Military Aviation

The Oldest and the Boldest: Cool video celebrates the 100th Anniversary of VFA-14 Tophatters

VFA-14 is based at NAS Lemoore and flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet, and are the Navy’s oldest active squadron, having formed in 1919.

Called “Tophatter Centennial Cruise” the cool video in this post celebrates the 100th anniversary of U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 14 (VFA-14) Tophatters, “the Oldest and the Boldest.” VFA-14 is based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore and flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet, and are the Navy’s oldest active squadron, having formed in 1919.

Since its inception the squadron has flown 23 different type aircraft, had its designation changed fourteen times. Over the years the squadron has been assigned many different missions, including patrol, observation and scouting in its early years, and now the primary fighter/attack role in the modern carrier air wing.

After their last F-14 cruise in 2001, VF-14 and VF-41 relocated to NAS Lemoore and began the transition to the F/A-18 Super Hornet switching to CVW-11 and USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Both squadrons deployed to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) aboard USS Nimitz and prior to arrival in the Persian Gulf, two VF-14 F/A-18Es and two F/A-18Fs (VFA-41) were forward deployed to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in late March 2003 to augment its airwing. The Super Hornets were requested to boost the air refueling capabilities of CVW-14 as well as qualified Forward Air Controllers, Airborne (FAC (A)) (the F/A-18Fs). The division of F/A-18s flew from USS Nimitz to USS Abraham Lincoln, a 2,700-mile (4,300 km) trip. On 6 April, the Hornets returned to USS Nimitz. During OIF, VFA-14 expended laser-guided bomb’s, JDAM bombs and AGM-65 Maverick missiles and conducted numerous long-range missions to northern Baghdad and Tikrit.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. VF-14 Tophatters Centennial – 1919-2019

After its OIF cruise in 2003, VFA-14 conducted Air Wing training at NAS Fallon and made the maiden deployment with USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in 2004, the cruise took them from Virginia to California around South America. After work-ups in 2004 they deployed for a 2005 cruise, supporting OIF and flying over 2,100 sorties and over 4,300 flight hours.

In 2006, VFA-14 made detachments to NAS Fallon and a joint exercise with the Royal Air Force to Scotland. Training persisted through 2006 with a Strike Fighter Advance Readiness Program (SFARP) with a three week detachment to NAS Fallon. VFA-14 and CVW-11 participated in Navy Fleet Week in San Francisco in early October. During this period, two F/A-18Es made a flyover during a 49ers game and several Tophatters donated time to a community relations project renovating a local school. Training continued into 2007 in preparation for the up-coming GULF/WESTPAC deployment in support of OIF and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and exercise Valiant Shield near Guam.

On Jan. 18, 2008, it was announced that CVW-11 would deploy on 24 January to the Pacific for a surge-deployment on board the Nimitz.

During 2009 CVW-11 and the Nimitz Strike Group conducted several training exercises off the coast of Southern California including composite unit training and joint task force training in anticipation for their 2009–2010 deployment. On 28 July it was reported that CVW-11 and the Nimitz Strike Group was to depart for a seven month deployment.

VFA-14 and VFA-41 changed air wings and carriers to CVW-9 and USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), and on Jul. 27, 2011 CVW-9 deployed onboard USS John C. Stennis to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, counter-piracy and maritime security operations.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • Excellent Tophatter video/info! Lived near NAS Lemoore many years ago! Grazie, Dario!!:)

  • Very nice video. So when and where is the 100th anniversary party? There are Tophatters out here from all eras who would like to swap sea stories with you. F4B on the Franklin D was my ride.

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