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Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 “Vigilantes”

Squadron History

Four U.S. Navy squadrons have been designated VF-151. In 1948, what would become VFA-151 was established as VF-23, based at NAS Oceana, VA. 


In 1948, VF-23 was stationed at NAS Oceana, VA and flew the F4U-5 Corsair and F6F-5P Hellcat while attached to Carrier Air Group TWO onboard USS CORAL SEA (CVB 43).

In April 1949, the squadron was exclusively flying the F4U-5 Corsair and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, onboard USS CORAL SEA (CVB 43), from May to December 1949.


In August 1950, the squadron moved to NAS Alameda, CA and deployed for the first of three cruises in support of the Korean War. On 15 September 1950, the squadron flew combat missions from USS BOXER (CV 21) in support of the amphibious landings at Inchon, Korea.

In November 1950, the squadron relocated to NAS Moffett Field, CA. A year later, the squadron transitioned to the jet age, flying the straight-wing F9F-2 Panther on their second Korean deployment from USS PRINCETON (CV 37). In August 1952, the squadron flew from USS ESSEX (CV 9) for the third Korean War deployment to participate in joint operations with the U.S. Air Force to strike targets in Pyongyang. In March 1953, the squadron transitioned to the F2H-3 Banshee and adopted the role as an all-weather fighter squadron. The following year, they operated off the coast of Vietnam during the Viet Minh’s assault against the French at Dien Bien Phu. In December 1956, VF-23 transitioned to the F4D-1 Skyray. In August and September 1958, the squadron flew sorties from USS YORKTOWN (CV 10) in the Taiwan Straits after the Chinese Communists bombarded Quemoy Island.

In January 1959, the renamed Vigilantes transitioned to the F3H-2 Demon. On 23 February 1959, the squadron was re-designated to Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE (VF-151) and assigned to Carrier Air Group FIFTEEN (CVG-15). 


In July 1961, the squadron moved homeport to NAS Miramar, CA and made the first of three Western Pacific deployments onboard USS CORAL SEA (CVA 43) while flying the F3H-2 Demon.

In January 1964, the squadron transitioned to the two-seat F-4B Phantom II and deployed on its first Vietnam War cruise. During deployment, the squadron flew nearly 1,500 combat sorties in support of Operation ROLLING THUNDER. In December 1966, the Vigilantes returned to Southeast Asia on their second deployment onboard USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64). The Vigilantes made their third deployment of the war onboard USS CORAL SEA (CVA 43) from July 1967 to April 1968. On 24 October 1967, the squadron's Commanding Officer, CDR C. R. Gillespie and his Radar Intercept Officer, LTJG R. C. Clark were shot down by a surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam. CDR Gillespie became a prisoner of war and was released in May 1973. LTJG Clark died while in captivity.

The Vigilantes deployed for their fourth and fifth combat deployments onboard USS CORAL SEA (CVA 43) in September of 1968 and 1969. During the 1969 deployment the Vigilantes flew more than 2,100 combat sorties, more than any other squadron in Fiscal Year (FY) 1970. 


In April 1971, the Vigilantes deployed on their sixth deployment with Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5) onboard USS MIDWAY (CVA 41), flying 1,012 combat sorties. In April 1972, the squadron deployed on its seventh and final deployment of the Vietnam War. During this deployment, the Vigilantes spent 205 consecutive days supporting Operation LINEBACKER-I, the bombing campaign designed to disrupt supplies to the North Vietnamese. The Vigilante’s 205 days of continuous combat operations was the longest unbroken period of combat flight operations during the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1973, the Vigilantes participated in every major operation of the war, resulting in the most deployments, the longest combat deployment, and more time on the line than any other carrier based unit.

In March 1973, the Vigilantes returned from Vietnam and transitioned to the F-4N variant of the Phantom. On 11 September 1973, the Vigilantes arrived at their new homeport of Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan while attached to USS MIDWAY (CVA 41). On 1 April 1975, the Vigilantes departed Atsugi and headed to Yankee Station, Vietnam in support of Operation FREQUENT WIND. The ship took onboard U.S. Marine Corps helicopters as it passed Okinawa, Japan and offloaded them in the vicinity of NAS Cubi Point, Philippines. The Vigilantes then flew Combat Air Patrols in support of “Buffalo Hunter” missions while the North Vietnamese moved quickly through South Vietnam.

In August 1976, the Vigilantes conducted flight operations near the Korean Peninsula after the murder of U.S. military personnel in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In August 1977, the Vigilantes transitioned to the F-4J variant of the Phantom. In 1978, the Vigilantes were named the top Tactical Aircraft squadron in CVW-5 and received the CNO Safety "S" Award. The Vigilantes made three Indian Ocean deployments between 1979 and 1980. In 1979, USS MIDWAY (CVA 41) and CVW-5 deployed to the Gulf of Aden following the outbreak of violence between North and South Yemen. Following the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran, USS MIDWAY (CVA 41) proceeded to the Gulf of Oman and remained stationed there until relieved in early February 1980. 


In December 1980, the Vigilantes transitioned to the F-4S variant of the Phantom. On 24 March 1986, the squadron flew off USS MIDWAY (CVA 41) for the last time as VF-151. This event was the last F-4 Phantom II take off from an aircraft carrier.

The Vigilantes reported to NAS Lemoore, CA to transition to the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.VFA-151 was one of two F-4 fighter squadrons to transition to the F/A-18 and be re-designated a strike fighter squadron. On 1 June 1986, the squadron was re-designated as VFA-151. In November 1986, the Vigilantes returned to NAF Atsugi, Japan.

During the 1988 Summer Olympics, the Vigilantes were onboard the USS MIDWAY (CVA 41) and operated in the Sea of Japan to demonstrate U.S. support. 


In October 1990, the Vigilantes deployed onboard USS MIDWAY (CVA 41) in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. On 17 January 1991, the Vigilantes participated in the initial air strikes of Operation DESERT STORM, dropping approximately 817,000 pounds of ordnance on targets in Iraq, Kuwait, and the Northern Persian Gulf.

In August 1991, the Vigilantes were transferred to Carrier Air Wing TWO (CVW-2) and moved back to NAS Lemoore, CA. In February 1993, the Vigilantes transitioned to F/A-18C Hornet Lot XV aircraft.

In 1994 and 1995, the Vigilantes contributed to the enforcement of "no-fly" zones over Southern Iraq in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. 


In 2001, the Vigilantes deployed with USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) and received the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific's Battle "E" Award for FY 2000.

In November 2002, the Vigilantes deployed for its final deployment onboard the USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64). On 7 August 2003, USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) was decommissioned in San Diego, CA. The Vigilantes and CVW-2 later embarked the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72). In October 2004, the Vigilantes deployed on its first Western Pacific surge deployment in support of the U.S. Navy's new Fleet Response Plan. While deployed, the Vigilantes participated in Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE - the humanitarian relief effort to assist tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia.

In March 2008, the Vigilantes departed on a seven month Western Pacific deployment onboard USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. The Vigilantes completed 468 combat sorties and 1,795 deployed sorties encompassing 2,600 flight hours in support of combat operations. 


In October 2010, the Vigilantes again deployed onboard USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) in support of Operations NEW DAWN and ENDURING FREEDOM. The Vigilantes executed 398 combat sorties encompassing the employment of 10 precision guided munitions and the total expenditure of 1,467 rounds of 20mm.

In December 2011, the Vigilantes were sent out again in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM for a five month surge deployment. The Vigilantes returned home in August 2012, after extending twice, employing four precision guided bombs and nine strafing runs totaling 1,718 rounds. In February 2013, the Vigilantes began transitioning to LOT 35/36 F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft. On 1 June 2013, the Vigilantes left CVW-2 and moved to CVW-9. While attached to the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74), the Vigilantes departed the U.S. in January 2016 for a deployment to the Western Pacific. During deployment, the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) and CVW-9 participated in the 2016 Rim of the Pacific Exercise.

In October 2018, the Vigilantes embarked USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) for an around-the-world combat deployment. They conducted operations globally in support of national interests and freedom of navigation. The Vigilantes also conducted combat operations in support of Operations FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, INHERENT RESOLVE, and DELIBERATE RESOLVE, culminating in 40,376 pounds of ordnance on target in support of coalition ground forces. 

Among many achievements the Vigilantes have received eight Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, five Battle "E" Awards, six Safety "S" Awards, six Navy Unit Commendations, seven Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citations, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Squadron Insignia and Nickname

The squadron’s first insignia was approved by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) on 9 August 1949, and consisted of a blue helmeted knight with a white shield. The squadron also adopted the nickname "Flashers" in 1949. The current insignia was approved on 26 May 1955, and the nickname was changed to "Vigilantes" in 1959, symbolizing the unit's around-the-clock vigil of combat readiness and effectiveness.

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