The Navy”s First F-35 Squadron Just Deactivated After 7 Years of Service

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May 30, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: May 30 on

EGLIN AFB FL — With gratitude for its seven years at Eglin and enthusiasm for the future in California, the Navy”s first F-35C strike fighter squadron furled its flag in a Thursday morning ceremony.

The F-35C is the “carrier variant” version of the F-35 stealth fighter jet, designed specifically to operate from aircraft carriers.

“Today, we turn into the wind and launch on an aggressive path to deploy the F-35C,” said Navy Capt. Max G. McCoy, commander of the Joint Strike Fighter Wing.

McCoy spoke as VFA-101, informally known as the “Grim Reapers” squadron, was deactivated to become part of VFA-125, a strike fighter squadron at California”s Naval Air Station Lemoore. VFA is a naval designation with the “V” denoting fixed-wing aircraft, the “F” standing for fighter, and the “A” meaning “attack.”

In the Navy, deactivation is different from decommissioning, and it is possible the VFA-101 Grim Reapers will be resurrected. In fact, Thursday”s ceremony marked the third time that VFA-101 has been deactivated. Throughout its history, the squadron has consistently trained pilots in the most advanced aircraft of their day, including the F-4 Phantom and the F-14 Tomcat.

In the meantime, said Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, “the legacy (of VFA-101) will live on, and I have no doubt that one day we will see it in an operational capacity once again.”