Active August 16, 1948 - September 30, 1994
Country United States
Branch United States Navy
Type Fleet replacement squadron
Part of Inactive
Fighter F-8 Crusader
Fighter Squadron 124 (VF-124) was a fleet replacement squadron of the United States Navy. Known as the Gunfighters, they were active from 1958 through 1994. The squadron's task was the training of pilots for the F-8 Crusader and later the F-14 Tomcat.
VF-124 was established on 16 August 1948 as VF-53 and became VF-124 at NAS Moffet Field on 11 April 1958 due to a need for an increased number of flight training squadrons, itself necessary because of introduction of swept wing fighters into Navy service. VF-124 had three missions assigned, initial training of F-8 Crusader pilots, bringing them to a standard where they were ready to join a fleet squadron, refresher training for aviators returning to the Pacific Fleet, and also providing maintenance training for ground personnel on the F-8.
This last mission is often overlooked, but was a crucial part of the training provided by a Fleet Readiness Squadron. In addition to these training roles, VF-124 maintained its instructor crews as combat ready pilots in case of national emergency. Flying the F8U-1, TV-2 and F9F-8T the Gunfighters won the Safety S awards for 1958 and 1959.
After three years at Moffet Field VF-124 moved to Naval Air Station Miramar which would become their life for the rest of its existence. F-8 training continued throughout the years and by 1970 VF-124 became the Pacific Fleet training squadron for the new F-14 Tomcat. VF-124 stopped training F-8 pilots in August 1972 and responsibility for the small number F-8’s left was handed over to VFP-63. VF-124 received their first F-14A’s on October 8, 1972. A few days later the two first active fleet F-14 squadrons, VF-1 and VF-2 were commissioned. In December 1973, US Marine Corps officers reported to VF-124 to start training as instructors. USMC involvement continued until 1976 when it was decided that the F-14 was too expensive for the USMC to operate. The first set of replacements pilots trained by VF-124 took to sea in December 1974, flying day and night carrier qualifications of the deck of USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).
n 1976 personnel from the Imperial Iranian Air Force arrived to begin training on the F-14 until the overthrow of the Shah three years later. As a new decade began the role of reconnaissance was introduced to the F-14 with the TARPS pod. VF-124 began to teach air and ground crews how to operate the pod. By December 1988 VF-124 had trained 1502 aircrew, over 14.400 maintenance personnel and flown over 153,193 flight hours and VF-124 also achieved 124 days without any Foreign Object Damage.
With the introduction of the improved F-14D Super Tomcat, VF-124 was assigned the role of training air and ground personnel on the new aircraft and the first F-14D was accepted on November 16, 1990, with four aircraft undertaking the first fleet F-14D carrier qualifications on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on October 2, 1991.
On March 11, 1993 a VF-124 F-14 made the final landing on USS Ranger (CVA-61), Lieutenant Mark A. Garcia and Lieutenant Tim Taylor completed the carrier’s 330,683rd landing. With the downsizing of the F-14 squadrons in the early 1990s the Navy’s training squadrons were reduced and VF-124 was disestablished in September 1994 and the responsibility of all F-14 training went to VF-101. VF-124 would operate the F-14A Tomcat and the F-14D Super Tomcat as all F-14B Tomcats were flown by the Atlantic Fleet Squadrons.