The history of VF-142 Ghostriders Squadron USN
1948 – April 1995
Originally commissioned at NAS Alameda as Fighter Squadron ONE NINETY-THREE (VF-193) aboard USS Yorktown (CVA-10) in 1948 flying the Grumman F8F Bearcat, the Ghostriders transitioned to the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair in 1950 and completed 2 combat deployments aboard USS Princeton (CV-37) during the Korean War.
In 1952 with Air Group 19 at NAS Moffett Field, the squadron transitioned to the jet age flying the McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee aboard USS Yorktown. From 1957 to 1963 the Ghostriders operated the McDonnell F3H-3 Demon aboard USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) and were awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” Award in 1960 and again in 1962.
In 1963 the Demon was replaced by the 2-seat McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II and the command was re-designated VF-142. Between May 1964 and May 1968, the Ghostriders made 4 WestPac deployments, one in USS Ranger (CV-61) and the remainder in USS Constellation (CV-64). During these cruises, 2 MiG-21s, one MiG-17 and an An-2 Colt aircraft were downed by VF-142 crew members. The squadron was also awarded the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle Efficiency “E” Award.
After transition from the F-4B to the newer F-4J aircraft, the Ghostriders once again deployed for WestPAC in USS Constellation on 11 August 1969. The squadron was awarded the Battle E Award in 1968-1969, and the Naval Aviation Safety Award for 1969-1970. In June 1971, VF-142 deployed in USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for a sixth combat deployment to Vietnam.
September 1972 saw the Ghostriders deployed on their seventh and final combat deployment to Southeast Asia, again in USS Enterprise. MiGCAP and BarCAP missions were flown in support of the first B-52 strikes into the heart of North Vietnam prior to the cease fire. During this combat deployment the Ghostriders downed another MiG-21, their fifth enemy aircraft, becoming the Navy’s first ace squadron of the Vietnam War.
Following a short turnaround in the fall of 1973, VF-142 deployed to the Mediterranean embarked in USS America (CV-66). After the squadron’s return to NAS Miramar, transition to the F-14A Tomcat began. On 1 April 1975 the squadron changed homeports from NAS Miramar to NAS Oceana leaving CVW-14 to become part of CVW-6.
In April 1976, VF-142 deployed to the Mediterranean Sea embarked in USS America conducting the first F-14 intercept of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear bomber on 23 April 1976. The Ghostriders were awarded the Battle E for their outstanding performance prior to and during this cruise.
During 1978, the Ghostriders changed ship/air wing from CVW-6/USS America to CVW-7/USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). The Ghostriders deployed 15 January 1979 for Eisenhower’s first Mediterranean deployment, returning to NAS Oceana on 16 July 1979.
After a brief visit at home and pre-deployment refresher training (REFTRA), the Ghostriders set out in January 1980 for workups before heading to the Indian Ocean on 16 April 1980 for what would be a record setting deployment. As an element of the 7th Fleet, Ike and Air Wing 7 participated in contingency operations in support of U.S. policy during the Iranian Hostage crisis. From 16 April to 22 December 1980 the Ghostriders were at-sea continuously, with the exception of one five-day port visit to Singapore. For this deployment, the squadron was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and a Navy Unit Commendation.
Following workups in the fall of 1981, the Ghostriders again deployed on 5 January 1982 to the Mediterranean in USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Returning 15 July 1982, the squadron conducted a 4-month training cycle which included detachments to Nellis AFB and NAS Fallon, Nevada.
The Ghostriders departed Norfolk on 27 April 1983 in Ike for sensitive operation in the volatile Middle East. From mid-July until the end of the deployment in December 1983, VF-142 spent all but five days at sea in support of the U.S. Marines and multinational peace-keeping forces in Beirut, Lebanon. VF-142’s 32 officers, 205 enlisted men and 12 F-14 Tomcats accumulated over 3,200 flight hours and 1500 carrier arrested landings during the 1983 deployment.
1984 proved to be a banner year for the Ghostriders. Pre-deployment training started in early January with detachments to Nellis AFB, NAS Roosevelt Roads and NAS Fallon. In March the squadron set a new standard of excellence by achieving a 6.2:1 kill ratio during the Fleet Fighter Air Combat Maneuvering Readiness Program (FFARP) and captured the CVW-7 ACM Shot down Trophy for the second consecutive year. On 7 May 1984, the Ghostriders departed Norfolk for refresher training followed by a visit to the coast of Normandy for the D-Day 40th anniversary celebration.
From 10 July to 19 July and again from 8 August to 7 September 1984, the Ghostriders cruised the Caribbean Islands for a very successful Operational Readiness Exercise. In October the squadron deployed to the Mediterranean for one of its most successful deployments ever. VF-142 flew over 4000 accident and FOD free hours and dominated the competition for the coveted Battle E award.
Upon return to NAS Oceana on 7 May 1985, the Ghostriders had a little time home with the loved ones before leaving again on 8 July for the Central American operating area. During this time, they also participated in Ocean Safari, a 3 carrier battle group exercise in the North Atlantic.
The squadron finally returned home on 4 September 1985 for an extended turnaround while Ike went into the shipyard for its first overhaul. After a change of command in April of 1987, the squadron left NAS Oceana on 2 May for a CVW-7 weapons training detachment to NAS Fallon. There, the Ghostriders spearheaded what was described as “the best fighter performance ever seen ” by the Commander of the Navy Strike Warfare Center.
From 15 June to 23 July 1987 the Ghostriders were embarked in Ike for her Shakedown Cruise. Thus began several short sea periods in preparation for their upcoming Mediterranean Cruise. The squadron spent five weeks in the Caribbean where they participated in joint service operations with the Venezuelan Air Force. In September and late October, during operations in the Caribbean, the Ghostriders successfully fired 2 AIM-54, 3 AIM-7 and 4 AIM-9 air-to-air missiles.
January 1988 saw the Ghostriders once again deployed in Ike. The squadron started the year off on the right foot contributing directly to the success of the first fleet exercise of 1988. The exercise, which also involved USS Forrestal in dual carrier operations, was staged against adversary forces consisting of US Navy and Air Forces assets. The Ghostriders flew around the clock for five days testing their abilities in all aspects of anti-air warfare. Following the exercise, they successfully fired and guided 3 AIM- air-to-air missiles.
On 29 February 1988, the squadron departed NAS Oceana for a 6 month Mediterranean deployment in USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. The cruise was highlighted by the Ghostriders participation in several joint NATO, Air Force and Navy exercises. VF-142 flew overland and over-water missions in several highly successful NATO exercises with Spanish, French and Tunisians. The squadron flew over 1200 sorties totaling 2500 hours during a six month deployment.
Following a brief stand down period, VF-142 commenced preparation for the Fleet Fighter Air Combat Maneuvering Readiness Program. After a highly successful FFARP in October and November, the Ghostriders participated in a missile exercise at Roosevelt Roads from 7 December 1988 to 18 December 1988. VF-142 fired 2 AIM-54, 3 AIM-7 and one AIM-9 missiles to culminate an extremely successful year of operations.
1989 began with an air-to-air gunnery detachment to NAS Key West. April was spent preparing for and then deploying in Ike for a week of Independent Steaming Exercises. Following a brief port visit to Norfolk, Ike and her air wing departed to take part in the highly successful exercise Solid Shield 89, along with thousands of personnel from the Marines, Navy, Air Force and Army.
After returning from Solid Shield, the squadron began transitioning to the F-14B, receiving its first new aircraft on 24 March 1989. The F-14B, with much more powerful engines and several avionics upgrades, represents a long awaited update to the Tomcat which has been in service since 1973.
The Ghostriders and their sister squadron, the VF-143 Pukin’ Dogs, were the Navy’s first squadrons to fly the FFARP, conduct airwing strike exercises at NAS Fallon and became the first to deploy with the new F-14B aircraft.
The squadron deployed on the 8th of March, 1990 to the Mediterranean for a 6 month deployment once again in Ike. Ghostriders aircrew engaged many NATO aircraft in exercise Dragon Hammer 90, and the new F-14Bs proved to be superior performers. The Ike transited the Suez Canal on the 8th of August in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Ike and Airwing 7 were the first to arrive and took up station in the Red Sea in support of operation Desert Shield. The first ever Red Sea battle group was well protected under the watchful eyes of the F-14B flying combat air patrol. The squadron exceeded 2300 flight hours and logged over 1200 arrested landings in their new Tomcats. Ghostriders maintenance did an outstanding job in maintaining the new systems, and the squadron completed 1227 of 1229 assigned sorties.
With a conflict in the Arabian Gulf brewing, the Ghostriders took a short break after returning, but quickly got back on an accelerated turnaround schedule in case the need arose for more carriers in the Middle East. In October 1990, the squadron got in a quick at sea period for some carrier refresher. From the end of November to the end of December saw the squadron completing the most successful FFARP ever with a 11.5:1 kill ratio. This earned the squadron the FFARP trophy for 1990.
The Ghostriders quickly resumed full training as the crisis in the Middle East loomed. The squadron combined regular turnaround training with constant CHQ readiness to provide a ready asset. After the crisis passed the next deployment was finally set for September 1991.
The Eisenhower departed Norfolk on 26 September 1991 for a 6 month deployment to the Arabian Gulf. While acting as a deterrent to regional aggression, the Ghostriders participated in many joint and multi-national exercises throughout the 6 month in the region. On the way home, the Ike was tasked to be the focal point of Teamwork 92, a large multi-national exercise in the North Atlantic. The squadron handled the change in operating conditions brilliantly and demonstrated to the world what the Navy of the future will be able to do.
After a brief break that followed their 6 month deployment, the Ghostriders returned to full speed preparing for their transition to the USS George Washington. The newest carrier in the fleet welcomed CVW-7 in the early Fall of 1992 and quickly got underway with a six week shakedown cruise. The Ghostriders led the way in acclimating the new ship and her crew to life at sea and operations with the airwing aboard.
The early part of 1993 saw the Ghostriders excel once again in FFARP against adversaries of VF-43. With the new emphasis on using Tomcat in an air-to-ground roll, the Ghostriders developed an entirely new syllabus for FFARP which incorporated the F-14B as self-escorted strike-fighters.
The squadron then spent several weeks in the Spring flying as adversaries for the US Air Force Weapons School in Nevada. While in this detachment at Nellis AFB, the aircrew continued to train as strikers by dropping live Mk.80 series bombs and the first Rockeye delivery of a fleet F-14.
The Ghostriders pushed into the Summer of ’93 with a brief at sea period for carrier training and integration with the other squadrons of CVW-7. Immediately following, the squadron completed the newly developed air-to-ground intensive AARP training. The new syllabus emphasized the latest in F-14B strike tactics. The end of the summer found the squadron again aboard George Washington for up tempo carrier operations.
Unfortunately in the climate of budget cuts and air wing reorganization VF-142 has gone the way of many F-14 squadrons, being disestablished in April of 1995.