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."