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VF-211 Checkmates


VF-211's origins trace back to VB-74, which was established upon the 1st of May 1945. The squadron acquired it's present designation on the 9th of March 1959. Before receiving the F-14A Tomcat VF-211 flew the Navy's last all gun fighter, the famous F-8J Crusader, becoming widely known due to their attractive and visible markings. However, the Crusader's days were number after the 23rd of December 1975, when VF-211 made it's maiden flight in the, at that time, brand new and highly advanced F-14A. VF-211 was the ninth squadron to receive the F-14A, following VF-124, VF-1, VF-2, VF-14, VF-32, VF-142, VF-143, and VF-114. Within six months VF-211 was flying the F-14A in that most difficult of Navy arts: carrier landings, the first taking place on the USS Constellation (CV-64) in June of 1976. The squadron's first cruise (with VF-24 as part of CVW-9) was also on board Constellation, beginning in April of 1977. Regular cruises on board Constellation followed, until in October 1980 VF-211 was selected to pick up the reconnaissance mission, with the "interim" TARPS pod. The original plans envisaged the introduction of a recon version of the F/A-18 Hornet within a few years, but VF-211 (and the rest of the F-14 community) are still performing this vital mission today.
July of 1983 saw the first cruise on board another carrier, as CVW-9 shifted to the USS Ranger (CV-61), due to the USS Constellation going into the Naval Shipyard at Bremerton to have a refit and update that would install the F/A-18 avionics and maintenance areas. VF-211 shifted again in 1985, this time to the USS Kitty Hawk so that Ranger could have the F/A-18 update. The Kitty Hawk cruise lasted from July to December of 1985. After this cruise VF-211 renewed it's association with the Constellation, then in early 1987 moved to the Kitty Hawk again, being aboard from January to June 1987. Following this cruise the whole of CVW-9 moved to the USS Nimtz (CVN-68), newly transferred from the Atlantic fleet. In 1986 VF-211 took part in trials of experimental water based camouflage schemes, painting at least four aircraft in temporary schemes that consisted of browns and greys, three different shades of each colour being used. These paint schemes were found to weather fairly quickly and on different aircraft the underlying TPS greys and squadron markings could be seen to differing extents. The paint took around four hours to apply and ten to remove, resulting in some of the most interesting F-14 schemes to date.
VF-211 started to receive the upgraded F-14A+ (now F-14B) in April of 1989, for the first time being able to fly the F-14 to it's aerodynamic limits rather than it's engine limits. While VF-211, as with most Navy F- 14 units, may well have been eagerly looking forward to receiving the vastly superior F-14D, this was not to be. With the end of the Cold War and changing requirements the Secretary of Defence, Dick Cheney, halted all production of the F-14D, after only 55 had been produced. Instead, in 1992, VF-211 was forced to return to the F-14A, due to a decision to shift all F-14B's to Atlantic Fleet units.
VF-211 has received training for air to ground weapons and now routinely flys sorties with the aircraft primarily configured for air to ground attack, which while part of the original Navy specification for the F-14, was a capability which for a long time was left untapped. VF- 211 has received LANTIRN capable F-14's in small numbers, but the present lack of pods means they are not fully operative in the LANTIRN roles. The squadron left NAS Miramar in August of 1996, and is now settled in it's new home at NAS Oceana. When required for cruises, all squadrons assigned to west coast carriers will now fly across the USA, but for administrative reasons will be under the command of COMNAVAIRLANT. VF-211 deployed onboard the USS Nimtz in September 1997, taking 10 aircraft and several LANTIRN pods. The cruise became even more eventful than normal whne Saddam hussein expelled UN weapon inspectors from Iraq. The resulting crisis saw a large build up of forces in the Gulf, assisting CVW-9, who had already been present, enforcing the Southern Watch No-Fly Zone. As tension rose the F-14's of VF-211 proved invaluable. In the event the forces gathered in the Gulf were not used, but proved again an important lesson regarding carriers-you don't need anyone else's permission to use it. The Checkmates, despite having been in theatre for several months took up the extension of the cruise without complaint, flying daily missions until the crisis was resolved. They even had time to paint an aircraft with the squadron mascot Bluto (seen on a patch to the right), a tradition whenever the Fighting Checkmates spend Christmas away from home.
After the long cruise the welcome back to Oceana in Janaury 1998 was even better than usual. After the normal stand down VF-211 restarted flight ops and in the period since have sent jets to NAS Fallon and the NAS Norfolk airshow, in addition to normal flying.
The next cruise date is uncertain, but whenever it comes the Fighting Checkmates of VF-211 will be ready. As mentioned above, during the 1970's VF-211 had some of the most visible markings around and even in the present era are some of the most attractive in the F-14 community. Today's VF-211 markings feature dark grey checks upon the rudder, twin dark grey horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the tailfin and the NG tailcode in small letters. Aircraft from the squadron are often seen with a black/dark grey anti- glare panel that continues along the cockpit and down the spine of the aircraft. A second thin stripe is often used to highlight this area.
The images below show the first steps in the move from hi-vis to low-vis markings for VF-211. The first shows a VF-211 aircraft in the early gull grey/white camouflage scheme, with very hi-vis markings. The coloured stars on the tail represent the squadrons assigned to CVW-9.

Click here for high quality Squadron Prints

F-14A, 1975

F-14A, 1997

F-14A, 1997

F-14A, 2003

All graphics Copyright © Torsten Anft

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