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Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94 “Mighty Shrikes”

Squadron History

Fighter Squadron 94 was commissioned at NAS Alameda, California in 1952. Nicknamed the Mighty Shrikes, the squadron was named after a small carnivorous bird of prey that impales its victim on sharp thorns. The Mighty Shrikes began flying the F4U Corsair, but quickly transitioned to jet aircraft. For the next five years, the squadron received and flew the F7U-7, FJ-3, F9F-8, F8U-1, F11F-1 Tiger and FJ-4.

The Mighty Shrikes were re-designated as Light Attack Squadron 94 in 1958 and moved to NAS Lemoore, California in 1962. VA-94 aviators flew all models of the A-4 Skyhawk before transitioning to the A-7 Corsair II in February 1971.

The Mighty Shrikes completed seven consecutive combat deployments to Southeast Asia, commencing with a cruise aboard USS RANGER in 1964. In 1965, as part of Air Wing 9, the squadron was airlifted to Norfolk to join USS ENTERPRISE on her first combat cruise. The squadron was assigned to Air Wing 5 in 1966 and completed four combat deployments aboard USS HANCOCK and USS BON HOMME RICHARD. After transitioning to the A 7 Corsair II, the squadron was assigned to Air Wing 15 and completed its final Southeast Asia combat deployment aboard USS CORAL SEA. VA-94 aircraft led the first major Navy bombing strikes into North Vietnam after the 1968 bombing halt and participated in the mining of Haiphong harbor.

In 1973, the squadron deployed on its first peacetime cruise in a decade, again with Carrier Air Wing 15 aboard USS CORAL SEA. In 1975, the Mighty Shrikes participated in Operation FREQUENT WIND, the Saigon evacuation which terminated United States military involvement in Vietnam. Shortly thereafter, the squadron participated in the recovery of SS MAYAGUEZ after its seizure by Cambodia. From May 1979 to January 1980, the squadron deployed aboard USS KITTY HAWK to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, including 63 days of operations in the Arabian Sea during the Iran Hostage Crisis. The squadron's next deployment aboard USS KITTY HAWK was completed in 1981.

In January 1982, the Mighty Shrikes joined CVW-11 and deployed aboard USS ENTERPRISE. A Navy milestone was set in April 1983 when VA-94 became the first single engine tactical aircraft squadron to fly across the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines to the United States. In May 1984, the Mighty Shrikes deployed again aboard USS ENTERPRISE to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. In 1986, aboard USS ENTERPRISE, VA-94 made history as part of the first nuclear aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal. The Shrikes cruised the Mediterranean for three months, supporting operations against Libya.

In 1988, during their 19th deployment, the Mighty Shrikes again made history by striking the naval forces of Iran as part of Operation PRAYING MANTIS, the first major U.S. naval battle since World War II. In October 1988, VA-94 received the coveted LTJG Bruce Carrier Award for excellence in Aviation Maintenance.

In the fall of 1989, the Mighty Shrikes deployed again aboard USS ENTERPRISE. After completing a world cruise, the Mighty Shrikes retired their trusty, battle proven A-7E Corsairs. This successful deployment was marked by winning the CNAP Battle "E."

In June 1990, the Mighty Shrikes received their first FA-18C, Lot XII Hornet and were re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron 94. In May 1991, they transferred to USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN and deployed to the Arabian Gulf in support of United Nations sanctions following the war in Iraq. The Mighty Shrikes also participated in Operation FIERY VIGIL, evacuating thousands of homeless people from the Philippines after the Mt Pinatubo eruption. They subsequently received the Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation for their contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

On 15 June 1993, the squadron deployed aboard USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN for its 22nd deployment, flying their first missions over Southern Iraq in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. In October 1993, USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN left the Arabian Gulf for Somalia to provide force protection for U.S. and other United Nations forces aiding in the humanitarian relief effort.

After a very short turnaround, the Mighty Shrikes found themselves flying in Southern Iraq enforcing the NO FLY ZONE. The Mighty Shrikes were key participants in Operation VIGILANT SENTINEL. In October 1995, the squadron transferred to USS KITTY HAWK under the direction of Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group FIVE, deploying 10 October 1996 to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. On 13 May 1997, the Mighty Shrikes transferred to USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) under the direction of Commander, Carrier Group THREE. The Mighty Shrikes deployed aboard USS CARL VINSON on 10 November 1998 to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operations DESERT FOX and SOUTHERN WATCH.

Preceding its impending 2001 cruise, the Mighty Shrikes completed an exhaustive training and maintenance program and won first place in a field of 11 squadrons during the John P. McClaren Strike Fighter Derby.

On 27 July 2001, the squadron deployed aboard USS CARL VINSON with CVW-11. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the squadron was called to lead the first missions of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM on October 7, 2001. In the months that followed, VFA-94 and CVW-11 participated in precision strikes against key Taliban locations in Afghanistan. The squadron amassed over 2,400 combat hours, 664 combat sorties and the expenditure of 550,000 pounds of ordnance on targets in Afghanistan. The squadron returned home on 19 January 2002.

The squadron returned to USS NIMITZ on 3 March 2003 in an extended eight-month combat deployment with CVW-11 in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In the following months, the Mighty Shrikes flew 492 combat sorties, 1871.2 combat hours, and expended 60,000 pounds of ordnance on targets in Iraq.

On 7 May 2005, the squadron deployed a final time aboard USS NIMITZ flying over 460 combat sorties while logging 2000 plus mishap-free combat flight hours in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Mighty Shrikes completed more than 900 carrier arrested landings, achieving an overall sortie completion rate of 98% for the deployment. The squadron returned home on 7 November 2005 and began preparing for its transition to the Unit Deployment Program. In January 2007, VFA-94 traversed nearly 7,000 nautical miles of open ocean on its first Unit Deployment Program evolution to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

Only the second U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron to participate in a USMC UDP deployment, VFA-94 participated in Exercise FOAL EAGLE, the first ever U.S. Navy expeditionary deployment to Korea, and Exercise COBRA GOLD in Thailand. The squadron received numerous accolades for success in number of sorties completed and overall mission accomplishment.

The Mighty Shrikes returned to Iwakuni on their second UDP deployment in July 2008 in support of the Global War on Terror and Pacific Operations. Following the Pacific Ocean transit, the Mighty Shrikes participated in Exercise SOUTHERN FRONTIER at RAAF Tindal, Australia, Exercise TALON VISION at Clark AFB, Philippines, Exercise WOLMI-DO FURY at Kadena AFB, Okinawa, and Exercise LAVA VIPER at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. After a 7 month deployment, the Mighty Shrikes were commended for the highest sortie completion rate of any squadron in Marine Aircraft Group-12, with a half million pounds of ordnance expended.

During shore-based training between deployments, Strike Fighter Squadron 94 was awarded the 2009 Boola Boola/Grand Slam award by Commander Naval Air Forces, as the west coast strike fighter squadron that demonstrated the highest proficiency in live air to air missile shots.

In July 2010, VFA-94 completed their 3rd consecutive UDP Deployment. The Mighty Shrikes participated in the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force's (JASDF) 3rd Air Wing on Misawa AB, including a large force element exercise involving 18 aircraft of F/A-18Cs, F-2s, and USAF F-16s, and a Patriot battery from the 6th Air Defense Missile Group. Additionally, they participated in Exercise FOAL EAGLE over the Korean peninsula.

In preparation for their 2011 deployment, the Mighty Shrikes completed a Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program and honed their skills in operations supporting the Weapons Training Instructor course. In July of 2011, VFA-94 left Lemoore, CA headed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan for its fourth and final UDP deployment. The Mighty Shrikes arrived at MCAS Iwakuni 12 July 2011 with 12 combat ready aircraft. During their very successful UDP deployment they flew 4,721 hours, expended 245,000 pounds of ordnance, won the MAG-12 Air-to-Surface Strafe Tactical Task competition and participated in Exercise WOLMI DO FURY from Anderson AFB, Guam. Making history as the final U.S. Navy F/A-18 UDP deployment, VFA-94 safely flew 12 aircraft home to Lemoore in January 2012.

The Mighty Shrikes, along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17), began combat operations in Iraq and Syria in late October 2014. Operating from the deck of the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70), the squadron would send between 4-6 sorties over contested territory each day. These missions would consist of interdiction, non-traditional surveillance, strikes, and close air support to the government of Iraq. Over the course of six months the squadron employed over 100,000 lbs of ordnance, including the first unguided rockets employed in combat from a U.S. carrier in over forty years. Supporting this effort was the outstanding Maintenance Department, who was awarded the 2014 LTJG Bruce Carrier Award for maintenance excellence and the CVW-17 Golden Wrench Award for maintenance performance during workups and deployment.

Shortly after returning from deployment the Mighty Shrikes flew their last sortie in the F/A-18C Hornet on August 26, 2015. Soon after the squadron began transitioning to the two seat F/A-18F Super Hornet and began to receive their Lot 25 aircraft. After a six month transition syllabus, the Mighty Shrikes were declared safe for flight in the Super Hornet in March of 2016.

During the squadron's history, it has been awarded two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, four Navy Unit Commendations, six Meritorious Unit Commendations, six Battle Efficiency Awards, Michael J. Estocin Award, two Navy Expeditionary Medals, and three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals for outstanding performance in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM during their 2005 deployment cruise.


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