Military Aviation

VFA-211 Fighting Checkmates to start transition from F/A-18F to F/A-18E

Former VFA-211 Cmdr. Ken Hockycko oversaw 14 jet transfers enabling the preparation for a challenging two-seat to single-seat airframe transition for the squadron.

During a change of command ceremony held at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana on Jul. 23, 2020 where Cmdr. James Huddleston relieved Cmdr. Ken Hockycko the latter revealed while at Strike Fighter Squadron 211 (VFA-211) he oversaw 14 jet transfers enabling the preparation for a challenging two-seat to single-seat airframe transition for the squadron.

“It continues to be an honor to be a member of the Checkmates; part of a fantastic squadron only recently returned from deployment, and now undergoing a shift from the F/A-18F to the F/A-18E as we pivot back to the work-up cycle,” said Huddleston who served as the executive officer prior to assuming command of VFA-211. “The talent and professionalism of this team, at this moment, is like nothing I have seen before. I’m proud to be a part of it and I look forward to the future.

VFA-211 assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 deployed aboard the Nimitz-class carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and returned home June 5, marking the end of its deployment after operating in the U.S. 2nd, 5th and 6th Fleets.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-211 Fighting Checkmates, AB200 / 166805 / 2009

Noteworthy as we have previously reported, Mike Crutch, author of CVW: US Navy Carrier Air Wing Aircraft 1975-2015, discovered an interesting mistake that’s been lost in history – and Pentagon paperwork – while writing volume one of his book. Although the CVW-1 command history states VF-211 became VFA-211 in October 2004 when the unit began the transition from the F-14A to the F/A-18F, it seems that no one within the squadron, air wing or Fighter Wing, US Atlantic Fleet (FITWINGLANT) – the parent ‘type commander’ for fleet Tomcats – saw it as their job to formally re-designate the unit. 

Indeed, FITWINGLANT itself deactivated on Oct. 1, 2004 though the official paperwork for such was not promulgated until Jan. 27, 2005, at which point its list of remaining subordinate units (which were to be re-assigned with immediate effect to Strike Fighter Wing, US Atlantic Fleet) still included ‘FITRON 211’. This lack of paperwork – the lifeblood of the Pentagon – was acknowledged in OPNAV Instruction 5030-4G ‘Navy Aviation Squadron Lineage and Naval Aviation Command Insignia’ issued in April 2012, and gave the re-designation date as Aug. 1, 2006 even though no actual paperwork has been raised for that date either. To make matters worse, a double typographical error in a footnote makes two mentions of the oversight pertaining to VF-213 (not VF-211!) and this error is duplicated in the latest edition of ‘United States Naval Aviation 1910-2010’, published by the Naval History & Heritage Command. As a result of this oversight, the failed attempt at correction and the perpetuated error, the Fighting Checkmates to this day could technically claim themselves to be the US Navy’s last and only fighter squadron! Last year, thanks to this research, the squadron ordered some VF-211 patches to make the point…

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski / U.S. Navy

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.

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