The air was filled
with great expectations early in the morning of 1 February 1956 as CDR E.V.
Davidson prepared to assume command of Attack Squadron 146, the Navy's newest
jet attack squadron. In ceremonies held at NAS Miramar, VA 146 was
commissioned at 0900 as a unit of Air Group 14. The squadron's original
nickname was the Blacktails, which was derived from its assigned color as the
sixth squadron of the air group.
Since there were no replacement squadrons at this time, VA 146 started with
only a handful of aircraft and began an "in-house" training
schedule for the F9F-8 Cougar in the squadron spaces. The squadron's first
West Pac deployment began 21 January 1957 as CVG 14, embarked in USS HORNET
(CVA 12) and departed from San Diego. Upon the squadron's return in July, the
"Blacktails" began transitioning into the new FJ-4B Fury. In May
1958, they flew to Norfolk, Virginia, loaded aboard USS Ranger (CV-61) and
made a "Round the Horn" trip to San Diego.
In 1959, the squadron under CDR W.W. Alldredge adopted the Blue Diamonds
nickname. In 1960, the Blue Diamonds deployed on West Pac aboard the USS
Oriskany (CVA-34) and again in 1961 aboard the USS Lexington (CVQ-16). On 12
May 1962, the squadron moved to their current home in California's San
Joaquin Valley - Lemoore Naval Air Station. At that time they transitioned
from F4JBs to A4D-2n (A4C) Skyhawk.
VA-146 made its fifth and sixth West Pac cruises aboard the USS Constellation
(CV-64). On 5 May 1964. Unknown when they departed, this sixth cruise would
mark the beginning of the Blue Diamonds' lengthy combat experience in
Southeast Asia. The squadron pilots were called on to aid U.S. destroyers in
the Gulf of Tonkin when they came under attack by North Vietnamese patrol
boats. The following two days found the Blue Diamonds launching the initial
retaliatory raids into North Vietnam. The Diamond's next six deployments
would center around combat operations in Vietnam. The seventh cruise aboard
the USS Ranger (CV-61) and the eighth aboard USS Constellation (CV-64).
Returning from the 1967 Connie cruise, 10 Blue Diamond aviators returned with
more than 200 combat missions each.
In December 1968, VA 146 was completely re-equipped with the Navy's newest
attack aircraft, the Vought A-7B Corsair II. In January 1969, upon completion
of the rigorous training cycle, VA-146 embarked aboard USS Enterprise
(CVAN-65) for their ninth West Pac. A near disastrous fire broke out on the
ship, destroying several VA-146 aircraft. This caused a two and a half month
delay in the cruise while awaiting replacement aircraft and ship repairs.
Arriving on Yankee Station in April, the squadron conducted operations until
June, returning to Lemoore in July.
In August 1969, VA-146 began the complex task of transitioning to the all-new
A-7E, a vastly improved version of the A-7B. The Blue Diamonds embarked on
USS America (CVA-66) in January 1970 making them the first fleet squadron to
deploy with new aircraft. After six weeks of shipboard operations, the
squadron deployed from Norfolk, Virginia, sailing around Africa for Yankee
Station. The Blue Diamonds completed eight months of highly successful combat
operations, returning to Norfolk via Cape Horn, completing an around the
In October 1971, VA-146 returned to CONSTELLATION for their eleventh West Pac
cruise and their sixth combat deployment. It was on this cruise that the Blue
Diamonds again found themselves at a turning point in history, launching the
first retaliatory strikes into North Vietnam since the bombing halt of 1968.
Returning to NAS Lemoore in July 1972, the Blue Diamonds commenced a six
month shore-based training cycle in preparation for their twelfth West Pac
deployment and seventh in combat. Despite the short time available for
training new pilots and maintenance personnel, the Blue Diamonds deployed on
January 5, 1973 fully combat ready with Carrier Air Wing Nine embarked again
on USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64). This cruise would bring to an end the Navy's
participation in the Vietnam War. For the deployment, USS CONSTELLATION (CV
64) AND CVW 9 were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the last
Vietnam combat cruise. Two Blue Diamond Aviators lost their lives during
combat over Vietnam, including the tenth commanding officer, CDR Herbert B.
Loheed. CDR Loheed was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
for his actions. In 1994, CDR Loheed's remains were positively identified,
and he was declared KIA.
VA-146 returned to NAS Lemoore in October 1973 after a ten month absence and
their first peacetime operations in eight years. Following a rigorous eight
month training cycle, the Blue Diamonds returned to the CONSTELLATION for
their thirteenth West Pac cruise. This cruise was again to see history made
when the Blue Diamonds were the first attack squadron to launch escort
aircraft from a carrier in the Persian Gulf. In this time frame, the Blue
Diamonds were an integral part in the joint CENTO exercise MIDLINK '74 in the
Indian Ocean operation area.
VA-146 returned to Lemoore in December of 1974 and launched into an ambitious
training cycle. In 1975, the Blue Diamonds won their fifth and sixth
consecutive Silver Bombs at Fallon and Yuma Weapons Deployments. From June
1976 through March 1977 the Diamonds made five work-up periods on the USS
CONSTELLATION (CV-64). On April 12, 1977, VA-146 deployed on its fourteenth
West Pac deployment in a 20 year period. During June 1977, the Blue Diamonds
were based ashore out of NAS Cubi Point with CVW-9 as the "Swing
Wing" while USS Constellation conducted Anti-Submarine Warfare. The
Diamonds returned home in November 1977.
VA-146 would spend only 11 months ashore before returning to sea again on
September 26 1978 aboard the USS Constellation (CV-64). The Blue Diamonds
enjoyed port calls in Korea, Japan, and Cubi Point where they conducted
COPETHUNDER exercises with the Air Force. On March 7, 1979, just as the
Diamonds were preparing for the journey home, violence in the country of Yemen
prompted President Jimmy Carter to order the USS Constellation to set sail
for the Indian Ocean. A total of 47 days were spent operating in the waters
of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Their presence in the area caused a
halt to the violence and the middle of April found the ship heading south
toward Diego Garcia and the equator. After a short stop in the Philippines,
the Diamonds returned to Lemoore with a 23-plane flyby on 17 May 1979,
marking the end of their fifteenth West Pac deployment.
The return to Lemoore found the Diamonds with 12 new A-7E's with the new
state of the art FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Receiver). VA-146 was tasked
with evaluation of the new system and development of new tactics for it use.
On February 26, 1980 the Blue Diamonds deployed again on the USS
Constellation (CV-64). CVW 9 visited Hawaii and the Philippines on the way to
the Indian Ocean. For the next 110 days, VA-146 operated near the coast of
Iran in support of U.S. interests in the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Afghanistan
Invasion. This sea period (110 days) set a new record as the longest
continuous at-sea period for any West Coast carrier since World War II.
On 25 April 1980, VA-146 was named the safest A-7 squadron in combined
Navy-Air Force history by surpassing all previous records for accident-free
flight operations at 36,175 hours. Continuing their record setting
performance the Blue Diamonds completed fiscal year 1980 with 7555.4 flight
hours establishing yet another record. The return to Lemoore included port
visits to Singapore and Korea. The Blue Diamonds also participated in some
multi-national exercises including Rim Pac '80 and Merlion '80.
VA-146 deployed in October 1981 on their sixteenth West Pac cruise. In July
1983 the HARM was introduced to the fleet. January 1984, the Diamonds began
their seventeenth West Pac and first with the Harm aboard the USS Kitty Hawk
A 14-year association with Carrier Air Wing 9 was broken in 1983 when VA-146
was reassigned to Carrier Air Wing Two. Upon their return from a West Pac in
August 1984, the Diamonds were reassigned to CVW-9. CVW-9 and USS Kitty Hawk
(CV-63) made two more deployments, which culminated in the 1987 World Cruise,
which brought the carrier back to the East Coast for entry into the Service
Life Extension Program (SLEP). In September 1988, the Blue Diamonds and CVW-9
embarked in USS Nimitz (CVN-68) for their twentieth Western Pacific
deployment. The highlight of this cruise was operations in the Sea of Japan
during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
In the spring of
1989, VA-146 was re-designated VFA-146 and transitioned to the multi-role F/A
18C Night Strike Fighter. The Blue Diamonds were the first fleet squadron to
receive this new version of the Hornet. VFA-146 made its first deployment
with the Hornet on USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in 1991, arriving on station to
participate in the last days of Operation Desert Storm. In December 1991, the
squadron received the LTJG Bruce Carrier Memorial Award for Excellence in
Completing an aggressive turnaround training cycle, they again deployed to
the Western Pacific in February 1993. The Diamonds arrived on station in the
Arabian Gulf in March and immediately settled into flying missions in support
of Operation Southern Watch in Iraq. The Nighthawk Laser system was
introduced during this deployment increasing the squadron's capabilities by
providing autonomous delivery of Laser Guided Bombs. The Diamonds took
advantage of the technology and led the fleet in developing tactics for LGB
employment. They returned from deployment in July 1993.
In September 1993, the squadron won the Bruce McClaran Strike Fighter Derby
by posting the best overall and individual scores for the competition. During
that same month, the Diamonds flew an unprecedented 60 sorties in a single
day to test the surge operations capability of the squadron. The Blue
Diamonds completed the year with a "zero/zero" Conventional Weapons
Technical Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI).
In 1994, the Blue Diamonds were presented a series of awards. Among these
were the Scott F. Kirby Ordnance Proficiency Award, the Boola-Boola Award,
the Captain Jack McAuley Award, and the Captain Michael Estocin Award. The
Blue Diamond's outstanding performance culminated in their selection as the
COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency Award winners for the previous year.
The Blue Diamonds next deployment in December 1995, with new airplanes and
improved avionics, brought the squadron to both the Arabian Gulf in support of
Operation Southern Watch as well as Yankee Station off the coast of Taiwan.
In May of 1996, the Diamonds returned to Lemoore and began training for the
next deployment while at the same time winning the Boola-Boola Award for the
second time in 3 years.
The Blue Diamonds spent the majority of 1997 preparing for a World Cruise on
board USS Nimitz (CVN-68), and extended their 13-year history of over 55,000
hours without a Class "A" mishap. The highlight of the work-up
cycle was a 96-hour surge operation in which the Diamonds flew 226 sorties.
On 4 September 1997, the Blue Diamonds departed San Diego with the Nimitz
Battle Group in support of Operation Southern Watch. The Battle Group surged
to the Arabian Gulf and provided a stabilizing influence to the region at a
time of heightened tensions. After four months of supporting Operation
Southern Watch, the crisis subsided allowing the Diamonds to return home on
time. During the deployment, the Blue Diamonds earned the CVW-9 Top Hook
Award for the 14th consecutive time and maintained a 99% sortie completion
rate while participating in Operation Southern Watch.
Shortly after their return to Lemoore, the Blue Diamonds were named the 1997
COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" winner. The Diamonds were also awarded the
Captain Michael J. Estocin, Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky and the Scott
F. Kirby Awards. These awards recognize the outstanding efforts of the entire
squadron in 1997.
In July 1998, the Diamond's handed over their Lot XVI Hornets for Lot X
aircraft. The arduous process began, getting these older Hornets ready for
their upcoming cruise onboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Maintenance
efforts were outstanding evident by twelve competent Hornets trapping on the
deck of the STENNIS as it pulled out of San Diego on January 7, 2000 in
support of Operation Southern Watch.
The millennium cruise was a great success. The Blue Diamonds' amassed over
1900 sorties and 2900 flight hours with a phenomenal sortie completion rate
of 97%. Diamond aviators flew 136 sorties over Iraq destroying several Iraqi
targets as a result of precision ordnance delivery. The Diamonds captured the
Top Hook award for all three line periods giving an unprecedented 21
consecutive Top Hook awards, a record in Naval Aviation. The Blue Diamonds
also received the CINCPAC Pearl Harbor Retention Excellence Award by
surpassing all commands in retention rate.
On November 12, 2001 the Blue Diamonds deployed with CVW-9 on the USS John C.
Stennis (CVN-74). This time to conduct combat operations in support of
Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. The Diamonds deployed two months
early in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Port calls
on the way included Hong Kong and Singapore arriving in the North Arabian
Sea. On December 12, 2001 the Blue Diamonds began their first night strikes
into Afghanistan. The missions ranged from 4.5 to 6.0 hours with help from
the Roosevelt Battle Group and the Kennedy Battle Group. The Blue Diamonds
amassed over 3500 flight hours and delivering over 102,000 pounds of
ordnance. Milestones included extending their Top Hook Award streak to 24
after the first line period. Weapons included the JDAM, Laser Guided Bombs,
and Mk- 82's. The Diamonds returned at the end of May 2002 after a stopover
in Australia and a Tiger Cruise from Hawaii.
After a brief 3-month interim, a new, compressed workup cycle began in
response to heightening tensions with Iraq. VFA-146 began their 27th
deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on January 15, 2003. The Blue
Diamonds and the CAG-9 team were not tasked with supporting Operation Iraqi
Freedom but were attached to 7th fleet in the sea of Japan as a power
projection asset. It was the first "traditional" Westpac for the
Blue Diamonds in several years including port calls in Guam, Japan, Hong
Kong, Singapore, Perth and South Korea. All in all the deployment lasted 8
months to the day, getting our sailors home on September 17 for a brief
interim period over the holidays.
The Blue Diamonds spent the first half of 2004 maintaining readiness as part
of the Fleet Response Plan (FRP) and then started another workup cycle to
prepare for their 28th deployment.
The Diamonds began another cruise aboard USS Carl Vinson on January 17, 2005.
The "around-the-world" deployment took them across the Pacific and
Indian Oceans into the Persian Gulf. For three months the Blue Diamonds,
along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing 9, flew missions in support of
Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Vinson then turned south to steam around the Sinai
Peninsula into the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea,
then across the Atlantic. On July 31, 2005, the Vinson pulled into its new
homeport of Norfolk, VA completing another successful deployment for the Blue
On January 18th, 2007 the Blue Diamonds deployed again onboard USS John C
Stennis (CVN-74). For the next six months, the Diamonds flew combat missions
in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The
squadron reached an incredible milestone of 22 consecutive years with no
Class A mishaps, extending their outstanding safety record to more than
92,000 mishap-free flight hours. Additionally, VFA-146 flew more than 400
combat sorties, encompassing over 2,500 flight hours during a highly dynamic deployment.
Exceptional maintenance support led to the squadron’s extraordinary combat
performance in achieving a weapons effectiveness rate of 95% while delivering
more than 23,000 pounds of ordnance and over 5,000 rounds of 20mm in support
of Coalition Forces. The command’s attention to detail and tremendous pride
were integral to daily operations, and resulted in the Blue Diamonds earning
the CVW-9 “Golden Wrench Award” for maintenance excellence during the 2007
On the return home, the Blue Diamonds participated in Valiant Shield - a
three carrier exercise off the coast of Guam. Soon after, the Stennis pulled
into Hawaii to pick up family and friends for the Tiger Cruise and make the
final push towards home. On August 27th, after seven and a half months out to
sea, the Stennis pulled into San Diego ending yet another successful
deployment for the Blue Diamonds.
After enjoying some much needed time off for the holidays, the Blue Diamonds
hit the ground running for the start of another work up cycle. In February,
2008 the Diamonds traveled to Key West to prepare for the upcoming SFARP in
the months of March and April. Once again the Diamonds shined with superior
performance and maintenance completing both SFARP Fallon and their first boat
detachment TSTA. The Blue Diamonds are currently ramping up for a return
visit to Fallon for the next phase of work ups – Air Wing Fallon.
On January 17, 2009, the Blue Diamonds embarked on the USS STENNIS for the
beginning of their WESTPAC. The Carrier Strike Group THREE and Carrier Air
Wing NINE team helped reinforce foreign diplomacy and international relations
by participating in Exercise Foal Eagle off the coast of Korea. On their
return home, the Blue Diamonds pulled into Hawaii before steaming north to participate
in Northern Edge off the coast of Alaska with the United States Air Force. On
July 6th, 2009, the USS STENNIS pulled into Sand Diego marking the end of an
era onboard the USS STENNIS. Before departing CVW NINE, the Blue Diamonds
earned the 2009 Bruce Carrier Award for maintenance excellence.
In April 2010, the Blue Diamonds transitioned to the Carrier Air Wing
FOURTEEN team. Again, the Blue Diamonds were awarded the 2010 Bruce Carrier
Maintenance Award. On 2 February 2011, the Blue Diamonds deployed onboard the
USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76). During a seven month deployment, the Blue
Diamonds participated in Operations TOMODACHI, providing over 336,000 pounds
of vital supplies for over 34,000 displaced Japanese citizens during
humanitarian relief efforts. The Blue Diamonds then headed west, and flew 212
combat sorties in support of Operations NEW DAWN and ENDURING FREEDOM. The
USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76) and the Blue Diamonds returned home on 9 September
Upon returning from deployment, the Blue Diamonds had about a month at home
before again going to support sustainment training tasked by Third Fleet.
This operation lasted on month before the Blue Diamonds returned home again
in early November.
In December 2011, VFA-146 joined the CARRIER AIR GROUP ELEVEN and USS NIMITZ
(CVN-68) team, and began work-ups for their next deployment. In addition to
the normal work-up cycle, the Blue Diamonds embarked on the USS NIMITZ from
June to August 2012 while participating in the 2012 Rim of the Pacific
International Exercise. Soon after returning from the Pacific, VFA-146 and
CARRIER AIR GROUP ELEVEN headed to Fallon, Nevada to participate in 4-week
Air Wing Fallon exercise. As part of the normal work up cycle, the Blue
Diamond team returned back to the USS NIMITZ in October 2012 to November 2012
for Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX)/Joint Task Force Exercise