VF-154 arose when a Naval Reserve squadron was called to operational duty for the Korean War. The squadron was activated as VFB-718 upon the 1st of July 1946. Initially based at NAS Floyd Bennett, NY, their first mount was the F-6F Hellcat, soon followed by the F-4U Corsair. As well as changing aircraft, the squadron went through several designation changes, becoming VF-68A then VF-837. During their time as VF-837 the squadron moved from NAS Floyd Bennett to NAS Moffett Field, CA.
Strike Fighter Squadron 154 (VFA-154), also known as the "Black Knights", is a United States Navy strike fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. The Black Knights are an operational fleet squadron flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet. They are currently attached to Carrier Air Wing Eleven and deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Their radio callsign is "Knight".
When the unit was called VF-837 the squadron moved to NAS Moffett Field in California. VF-837 flew a combat cruise in the Korean War of theUSS Antietam (CV-36). By this time they were flying the F9F-2 Panther. VF-837 returned from their first cruise and started working up for a second cruise. On February 4, 1953 while passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on board the USS Princeton (CV-37) and on their way back to Korea, VF-837 became VF-154. VF-154 dropped 470 tons of bombs and expended 1,500 000 rounds of ammunition in Korea and on June 15, 1953 VF-154 flew 48 sorties on a single day, setting a record for a Navy squadron. By now the squadron had transitioned to the F9F-5 Panther. During this period until fall of 1957, the VF-154 insignia was a flaming black panther on a yellow background. In the late 50's VF-154 – still home based at NAS Moffett Field – was flying North American Aircraft's "Mach-buster", the FJ-3 "Fury."
An F-8D Crusader from VF-154 in the early 1960s.
In 1957 VF-154 transitioned to the Navy's first operational supersonic carrier aircraft, the F-8 Crusader. In recognition of the new era and aircraft, VF-154 changed its insignia. Because of the new 1,000 mph fighters, the squadron was designated “The Grand Slammers” and a new insignia was designed by squadron pilot, John "Crash" Miottel with the final version drawn by the famous cartoonist Milton Caniff, creator of the Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. The new insignia was a silver Crusader knight on a black field with 2 F-8 divisions (4 plane formations) crossing in the background. Suffice it to say that the combination of supersonic aircraft and modified WW2 small deck, "27-Charley" carriers such asUSS Hancock (CV-19) – VF-154's assigned carrier – was not easy on aircraft or pilots – VF-154 lost a full squadron of aircraft (14) and 20% of its pilots in the process.
Because of the patch design, and the arrival of new Crusaders configured for night operations, the squadron unofficially became known as the "Black Knights." That designation was added to the insignia and the name and insignia remain as VF-154 symbols to this day. (see the Black Knight insignia on this page and Crash’s link below for more VF-154 and Crusader history.)
Aside from the normal hazards, the next time VF-154 went into harm's way was the Vietnam War. The first deployment was in 1965 on board theUSS Coral Sea (CV-43), part of Carrier Air Wing 15. Their first combat strikes occurred on February 7 and their combat cruise lasted until November the same year. After that yearly combat cruises followed and VF-154 soon transitioned to the F-4 Phantom II and became part of Carrier Air Wing 2, where it remained until 1980. After a second cruise with the Coral Sea, the Black Knights shifted carrier to the USS Ranger (CV-61) and completing five more cruises to South East Asia.
An F-4N Phantom II from VF-154 (right) aboard USS Coral Sea.
During 1968-69, 1969–70, & 1970-71 WestPac cruises aboard USS Ranger CVA-61, VF-154 was equipped with the F-4J Phantom II which used the Westinghouse AWG-10 RADAR system. Beginning with their 16 November 1972 deployment onboard USS Ranger, VF-154 participated in some of the last US Navy strikes of the war, they undertook the squadrons final Vietnam cruise, and they were awarded the Clifton Award - recognizing them as the best fighter squadron in the United States Navy.
In 1979 the unit transitioned to the F-4S, the last Navy version of the aircraft, but returned to the F-4N in January 1981. Several cruises with the USS Coral Sea followed, as the carrier did not have strong enough decks to carry the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. During this time VF-154 spent 120 days at sea of the coast of Iran during the Iranian hostage crisis until the hostages were formally released into United States custody just minutes after the new American president Ronald Reagan was sworn in. Thus VF-154, and sister squadron VF-21, were among the last units to convert to the F-14A. VF-154 finally transitioned to the F-14A in October 1983. Due to their late equipment the squadron received TARPS capable F-14s from the start. The first cruise with the F-14 was in 1985 on board the USS Constellation (CV-64) as part of Carrier Air Wing 14. Several further cruises on board “Connie” followed, with one taking place in 1987, during this cruise they operated in the Persian Gulf, intercepting IranianP-3s and conducting movements in the Gulf of Oman, at the so called “Gonzo” station.
After the Panther, VF-154 acquired the F-3J Fury, followed by the F-8 Crusader in 1957. The new F-8 persuaded VF-154 to change their insignia and name. The squadron was known as “The Grand Slammers” with the insignia of a flaming panther. The new insignia, designed by Milton Caniff, creator of the Steve Canyon cartoon, was the Black Knight, armed with a sword to strike down the enemies of peace and justice and a shield to protect those unable to protect themselves.