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When VF-103 Flew Their Tomcats Home To Roost For The Last Time

The Jolly Rogers Know A Thing Or Two About Cruise Videos

Official US Navy Photograph

When the Jolly Rogers of VF-103 departed for their 2004 Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment as part of Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17) aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy (CVA-67) on July 10th 2004 they were beginning their final cruise as Fighter Squadron One Zero Three (VF-103). When they returned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia the following December they turned in their Grumman F-14B Tomcats and began the transition to the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet. The squadron was re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Three (VFA-103), and as part of that process shifted to CVW-7. It was the end of an era for the Fighting 103, who were actually the Sluggers for the majority of their existence. The previous Jolly Rogers of VF-84 were disestablished on October 1st 1995. In order to keep the rich tradition of the Jolly Rogers alive, VF-103 changed their name and squadron insignia to the skull and crossbones of the previous VF-84 and became the “new” Jolly Rogers.

The 2004 deployment was also the final cruise of the Kennedy. Along with VF-103, CVW-17 consisted of the Boeing F/A-18C Hornets of VFA-34 Blue Blasters, VFA-83 Rampagers, and VFA-81 Sunliners. The Jolly Rogers were the only VF squadron aboard Kennedy for this deployment. Electronic attack was the specialty of Grumman EA-6B Prowler-equipped VAQ-132 Scorpions. VAW-125 Tiger Tails provided airborne early warning and control with their Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes. Helos aboard for the deployment were the variants of the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk flown by HS-15 Red Lions.

When airborne gas was needed it was usually passed by Texaco VS-30 Diamond Cutters Lockheed S-3B Vikings. The 2004 Kennedy cruise was also the final deployment for the Diamond Cutters, who were dis-established in early 2005.

Official US Navy Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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