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VF-154 Black Knights


VF-154 arose when a Naval Reserve squadron was called to operational duty for the Korean war. The squadron, was activated as VFB-718 upon the 1st of July 1946. Initially based at NAS Floyd Bennett, NY, their first mount was the F-6F Heelcat, soon followed by the F-4U Corsair. As well as changing aircraft the squadron went through several designation changes, becoming VF-68A then VF-837. During their time as VF-837 the squadron moved from NAS Floyd Bennett to NAS Moffett Field, CA.
VF-837 flew a combat cruise in the Korean war, flying off the USS Antietam (CV 36). By this point they had moved from F-4U Corsair's to F9F-2 Panthers. VF-837 returned from their first cruise and started working up for a second. On the 4th of February 1953 while passing under the Golden Gate Bridge onboard the USS Princeton (CV 37) and on their way back to Korea, VF-837 was officially redesignated VF-154.
Taking part in Korea saw VF-154 flying the F9F Panther and dropped 470 tons of bombs in addition to expending 1,500,000 rounds of ammunition. The 15th of June 1953 saw the squadron fly forty-eight sorties within the space of a single day, setting a record for a Navy squadron, by this point in the war VF-154 had moved on to the F9F-5 Panther.
After the Panther VF-154 moved onto the F-3J Fury, followed by the F-8 Crusader in 1957. The new F-8 persuded VF-154 to change their insignia and name. Previously known as "The Grand Slammers" and with the insignia of a flaming panther the new insignia was designed by Milton Caniff, creator of the Steve Canyon cartoon. The new insignia was the Black Knight, armed with a sword to strike down the enemies of peace and justice and a shield to protect those unable to defend themselves.
After Korea the next war for VF-154 was Vietnam. Their first combat deployment to the area was in 1965, onboard USS Coral Sea (CV 43) as part of CVW-15. Their first combat strikes occurred upon the 7th of February. The cruise lasted until November of the same year. After that yearly combat cruises followed, however the time between the first and subsequent cruises was put to good use as VF-154 transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II, at that time the standard aircraft for Naval fighter squadrons. As well as changing aircraft VF-154 moved from CVW-15, where it had resided since its establishment to become part of CVW-2, where it remained until 1980. After a second cruise onboard the Coral Sea the Black Knights shifted to the USS Ranger (CV 61), completing five further cruises to South East Asia.
After the 1970 cruise VF-154 upgraded their equipment again, this time gaining the F-4J version of the Phantom II. With this new equipment the squadron's final Vietnam tour took place. The timing saw VF-154 taking place in some of the last US Navy strikes of the war. This last combat tour saw such a high standard from the Black Knights that they were awarded the Clifton Award, recognising them as the best fighter squadron in the Navy.
The Black Knights gained the last Navy version of the Phantom II, the F-4S, in 1979, but suprisingly, in January 1981, returned to the earlier F-4N version. Several cruises onboard the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) followed, as this carrier did not have strong enough decks to carry the larger, heavier F-14. Thus VF-154 (and sister squadron, VF-21), were among the last to convert to the F-14A.
VF-154 finally transitioned to the F-14A beginning in October of 1983. Due to their late equipment the squadron received TARPS equipped F-14's from the start. The first cruise with the F-14A was in 1985 onboard the USS Constellation (CV-64), as part of CVW-14. Several further cruises onboard 'Connie' followed, with one taking place in 1987. This eventful cruise saw VF-154 operating around the Persian Gulf, intercepting Iranian P-3F's and conducting movements in the Gulf of Oman (at the so called "Gonzo" station").
After the cruises onboard Constellation CVW-14 moved to the USS Independence (CV-62) and it was as part of this team that saw VF-154 and VF-21 become the first F-14 squadrons to arrive in the Persian Gulf as part of "Desert Shield". Due to taking part in "Desert Shield" and having ben upon deployment for several months already VF-154 and Independence returned to the USA before Desert Storm began.
August of 1991 saw the USS Independence become home based at Yokosuka, Japan, to replace the Coral Sea. VF-154 stayed with the carrier for this, but moved from CVW-14 to CVW-5 and from NAS Miramar to NAF Atsugi, thus becoming the first forward deployed F-14 squadron. At the same time as joining CVW-5 VF-154 became the first F-14 squadron to deploy with an air-to-ground bombing capability.
With the drawdown in F-14 squadrons VF-154 sister squadron, VF-21, has disestablished, leaving the Black Knights as the only F-14 squadron in CVW-5. As well as keeping their TARPS role VF-154 have become very active in the air-to-ground role and will eventually receive LANTIRN pods once their F-14's are upgraded to carry them. Regular deployments aboard the Independence continue, and VF-154 conducted carrier qualifications onboard the boat during November of 1996.
The Black Knights called into Freemantle, Australia, on the 11th of April 1997, having just completed particpation in the exercise 'Tandem Thrust'. With VF-154's F-14A's severely showing their age the squadron 'swopped' six of its worst airframes for six from VF-213, which had visited onboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), a few weeks earlier.
VF-154 received the following awards in 1998: CNO Safety Award, COMNAVAIR Battle Efficiency Award, Boola Boola Award (for air warfare excellence), ComFitWingLant Golden Wrench (for maintenance excellence), CNO Joseph C. Clifton Award as the Navy's finest fighter squadron.

In September 2003 VF-154 F-14s took off from their Japanese home and headed for NAS Oceana for a very last time.

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F-14A, 1980s

F-14A, 2001

F-14A, 2003

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