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

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft complete a flight overhead Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Feb. 1, 2019 (credit: USN/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft complete a flight overhead Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Feb. 1, 2019 (credit: USN/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

May 30, 2019 | Source: Task & Purpose, taskandpurpose.com, Jim Thompson, 24 May 2019

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."

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