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FITRON 81 Crusaders - 1955
VA-81 Sunliners last Corsair cruise 1987
VFA-81 Sunliners - 1988
VFA-81 Sunliners - 1955-2018
December 1955 - The Crusader Black Cougar patch was created.
Second Black Cougar Patch is probably during the Skyhawk period, 1959 to 1963.
November 1963 - The Mach Shock Wave patch was created.
March 30, 1988 - When VA-81 was re-designated VFA-81 the patch was modified with supersonic aircraft and celestial stars.
The patch with the panther was kept into 1963 with the orange one being adapted after return from the Med cruise. I guess "shock wave" is a more appropriate description but we referred to it as a "Supersonic Nothing"! Orange reflective tape lent itself nicely to being cut into that simple shape. Said cutouts then began to turn up "Anytime - Any place" including the seats in the women's room at the O club, doors, other readyrooms, etc. Comments from Bob Gohr.
Harry S. Gann
1955 - 1963 -- Crusaders
1963 - present -- Sunliners
1971 - present "Zappers" - an unofficial slang nickname.
2001 - "Liners" - an unofficial slang nickname.
Squadron Motto: 1963 to present -- "Anytime, Anyplace."
July 1, 1955 - Attack Squadron SIXTY SIX (VA-66) established.
July 1, 1955 (the same day VA-66 was established) - VA-66 re-designated Fighter Squadron EIGHTY ONE (VF-81).
July 1, 1959 - VF-81 re-designated Attack Squadron EIGHTY ONE (VA-81).
February 4, 1988 - VA-81 re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHTY ONE (VFA-81).
Date - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Location:
July 1, 1955 - - - - - - Naval Air Station Oceana
May 1, 1966- - - - - - - Naval Air Station Cecil Field
199? - - - - - - - - - - Naval Air Station Oceana
Date Type First Received - - - - - - Type of Aircraft:
August 1955 - - - - - - - - - - Gruman F9F-8 Cougar
March 4, 1959 - - - - - - - - - Douglas A-4B Skyhawk
April 3, 1963 - - - - - - - - - Douglas A-4E Skyhawk
September 1967- - - - - - - - - Douglas A-4C Skyhawk
May 1970- - - - - - - - - - - - Vought A-7E Corsair II
March 30, 1988- - - - - - - - - Boeing F/A-18C Hornet
For A-4 Skyhawk aircraft assigned to this unit see lower in this page:
Date - - - - - - - - - - - - Tail code - - - - - - - Air Wing
July 1, 1955 - - - - - - O - - - - - ATG-182
November 1956- - - - - - R - - - - - CVG-17
December 1956 - - - - - O/AN*- - - - ATG-182
March 15, 1958 - - - - - AM- - - - - ATG-181
August 8, 1958 - - - - - AJ- - - - - CVG-8/CVW-8†
August 25, 1968- - - - - AB- - - - - CVW-1
March 2, 1970- - - - - - - - - - - - COMFAIRJACKSONVILLE
June 1, 1970 - - - - - - - - - - - - COMLATWING 1
August 1, 1970 - - - - - AA- - - - - CVW-17
* July 1, 1957 the tail code was changed from O to AN.
† December 20 1963 CVG-8 was re-designated CVW-8 when Carrier Air Groups (CVG) were re-designated Carrier Air Wings (CVW).
Departure and Return - - - - - - - - Air Wing - Carrier - Aircraft - - Area of Operations:
07-02-56 to 12-30-56 - - ATG-181 - CVA 42 - F9F-8 -- - Mediterranean
01-21-57 to 07-27-57 - - ATG-182 - CVA 39 - F9F-8/8B - Mediterranean
05-09-58 to 08-08-58 - - ATG-181 - CVA 11 - F9F-8 -- - NorLant
01-28-60 to 08-31-60 - - CVG-8 - - CVA 59 - A4D-2 -- - Mediterranean
02-09-61 to 08-25-61 - - CVG-8 - - CVA 59 - A4D-2 -- - Mediterranean
08-03-62 to 03-02-63 - - CVG-8 - - CVA 59 - A4D-2 -- - Mediterranean
07-10-64 to 03-13-65 - - CVW-8 - - CVA 59 - A-4E - - - Mediterranean
08-24-65 to 04-07-66 - - CVW-8 - - CVA 59 - A-4E - - - Mediterranean
09-29-66 to 05-20-67 - - CVW-8 - - CVA 38 - A-4E - - - Mediterranean
11-15-67 to 08-04-68 - - CVW-8 - - CVA 38 - A-4C - - - Mediterranean
04-05-69 to 12-21-69 - - CVW-1 - - CVA 67 - A-4C - - - Mediterranean
01-05-71 to 07-02-71 - - CVW-17- - CVA 59 - A-7E - - - Mediterranean
09-22-72 to 07-06-73 - - CVW-17- - CVA 59 - A-7E - - - Mediterranean
03-11-74 to 09-11-74 - - CVW-17- - CVA 59 - A-7E - - - Mediterranean
03-05-75 to 09-22-75 - - CVW-17- - CV 59 -- A-7E - - - Mediterranean
04-04-78 to 10-26-78 - - CVW-17- - CV 59 -- A-7E - - - Med/NorLant
11-27-79 to 05-07-80 - - CVW-17- - CV 59 -- A-7E - - - Mediterranean
03-02-81 to 09-15-81 - - CVW-17- - CV 59 -- A-7E - - - Med/NorLant
05-08-82 to 11-16-82 - - CVW-17- - CV 59 -- A-7E - - - Mediterranean
04-02-84 to 10-20-84 - - CVW-17- - CV 60 -- A-7E - - - Mediterranean
08-26-85 to 04-16-86 - - CVW-17- - CV 60 -- A-7E - - - Mediterranean
05-05-87 to 11-17-87 - - CVW-17- - CV 60 -- A-7E - - - Mediterranean
08-07-90 to 03-28-91 - - CVW-17- - CV 60 -- F/A-18C -- Mediterranean
05-06-92 to 11-06-92 - - CVW-17- - CV 60 -- F/A-18C -- Mediterranean
01-01-94 to 06-24-94 - - CVW-17- - CV 60 -- F/A-18C -- Mediterranean
06-28-96 to 12-20-96 - - CVW-17- - CVN 65-- F/A-18C -- Mediterranean
06-10-98 to 12-10-98 - - CVW-17- - CVN 69-- F/A-18C -- Mediterranean
06-21-00 to 12-19-00 - - CVW-17- - CVN 73-- F/A-18C -- Mediterranean
Date Assumed Command - - - - - - - Commanding Officer
July 1, 1955 - - - - - - CDR Merle M. Hershey
July 30 1957 - - - - - - LCDR Robert Godman
August 15, 1958- - - - - LCDR J. M. Scarborough
October 17, 1958 - - - - CDR Lawrence Heyworth, Jr.
November 4, 1959 - - - - CDR William P. Kiser
November 9, 1960 - - - - CDR Richard E. Rumble
October 31, 1961 - - - - CDR John N. Longfield
December 1, 1962 - - - - CDR Robert B. Gohr
October 1, 1963- - - - - CDR Grover K. Gregory
October 6, 1964- - - - - CDR Nicholas A. Castruccio
October 16, 1965 - - - - CDR Burton H. Sheperd
September 20, 1966 - - - CDR Edward A. Grunwald
September 19, 1967 - - - CDR Melville D. Cunningham
September 25, 1968 - - - CDR Lloyd M. Westphal
July 24, 1969- - - - - - CDR John J. Lahr
June 12, 1970- - - - - - CDR Richard J. Damico
April 14, 1971 - - - - - CDR Thomas C. Watson, Jr.
February 18, 1972- - - - CDR Jerry O. Tuttle
February 18, 1973- - - - CDR Kenneth A. Dickerson
February 21, 1974- - - - CDR Ralph E. Whitby
March 3, 1975- - - - - - CDR Robert V. Sallada
June 3, 1976 - - - - - - CDR Richard Birtwistle III
June 30, 1977- - - - - - CDR Jerry O. Yarborough
July 14, 1978- - - - - - CDR Philip H. Jacobs
July 26, 1979- - - - - - CDR James E. Killian
December 18, 1980- - - - CDR George J. Webb, Jr.
March 9, 1982- - - - - - CDR William C. Miller III
September 1983 - - - - - CDR William E. Beaty III
March 7, 1985- - - - - - CDR Kenneth C. Cech
July 2, 1986 - - - - - - CDR Jay M. Munninghoff
February 4 1988- - - - - CDR William N. Deaver, Jr.
May 11, 1989 - - - - - - CDR Gerald L. Hoewing
August 29, 1990- - - - - CDR Michael T. Anderson
September 4, 1991- - - - CDR W. L. McKee
November 12, 1992- - - - CDR P. B. O'Keefe
December 15, 1993- - - - CDR D. R. Moore, Jr
March 10, 1995 - - - - - CDR Mark I. Fox
November 4, 1996 - - - - CDR Kenneth C. Albright
March 8, 1998- - - - - - CDR Jack W. Holt
May 6, 1999- - - - - - - CDR Douglas M. Andre
September 7, 2000- - - - CDR Joseph M. Clarkson
Award - - - - - - - - - Inclusive Dates:
July 1, 1968 to December 31, 1969
January 1, 1973 to June 30, 1974
January 1, 1987 to December 31, 1987
Navy Unit Commendation:
October 10, 1985 to October 11, 1985
March 23, 1986 to March 29, 1986
January 17, 1991 to February 28, 1991
Military Unit Commendation:
February 28, 1979 to May 7, 1980
September 5, 1982 to September 10, 1982
October 13, 1982 to November 5, 1982
January 20, 1986 to March 29, 1986
August 22, 1990 to September 21, 1990
October 23, 1990 to December 9, 1990
January 6, 1991 to March 11, 1991
January 17, 1991 to February 28, 1991
July 1, 1955: Attack Squadron SIXTY SIX (VA-66) established at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. Later that same day, July 1, 1955, VA-66 was re-designated Fighter Squadron EIGHTY ONE (VF-81) and took the Crusaders moniker. The VF-81 Crusaders were assigned the Grumman F9F-8 Cougar which sported the orange "Supersonic Nothing" on the vertical stabilizer.
November through December 1956: VF-81 Crusaders embarked on United States Ship Franklin D. Roosevelt CVA 42, deployed off the coast of Spain during the Suez Canal crisis.
January 21 through July 27, 1957: The VF-81 Crusaders deployed to the Mediterranean with ATG-182 on United States Ship Lake Champlain CVA 39. Lake Champlain and VA-81 operated off the coast of Lebanon during the Jordan crisis.
May 9 through August 8, 1958: The VF-81 Crusaders deployed to the North Atlantic with ATG-181 on United States Ship CVA 11.
March 4, 1959: VF-81 Crusaders are assigned the Douglas A4D-2 (A-4B) Skyhawk.
July 1, 1959: VF-81 Crusaders with the Douglas A4D-2 (A-4B) Skyhawk were redesignated Attack Squadron EIGHTY ONE (VA-81) Crusaders.
November 16, 1959: LTJG Lawrence Gerald Stable, flying A4D-2 BuNo 145006 (AJ-408) disappeared 17 km (10 mi) astern of the USS Forrestal,
January 28 through August 31, 1960: The VA-81 Crusaders flying the Douglas A-4B Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on United States Ship Forrestal CVA 59.
February 9 through August 25, 1961: The VA-81 Crusaders flying the A-4B Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on United States Ship Forrestal CVA 59.
October 1961 through February 1962: VA-81 Det 45 deployed to the North Atlantic embarked aboard United States Ship Essex CVS 9. The detachment was part of CVSG-56, and with it's A-4B Skyhawks employing Sidewinder missiles, provided air cover for antisubmarine units embarked aboard Essex. The detachment was the first jet unit to function as part of an antisubmarine killer force.
February 26, 1962: Lt. Hilding E. Wendelen was reported missing when his A4D-2 BuNo 144912 disappeared 50 miles south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while on a tactical mission involving practice night delivery of atomic weapons from the USS Forrestal. The Oneonta Star, Saturday, Mar. 10 , 1962.
November 16, 1962: LTJG. Lawrence Gerald Stable was killed when he crashed A4D-2 BuNo 145006 17 km (10 mi) astern of the USS Forrestal, side number AJ-408. Ken Killmeyer (USS Forrestal Historian)
August 3, 1962 through March 2, 1963: The VA-81 Crusaders flying the A-4B Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on United States Ship Forrestal CVA 59.
April 3, 1963: The VA-81 Crusaders were renamed the Sunliners. The Sunliners were assigned the Douglas A-4E Skyhawk.
January 15, 1964: LCdr. N. A. Castruccio ejected safely after his aircraft (BuNo 149974) caught fire while flying over Tangier Sound, MD and was rescued by NAS Patuxent helicopter piloted by Marine Capt. P.L. James. Frederick News-Post, Thursday, January 16, 1964.
May 11, 1964: Lt. John F. Fetterman (CAW-8) ejected safely from his A-4E Skyhawk (BuNo 150005) when it developed engine trouble during a routine flight and was picked up a few miles off the Maryland bay shore in Chesapeake Bay. New Castle, PA., News, Tuesday, May 12, 1964 & The Stars and Stripes, Wednesday, May 13, 1964.
July 10, 1964 through March 13, 1965: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-4E Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on United States Ship Forrestal CVA 59.
August 27, 1964: Lt. Norton ejected from A-4E BuNo 151048 and was reported in good condition on board USS Conyngham DDG-17. Ken Killmeyer (USS Forrestal Historian)
December 29, 1964: Lt(jg). Perry Newton Baker ejected into the water when VA-81 Sunliners A-4E Skyhawk BuNo 151071 slid over the port side into the sea. Fleet Angle, HU-2 helicopter recovered Lt(jg). Baker from water who was pronounced dead as a result of injuries. From Forrestal Historian Ken Killmeyer. Lt(jg). Perry Newton Baker was killed when his plane was blown over the side of the Forrestal by another jet taking off. He was taxiing his A-4E Skyhawk into position for launch when it began sliding across the deck and came to a stop directly behind another jet being launched. Baker was attached to VA-81, NAS Oceana. Baltimore Evening Sun, 30 December 1964. He ejected and the seperation bladder did not work properly. He landed in the sea and was apparently hit by the seat. He was alive when brought aboard, but died later in sick bay. I was a Sergeant attached to VMA-331 at the time. This occurred during the Med Cruise. Robert Job, MGySgt USMC (Ret'd).
August 18, 1965: Lt(jg). Michael Hewitt Hinchman crashed into the sea Longitude 36 degrees 00’N, Latitude 74 degrees, 42.5’W. Datum bears 275, 31 miles from USS Forrestal. USS Furse retrieved parachute and helmet from water, pilot not recovered. From Forrestal Historian Ken Killmeyer. Lt(jg). Michael H. Hinchman was killed when his NAS Oceana VA-81 A4E Skyhawk (BuNo 151092) crashed in the Atlantic Ocean 60 miles NE of Cape Hatteras, NC as he was returning to the USS Forrestal from a training mission on Wednesday. Daily Press, Friday, 20 August 1965.
August 24, 1965 through April 7, 1966: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-4E Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on USS Forrestal CVA 59.
May 1, 1966: The VA-81 Sunliners moved to NAS Cecil Field, Florida.
September 29, 1966 through May 20, 1967: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-4E Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on United States Ship Shangri La CVA 38.
September 1967: The Sunliners were assigned the Douglas A4D-2N (A-4C) Skyhawk.
November 15, 1967 through August 4, 1968: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-4C Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVG-8 on USS Shangri La CVA 38.
April 5 through December 21, 1969: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-4C Skyhawk deployed to the Mediterranean with CVW-1 on United States Ship John F. Kennedy CVA 67. In September Kennedy and her air group were ordered to operate off the coast of Libya following a September 1, 1969 coup that overthrew Libya's monarchy.
February 1970: The Sunliners were awarded the Navy Battle "E" for the East Coast A-4 Skyhawk squadrons and were selected to be the first East Coast squadron to receive the Navy's newest attack aircraft.
May 1970: The Sunliners were assigned the Vought A-7E Corsair II.
January 5 through July 2, 1971: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the Vought A-7E Corsair II deployed to the Mediterranean with CVW-17 on USS John F. Kennedy CVA 67.
September 22 1972 through July 6, 1973: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-7E Corsair II deployed to the Mediterranean with CVW-17 on USS John F. Kennedy CVA 67. December 2 through 5, 1972 the Sunliners conducted cross-deck operations with the British carrier HMS Ark Royal.
March 11 through September 11, 1974: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-7E Corsair deployed to the Mediterranean with CVW-17 on USS Forrestal CVA 59. The air group operated in the vicinity of Cyprus following a coup in that country and its invasion by Turkish forces. Surveillance and cover missions were flown by the Sunliners during the crisis.
Fall 1974: The VA-81 Sunliners had won three Light Attack Wing ONE bombing derbies and were awarded a second Navy Battle "E".
March 5 through September 22, 1975: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-7E Corsair deployed to the Mediterranean with CVW-17 on USS Forrestal CV 59.
April 4 through October 26, 1978: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-7E Corsair deployed to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic with CVW-17 on USS Forrestal CV 59.
November 27, 1979 through May 7, 1980: The VA-81 Sunliners flying the A-7E Corsair deployed to the Mediterranean with CVW-17 on USS Forrestal CV 59.
May through June 1981: Embarked in USS Forrestal CVA-59, VA-81 operated in the eastern Mediterranean following Israeli reprisal raids against Syrian missile batteries located in southern Lebanon.
August 1981: The squadron participated a Freedom of Navigation Exercise in the Gulf of Sidra. During this exercise two F-14 Tomcats from USS Nimitz CVN 68 shot down two Libyan SU-22 Fitters on 18 August. Tensions escalated and VA-81 flew reconnaissance missions over potentially hostile Libyan ships.
March 24, 1986: Following a Libyan SA-5 missile firing against United States naval aircraft operating in the Gulf of Sidra during a Freedom of Navigation exercise, VA-81 aircraft participated in a retaliatory strike against the missile site at Surt, Libya. Squadron aircraft acted as the decoy group for VA-83's HARM strike against the Libyan missile radar site.
1987: In the last year of Corsair II operation, the VA-81 Sunliners were awarded the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E".
February 4, 1988: VA-81 was re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHTY-ONE (VFA-81) Sunliners.
March 30, 1988: Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHTY-ONE Sunliners were assigned the Boeing F/A-18C Hornet. USN Photograph
August 7, 1990 to January 17, 1991: VFA-81 Sunliners and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17), deployed on the USS Saratoga CV-60 to the Mediterranean. VFA-81 operating the Boeing F/A-18C Hornet participated in Operation Desert Shield. Desert Shield was the American and Allied force build-up to counter a threatened Saudi Arabian invasion by Iraq and as part of an economic blockade of Iraq to force withdrawal from Kuwait.
January 17, through March 27, 1991: VFA-81 participated in Operation Desert Storm. The Sunliners were one of the first carrier based squadrons to fly combat missions during Desert Storm. While on a bombing mission over Iraq two Sunliners scored two head-on MIG kills and then proceeded to hit their ground targets. These were the only Navy MIG kills during Operation Desert Storm. VFA-81 lost LCdr. Michael Scott Speicher during the first hours of Desert Storm on January 17, 1991. Commander Speicher failed to return from the first carrier strike into Iraq. VFA-81 returned to NAS Cecil Field on 27 March 1991.
May 6 through November 6, 1992: The Sunliners s and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17), deployed to the Mediterranean onboard the USS Saratoga (CV-60) to participate in several NATO exercises.
1994: VFA-81 Sunliners and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17), deployed to the Mediterranean onboard the USS Saratoga (CV-60). The squadron participated in Operations DENY FLIGHT and PROVIDE PROMISE supporting United Nations (UN) resolutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the last deployment of the Sarah. This was VFA-81's third Hornet cruise, and the first Atlantic Fleet deployment with the AMRAAM missile.
1996: VFA-81 Sunliners and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17), deployed to the Mediterranean onboard the USS Enterprise CVN-65. VFA-81 participated in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and made the first carrier port call to Bahrain. This was VFA-81's 26th Mediterranean Cruise.
June 10, 1998: VFA-81 Sunliners and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17), deployed to the Mediterranean onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN-69 to operate in the Operation SOUTHERN WATCH arena. This was the first East Coast cruise using the new Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW), a long range glide cluster bomb.
September 1999: The Sunliners deployed to NAS Boca Chica at Key West, Florida for Inter-deployment Training Cycle training with the strike fighter advanced readiness program (SFARP) Air-to-Air Det. The Sunliners flew mock combat against Air Force and VFC-12 bandits.
October 1999: The Air-to-Ground portion continued at NAS Fallon, Nevada. At Fallon the Sunliners were able to add to lessons learned at Key West as well as to put steel on the desert.
December 1999: The Sunliners deployed on the USS George Washington CVN-73 for carrier qualifications, cyclic operations, and the initial ship/air wing integration.
Winter 2000: The VFA-81 Sunliners deployed to NAS Fallon to participate in a pre-deployment CVW-17 Air Wing work-up.
June 21 through December 22, 2000: VFA-81 Sunliners and Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17), deployed aboard USS George Washington CVN-73 with the FA-18 Hornet for a Mediterranean cruise.
June 28 and 29, 2000: The Sunliners participated in two days of airwing strikes on the Vieques Island Puerto Rico target range.
July 5, 2000: The USS George Washington arrived in the Straits of Gibraltar. A few days of Mediterranean operations followed enroute to the Adriatic Sea to support operations in that theater.
1957: VF-81 Crusader F9F-8 Cougar. Led by F9F-8 Cougar BuNo. 141099 side number O 113 two VF-81 Crusaders fly over the Mediterranean near USS Lake Champlain CVA-39. During the January through July 1957 cruise Lake Champlain with ATG-182 and VF-81 operated off the coast of Lebanon during the Jordan crisis. USN picture from Harry S. Gann collection.
VA-81 Skyhawks in Diamond Formation. The photo of the VA-81 diamond is stamped Official photograph U.S. Navy, CVA-59-14474-(L) 6-3-60, A4D's of VA-81 in flight. A-4's are: AJ-402 is A-4B BuNo 144923, AJ-403 is A-4B BuNo 144931, AJ-407 is A-4B BuNo 144922, AJ-411 is A-4B BuNo 144951. Photo courtesy of Gary Verver.
A4D Skyhawks BuNo 144922, AJ-407, BuNo 144923, AJ-402, BuNo 144931, AJ-403 BuNo 144951 in flight formation as they operate from the USS Forrestal, CVA-59. Photo is stamped Official photograph U.S. Navy, CCA-59-144 (L) 6-?-60, A4D's of VA-81 in flight. Photo courtesy of Gary Verver.
28 JUL 1960: VA-83 Rampagers A4D-2 Skyhawk BuNo 142138, AJ-306, in-flight off the USS Forrestal (CVA-59).
1960: USS Forrestal VA-83 Rampagers A4D-2 Skyhawk BuNo 145004, AJ-304, and VA-81 Sunliners A4D-2 BuNo 144951, AJ-411, refueling VF-103 Sluggers F8U-2 Crusaders BuNo 145597, AJ-209, and BuNo 146909, AJ-204, January-August 1960. Official U.S. Navy photo.
1960-61: VA-81 A-4B Skyhawk BuNo. 144930. A3D Skywarrior piloted by LT C. N. "Charley" James, now CAPT, USN (ret.) plugging in to USS Forrestal, CVA 59, VA-81 Skyhawk BuNo 144930. Don Pierce photo from Harry Gann collection.
1961: 3 shot photo sequence by Joel McEachen VAH-3. VA-81 A4D-2 / A-4B Skyhawk BuNo. 144930 off of USS Forrestal CVA 59 getting ready to pass gas to a Skywarrior. A-4 with belly hose reel and extra tanks under the wings. A-4s did the majority of the tanking until A-3s took over.
1961: Skyhawk BuNo 144919, AJ-405, with a Bullpup missile ready to launch from the USS Forrestal. Naval Aviation News Photo.
1961: BuNo 144912, AJ-405, trapping aboard the USS Forrestal. USN Photo.
Circa 1961: VA-81 A-4B Skyhawk BuNo. 142715, 144927, and 144951 in formation. Note the Buddy Store on AJ411. U.S. Navy photograph from "NavAirNews" dated March 1961. Provided by John Gabbard.
Circa 1961: VA-81 144927 AJ-01; 144951 AJ-411; 142715 AJ-412; 142726 AJ-414; in formation near NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach VA. Forrestal Association Historian.
11 NOV 1961: Sunliners Skyhawk BuNo 144930, AJ-406, assigned to LTJG B.G. Hodges aboard the USS Essex at Southampton. Unknown photographer via W. Mutza.
02 JAN 1962: VA-81 Sunliners A4D-2 Skyhawk BuNo 144927, AJ-402, about to launch from the USS Essex (CVS-9).
1962-63: Sunliners Skyhawk BuNo 144927, AJ-402, parked on the ramp. Name below the canopy rail is CDR Grover Gregory. Circa Dec '62 - Mar '63. Unknown photographer via W. Mutza.
1964: Steam rises from the Forrestals cat track as the deck crew moves VA-81 Skyhawk AJ-408 into position for launch. Naval Aviation News photo.
1964: Left side view of Sunliners A-4E Skyhawk BuNo 151072, AJ-405, parked on the ramp. Photographer unknown.
Circa 1964-65: AJ-409 preparing to "tank".
Circa 1965-66: VA-81, VA-83 and VMA-311 onboard the Forrestal in 1965 - 1966. Squadrons embarked during FORRESTAL's CVW-8, 1965-1966 deployment were VF-74, VF-103, VA-83, VA-81, VMA-331, VAH-11, VAW-12, VAW-33, VFP-62, AND HU-2. CVW-8 had a tail code of AJ. But there are two sets of tailcodes pictured. AA and AJ. Photo by Tony Redman 1965-1966 time frame.
16 MAY 1965: Right side view of USS Forrestal VA-81 Sunliners A-4E Skyhawk BuNo 150109, AJ-404, on the ramp, Bradley Field. Copyright R.W. Harrison.
Circa 1965: Right side view of VA-83 Rampagers A-4E Skyhawk BuNo 152023, AJ-310, on the ramp next to a USAF Delta Dart/Dagger, McGuire AFB, circa 1965. Copyright R.W. Harrison.
1966-67: Sunliners BuNo 151027, AJ-400, as she taxies by the photographer. Howie Houserman.
1966-67: VSF-1 Skyhawk BuNo 144893, AJ-500, and Sunliners A-4E BuNo 151052, AJ-405, parked near the Shang's island. (What these two guys are up to is not known, but it appears there was a fresh water shortage aboard the "Shang".) "Boom" Powell.
1967: BuNo.150125 VA-81 A-4E AJ-402, BuNo 150125 aboard the USS Shangra-la. Looks like Mk-81's on the centerline TER, drop tanks on #2 and #4, and an MBER with practice bombs on #5. Gary Verver Collection.
1967: BuNo 150125, AJ-402, as the deck crew hooks her up to one of the Shang's catapults. Howie Houserman.
1966-67: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo 151121, AJ-401, CDR Ed Grunwald, provides the background for a photo of the squadron officers aboard the USS Shangri-La, CVA-38. Photo from Howie Houserman.
1967-68: Sunliners Skyhawk BuNo 149646, AJ-410, provides the backdrop for a squadron officers photo aboard the Shang. Howie Houserman.
1967-68: Right side in-flight view of Sunliners Skyhawk formation, cw from top: BuNo 147829, AJ-401; BuNo 145076, AJ-403; BuNo 149531, AJ-412 and BuNo 149646, AJ-410. Howie Houserman.
15 December 1968: VA-81 Sunliners A-4C Skyhawks BuNo 149500, AB-402, BuNo 149531, AB-400, BuNo 148498, AB-411, and BuNo 147717, AB-404, in-flight over the USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67). Official U.S. Navy photo.
1969: VA-81 Sunliner A-4C Skyhawk BuNo. 147748. Sunliner A-4C Skyhawk BuNo. 147748 side number AB 401 on the deck of USS John F. Kennedy CVA 67. The Sunliners operated off the coast of Libya following a September 1, 1969 coup that overthrew Libya's monarchy. USN picture from Harry S. Gann collection.
BuNo 147814, AB-412, Skyhawk launching. Launch-Bow catapault officer gives launch signal to an Attack Squadron Eighty One (VA-81) Skyhawk aboard the USS John F. Kennedy during fleet training exercises off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Official U.S. Navy photo by PHC B.M. Andersen, Gary Verver Collection.
1969: Steam rises from the catapult as an VA-81 A-4C Skyhawk attack aircraft (1477xx) AB-404 is readied for launching from the flight deck of the attack aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67). Near Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
VA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet Catapult - 2000. A VFA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet AA-407 is photographed on the USS George Washington CVN-73 catapult during the June through December 2000 Mediterranean cruise. USN Photograph.
2000: VA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet With JSOW. VFA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet AA-412 is photographed hauling a Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW), a long range glide cluster bomb. USN Photograph.
2000: German Air Force MiG. A German Airforce MiG joins the exercise. USN Photograph.
2000: Air-to-Air Refueling. A VFA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet AA-402 is photographed waiting for the Lockheed S3 Viking to finish refueling from the Air Farce KC-135 tanker during the Mediterranean cruise. USN Photograph.
2000: VA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet Overhead. VFA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet AA-414 is photographed overhead the USS George Washington CVN-73. USN Photograph.
2000: VA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet Approach. A VFA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet AA-402 is photographed from the LSO platform while in the groove to land on the USS George Washington CVN-73. USN Photograph.
2000: VA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet Landing. A VFA-81 Sunliner FA-18 Hornet is photographed from the LSO platform while over the USS George Washington CVN-73 arresting wires. USN Photograph.
Skyhawks Assigned to Unit: