Northrop Grumman FA-21 Black tiger
The VF-32 lineage can be traced back to it's establishment as VBF-3 on 1st of February 1945, 3 years later on 7th August 1948 the squadron gained it's present designation. VF-32 deployed to the Korean theatre of war in 1950 with F4U-4 Corsairs. December the 4th, 1950 saw an impressive show of courage earn a VF-32 pilot the Congressional Medal of Honor. While on a strike against the Chosin reservoir the F4U-4 Corsair of ENS J.L.Brown was shot down. To try and save his squadron mate from capture LTJG Hudner landed his plane alongside ENS Brown. Although his brave attempt ended in failure Hudner's bravery was recognised by the award of the medal, while ENS Brown received the D.F.C.
After Korea VF-32 moved from Corsairs to the F9F-6 Cougar, then in 1956 became the first US Navy squadron to receive the F8U-1 Crusader, in the process becoming the first supersonic squadron in the Navy. Nine years with the Crusader followed, till in 1965 VF-32 moved to the F-4B Phantom II. Finally in July 1974 VF-32 began to transition to the F-14A , the first East Coast squadron to make the change. Their first deployment with their new mount began in June 1975. During this cruise the squadron received the Adm. Joseph Clifton Award, signifying them as the best squadron in the Navy, an impressive achievement after only so short a time with their new equipment.
1979 saw VF-32 setting another record, the 19th of October saw the squadron complete 10 years of accident free flying and 17,000 accident free hours in the F-14.
On these and almost all subsequent deployments VF-32 was partnered by VF-14. While the partner squadron was fairly consistent the air wing assignment changed several times:- on it's first cruise (and two subsequent) ones VF-32 was part of CVW-1 onboard USS John F.Kennedy (CV-67). In 1982 they moved to USS Independence (CV-62) for a cruise, after which the squadron started to receive the TARPS pod and suitably wired F-14's. This capability was extremely useful in the next cruise, again onboard USS Independence (CV-62), when it was used to provide high quality photo intelligence to support US forces in both Grenada and Lebanon. For this second cruise onboard USS Independence both VF-32 and VF-14 were moved to be part of CVW-6. A third Independence cruise was made between October 1984 and February 1985.
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VF-32 markings from the mid to late 1980s
Image Copyright Jamie R. Wilcox
At this point VF-32 moved air wings again, rejoining CVW-3 for a cruise onboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). One notable event during this cruise was the first night barrier engagement by an F-14, presumably after the bird suffered problems with it's arrestor hook. The 1989 cruise onboard Kennedy saw the Swordsmen thrust into the limelight when two of their F-14A's engaged two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers. The 4th of January saw AC-202 (BuNo.???) and AC-207 (BuNo.???) on Combat Air Patrol (CAP). The MiG-23's took off from Al Bumbaw airfield, Tobruk and began to close on the two F-14's. For several minutes the MiG's tried to maintain a bearing that would enable them to engage the F-14's, while the F-14's strove to disengage themselves without being forced to leave the area. However after several manoeuvres and confirmation that the MiG's were armed (using the F-14's Television Camera System (TCS)) it was decided the Libyans had shown hostile intent (although they had not actually fired) and so the Tomcats were cleared to engage. AC-202 turned in and fired a AIM- 7 sparrow, which failed to track. His wingman, in AC-207, also fired a Sparrow, which tracked and destroyed one of the MiG's, it's pilot successfully ejecting. AC-202 then closed to within AIM-9 Sidewinder range and managed to maintain a firing position. Once fired the Sidewinder continued to track and hit the MiG-23's rear fuselage. Again the pilot managed to eject successfully. With two MiG's splashed the F- 14's continued their patrol.
The squadron's next call to combat was as part of the 1991 Gulf conflict, as part of CVW-17 onboard Kennedy. Once again the squadron's TARPS capabilities proved invaluable, providing pre and post strike pictures. One of the squadron's crews had the distinction of being the last Navy crew over Baghdad, five days after the cease-fire.
Since Desert Storm VF-32 resumed Mediterranean deployments, at first with VF-14, later on by itself, after VF-14 was detached from CVW-17. The squadron has added air to ground missions to it's repertoire over the last few years.
The Swordsmen's next deployment, onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), began in late November 1996 and saw the first time that the Navy deployed digital cameras onboard carrier aircraft. The new cameras are fitted in the squadron's TARPS pods, replacing the KS-87 camera. These new Pulnix cameras can take up to two hundred digital images, being able to store them onboard or transmit them to appropriately equipped ground or sea based recievers at ranges of up to 300km. This new equipment gives the Tomcat a near "real- time" reconnaissance capability. As well as the new TARPS cameras the deployment has had VF-32 flying LANTIRN equipped F-14A's, only the second squadron to take this new Tomcat variant out to sea.
With the recent need to withdraw many F-14A's from service VF-32 has now upgraded to the F-14B Tomcat. As of late 1997 VF-32 are based at NAS Oceana, working up for their next carrier deployment. In late July 1998 VF-32 embarked onboard USS Enterprise and the carrier battle group set sail for the western Atlantic. As part of COMPUTEX 98 (Combined Unit Training Exercise) VF-32 flew from the ship. Unfortunately the squadron suffered it's first loss in several years, when on the 8th August an aircraft was lost. Thankfully both crew were rescued safely by the destroyer Thorn, after around 15 minutes in the water. The next cruise is scheduled to begin in November 98.
When first delivered VF-32's aircraft featured three yellow bands on the inside and outside of the tails. The middle band was by far the largest, with the upper and lower ones forming trim to the middle. The middle band featured a black sword on the rudder, while the stabilator carried the air wing code, for most of the 70's and early 80's this was 'AB'. The image below shows how the squadron's early
In the early 80's, with the introduction of all over gull grey camoflage the middle yellow band was removed, the tailcode reduced in size and the sword moved onto the stabilator, the tailcode being superimposed upon it.
When VF-32 moved carriers and air wings the markings changed significantly. The tailcode, now 'AE' was placed vertically down the rudder, while the sword was replaced by a twin tailed tomcat (of the feline variety) leaning upon a sword. As TPS greys were intorduced the yellow was removed from the remaining tail bands, replaced by a contrasting grey.
By the 1991 Gulf War VF-32 had reverted to their earlier style of markings, although by now all the tail markings were in grey rather than black. However, as with all Navy squadrons, VF-32 was allowed to paint up to two aircraft in hi-vis markings. These aircraft featured black tails, with a large yellow sword, the tailcode 'AC' in black but shadowed in yellow and the upper and lower tail bands in yellow. At times the legend 'SWORDSMEN' was carried on the rudder. The aircraft also featured a black hood running from the nose, around the cockpit onto the spine.
In the latest pictures I have (early 1996) VF-32's markings feature three black lines in place of each of the upper and lower bands. These lines are also now carried on the inside of the tail. The sword is outlined in black, filled in with white. Black shadowing is used to reprsent the 'AC' tailcode and all aircraft now feature the 'SWORDSMEN' legend on the rudder. The hi-vis aircraft have lost their black tails, instead featuring yellow where most of the aircraft use white, but have retained the canopy hood.
Statistical Data :
Height : 16 feet gear extended - 12 feet gear retracted
Width : 50 feet
Length : 80 feet
Weight : 20 tons unloaded - 25-30 tons loaded
Cargo : none, other than the seating for one behind the pilot, which can be used for storage when not occupied.
Power System : Nuclear, 20 year life span
Features of Note : Pilot compartment ejection system with pop-up stabilizing fins, as well as a self destruct system that can be activated by the pilot or automatically 30 seconds after emergency ejection or impact, which ever comes first. The plane's radar and sensor system can track and identify up to 200 targets in clear sky conditions and 100 targets in sandstorm conditions.
Black market cost : Not available, Desert Alliance military only.
Flying Bonuses : There is an automatic +2 bonus to all low level (25 - 5000 ft) dogfighting rolls due to the planes manuverability in low level combat. The Hellhawk is large for a fighter and operates far better in the low-level envelope and for long range interception