Military Aviation

VMFA-323 is carrying out USMC last deployment to an aircraft carrier for F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters

This will be the Marine Corps’ last deployment to an aircraft carrier for Hornets, which are being replaced after nearly 40 years by the F-35 Lightning II.

Taken on May 8, 2020 the photos in this post show U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornets of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, taking off from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, Calif.

The squadron, commonly referred to as the “Death Rattlers” were headed to the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) for the final F/A-18C deployment in 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s history.

According to The Orange County Register, this will be the Marine Corps’ last deployment to an aircraft carrier for Hornets, which are being replaced after nearly 40 years by the F-35 Lightning II. The F-35B Lightning II – a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft – is one of two models (the other being the F-35C carrier variant) of new-age fighters to be used by the Marines.

“They’re old, but they’re battle-proven said,” Lt. Zach Bodner, spokesman for the aircraft wing, said about the Hornet.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and elements of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG), deployed from San Diego, Jun. 8, in support of global maritime security operations.

Prior to deploying, the strike group completed a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), designed to fully integrate units of a carrier strike group, while testing a strike group’s ability as a whole to carry out sustained combat operations from the sea. Ships, squadrons and staffs were tested across every core warfare area within their mission sets through a variety of simulated and live events, including air warfare, strait transits, and responses to surface and subsurface contacts and electronic attacks.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.  F/A-18B Hornet VMFAT-101 Sharpshooters, SH215 / 163115 – Medal of Honor. MAG-11, MAW-3, MCAS Miramar, CA – 2014

In addition to Nimitz, Nimitz CSG deploying units include Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, which includes Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114). CVW-17 consists of the Lemoore, California-based “Kestrels” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137, “Mighty Shrikes” of VFA 94, “Fighting Redcocks” of VFA 22; the San Diego-based “Death Rattlers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the Whidbey Island, Washington-based “Cougars” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139, the Point Mugu, California-based “Sun Kings” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 116, and the San Diego-based “Indians” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6, “Battlecats” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73 and “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30.

Sterett departed Naval Base San Diego on Jun. 4, Princeton departed Naval Base San Diego on Jun. 6, and Ralph Johnson departed San Diego on Jun. 9.

USS Nimitz (CVN 68) departed Naval Air Station North Island on Jun. 8, 2020.

Photo credit: Sgt. Samuel Ruiz / U.S. Marine Corps and MC2 Natalie M. Byers / 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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