, they transitioned to the F4D Skyray which they flew for two deployments on USS|Lexington|CV-16|6. They then transitioned to the F3H Demon, which gave the squadron the capability to shoot the newly released AIM-7 Sparrow Air-to-Air missile. VF-213 deployed next for a third cruise aboard "Lex".


In June 1961, VF-213 moved to NAS Miramar, which became their home for the next 36 years. Three years later, in February 1964, the Blacklions took a huge step forward in fighter capability by accepting the first of their new F-4 Phantom IIs. In November 1965, VFA-213 joined Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) and began the first of six combat deployments to Yankee Station aboard USS|Kitty Hawk|CV-63|6, where they flew numerous missions over Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War. This deployment marked the first use of the Phantom as a conventional bomber, which was a role destined to make the Phantom a mainstay of the US Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. On December 20, 1966, the Blacklions scored their first air-to-air kill when Lieutenant D.A. McRae and Ensign D.N. Nichols shot down a Vietnamese AN-2 Colt. Between the years 1965 and 1972 VF-213 flew several combat cruises, flying 11,500 combat missions and delivering 6000 tons of ordnance.


In September 1976, VF-213 began the transition to the F-14. The first cruise with the F-14 was with CVW-11 aboard "Kitty Hawk" in October 1977. After the "Kitty Hawk" cruise, the carrier air wing switched to the USS|America|CV-66|6 and took part in two Mediterranean cruises in 1979 and 1981.


In April 1982, the Blacklions added a new mission as they began training with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) and in September 1982, VF-213 deployed aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65). During Indian Ocean operations, the Blacklions achieved a new milestone by flying the longest Tomcat flight from a carrier on a 1,775-mile TARPS mission.

On January 24, 1986 they deployed with "Enterprise" to the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, where VF-213 often intercepted Soviet and Indian aircraft. During this deployment, tensions between the U.S. and Libya escalated, necessitating the decision to move "Enterprise" through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. Upon arrival in the Gulf of Sidra CVW 11 aircraft flew patrols for two months, although encounters with Libyan aircraft were rare. The ship transited the Strait of Gibraltar and around the Cape of Good Hope South Africa before continuing onto Perth, Australia and across the Pacific to their home port.

1988 saw VF-213 flying cover over reflagged oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and participating in Operation Praying Mantis. In 1989 VF-213 and the rest of the air wing switched aircraft carriers to the USS|Abraham Lincoln|CVN-72. The first cruise on "Abe" was a six-week transit from NAS Norfolk to NAS Alameda, via Cape Horn South America.

The Blacklions won the prestigious “BOOLA BOOLA” award in March 1989 for their professional completion of all missile test firings. In fall 1989, VF-213 and CVW-11 went around the world on "Enterprise" for a WESTPAC deployment ending at NS Norfolk, Virginia for refurbishment.


The squadron deployed to WestPac on "Abraham Lincoln" in May 1991 in support of UN sanctions over Iraq. Blacklions flew combat air patrol and TARPS missions, recording the devastation of Kuwait oil fields. In 1993, VF-213 became the sole F-14 squadron on "Abraham Lincoln". That same year, VF-213 flew in support of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and Operation Southern Watch over Iraq.

Kara Hultgreen, the first qualified female F-14 pilot in the US Navy, was assigned to VF-213, and on October 25, 1994, her F-14 crashed while on approach to landing aboard "Abraham Lincoln". Both she and her RIO ejected, but only the RIO survived.

The 1995 WestPac cruise again saw the Blacklions flying over the skies of southern Iraq. In 1996, VF-213 moved to the USS|Kitty Hawk|CV-63|6 for the 1996-1997 WESTPAC deployment. During this deployment VF-213 fired twenty six AIM-54 Phoenix and six AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, including one event where six planes launched twelve Phoenix missiles. These mass firings were conducted to reduce the numbers of older Phoenix missiles in inventory, as they were being removed from service.

After the 1997 cruise, VF-213 moved from NAS Miramar to NAS Oceana and transitioned to the F-14D Super Tomcat, becoming the fourth F-14 squadron to receive the Delta model.

In 1998 they moved to USS|Carl Vinson|CVN-70|6, and began work-ups for their next cruise. During the 1998-1999 deployment, VF-213 was the first squadron to fire an AIM-54C Phoenix with the aircrew on night vision goggles. Two months into the deployment, VF-213 participated in Operation Desert Fox, which was the Navy’s largest combat evolution since DESERT STORM. This successful deployment included the longest combat line period in over 25 years. [ [http://www.nasoceana.navy.mil/vfa213/History.htm VF-213 History] ] . F-14Ds from VF-213, as well as the rest of the embarked carrier air wing aboard [USS Carl Vinson (CVN-74), joined other US air assets in the final strikes of that operation. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3834/is_199907/ai_n8861814/pg_1 Vinson/CVW-11 Report - Wings of Gold] ] . Highlights of the cruise included the execution of 19 strikes, dropping 20 laser-guided bombs, supporting 11 combined strikes, flying 70 missions, and logging 230 combat sorties, including 45 reconnaissance missions imaging more than 580 targets.

On January 5, 1999, two F-14Ds on patrol over Iraq were directed to intercept two Iraqi MiG-25s south of the "no fly zone". The Tomcats fired two AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, the first ever (and only) Phoenix combat-launch by the US Navy. The Iraqi jets turned north and the missiles fell short of their targets [ [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3834/is_199907/ai_n8861814/pg_4 Vinson/CVW-11 Report - VF-213 Highlights Wings of Gold] ] . VF-213/CVW-11 returned home in the spring of 1999.


After the September 11, 2001 attacks, "Carl Vinson" with CVW-11 was the first carrier battle group on station in the North Arabian Sea, preparing for attacks against Afghanistan. On October 7, 2001 during a CVW 11 strike, VF-213 dropped the first bombs of Operation Enduring Freedom on an SA-3 site near Kabul International Airport. [Tony Holmes (2008), p. 27] . VF-213 was instrumental in their reconnaissance role, utilizing their TARPS pods, and also provided laser weapon guidance for F/A-18 Hornets and GPS weapons coordinates for Hornets and USAF strike aircraft [ [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3834/is_200307/ai_n9249889 VF-213: The Black Lions Wings of Gold] ] . During the ten weeks VF-213 were supporting OEF they flew over 500 combat sorties, over 2600 combat flight hours and expended 435,000 pounds of ordnance [Tony Holmes (2008), p. 66] and provided valuable reconnaissance with the TARPS pods. VF-213 was also the first F-14 unit to use its internal 20 mm cannon in combat during the Battle of Mazar e Sharif [Tony Holmes (2008), pp. 56-57] VF-213 received the 2001 Commander Naval Air Pacific Fleet Battle "E", Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Safety "S", CNO Clifton Award and the Commander Fighter Wing Atlantic Golden Wrench for their performance in 2001. [ [http://www.nasoceana.navy.mil/vfa213/History.htm VF-213 History] ]

After the 2001-cruise ended in 2002, VF-213 changed air wings from CVW-11 to CVW-8. On March 22, 2003, VF-213 deployed aboard USS|Theodore Roosevelt|CVN-71|6 to the Mediterranean Sea in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the war VF-213 would fly 198 strike, combat air patrol and ground forces support missions, delivering 102 laser guided bombs and 94 JDAM bombs.

VF-213 was paired up with VF-31 Tomcatters for the 2005-2006 final F-14 Tomcat cruise on board "Theodore Roosevelt". During the cruise, VF-213 and VF-31 received ROVER upgrades to their aircraft, enabling them to transmit real-time images from their LANTIRN sensor to ground operators. VF-31 and 213 collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties, and dropped 9,500 pounds of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of OIF.

On March 10, 2006, VF-213 returned to NAS Oceana after the final F-14 cruise. All 22 tomcats flew together in a wedge formation over NAS Oceana as hundreds of people cheered.

VF-213 began their transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet in April 2006 and was re-designated VFA-213 on April 2, 2006. VF-213 was the first Super Hornet squadron to fly AESA-equipped Super Hornets. [ [http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2007/q1/070108b_nr.html Boeing F/A-18E/F Block 2 Super Hornets Flying at Naval Air Station Oceana] ] . VFA-213 became the first squadron to receive Dual-Cockpit Cueing System for both pilot and Weapon systems officer, retrofitted with an aft cockpit Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), on May 18, 2007 [ [http://www.defense-aerospace.com/cgi-bin/client/modele.pl?session=dae.26033479.1179869744.1P9yyH8AAAEAABZmbDoAAAAB&manuel_call_cat=3&manuel_call_prod=82407&manuel_call_mod=release&modele=jdc_inter Boeing Dual-Cockpit Cueing System Introduced to U.S. Navy Squadron] ] .

VFA-213, along with CVW-8 and "Theodore Roosevelt", participated in Joint Task Force Exercise 08-4 Operation Brimstone off the coast of North Carolina between July 21 and July 31, 2008. The British carrier HMS|Ark Royal|R07|6, the amphibious assault ship USS|Iwo Jima|LHD-7|2 with associated units and the Brazilian Navy frigate "Greenhalgh" (F-46) and the French submarine "Améthyste" also participated in the event [ [http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=38478 JTFEX 08-4 "Operation Brimstone" Flexes Allied Force Training] ] .

On September 8, 2008, VFA-213 and the rest of CVW-8 deployed onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt on a regularly-scheduled deployment [ [http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=39754 USS Theodore Roosevelt Deploys in Support of Maritime Security Operations] ] . On October 4, the Roosevelt Carrier Group arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, the first visit by a American aircraft carrier since 1967 and three days later the carrier left Cape Town [ [http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=40215 TR Completes South African Port Visit] ] .


ee also

*Naval aviation
*Modern US Navy carrier air operations
*List of military aircraft of the United States (naval) / List of US Naval aircraft
*United States Naval Aviator
*Military aviation
*List of United States Navy aircraft squadrons
*List of Inactive United States Navy aircraft squadrons


*Tony Holmes (2005). "US Navy F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Iraqi Freedom", Osprey Publishing Limited.
*Tony Holmes (2008). "US Navy F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Enduring Freedom", Osprey Publishing Limited.

* [http://www.tomcatalley.com/squadron/vf213his.htm VF-213 History]
* [http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=22325 TR Traps Last Tomcat from Combat Mission]
* [http://www.anft.net/f-14/f14-history-combat.htm#terror F-14's In Afghanistan]
* [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,187521,00.html U.S. Navy Retires 'Top Gun' Jets]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/navy/vf-213.htm Fighter Squadron TWO ONE THREE (VF-213) Blacklions]
* [http://www.nasoceana.navy.mil/vfa213/home.htm Official Site]

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