The 56th Fighter Wing

The Jolly Rogers of VF-103

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Without a doubt, my favorite fighter squadron has to be the famous "Jolly Rogers" of Navy Fighter Squadron One Hundred and Three. Based at NAS Oceana, the "Jolly Rogers" fly the fantastic F-14B Tomcat. The squadron has ten aircraft that are kept in near perfect condition by one of the finest maintenance departments in the military.

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The squadron dates back to World War Two when they were first commissioned as VF-17. Flying the F4 Corsair, the "Jolly Rogers" were a fearsome unit that fought in the Pacific against the Japanese. Because their plane was called Corsair, VF-17's men wanted a squadron name that would match the pirate theme. What they came up with is now the most awesome logo painted on any fighter, the famous black flag with white skull and crossbones symbol. To match this they chose the moniker of "Jolly Rogers".

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According to the Navy's records, the Jolly Rogers name and traditions were passed to VF-5 in 1946, which subsequently became VF-61 on April 28, 1948. VF-61 operated until April 15, 1959 and was then transferred to assume command of VF-84. VF-84 took over the Jolly Rogers name and logo. The squadron's planes were adorned with the traditional skull and crossbones of the Jolly Rogers. VF-61 had been named Vagabonds and used a black, diagonal flash with yellow chevrons as a design. The new unit took this with it and completed the now familiar aircraft scheme.

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The Tomcat community has undergone drastic downsizing as the F-14 is phased out in favor of the F/A-18 Super Hornet. One of the units cut was VF-84. The Navy decided to change the name of VF-103 from Sluggers to Jolly Rogers name and symbol in late 1995 to keep the tradition alive.

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The squadron was the first Tomcat unit to deploy with the LANTIRN system which provides a precision ground attack capability to the F-14 community. The resulting "Bombcats" have proven just how great and flexible a design the Grumman engineers constructed.

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I have been fortunate to enjoy a close working relationship with the unit the past few years and have photographed the airplanes in various low visibility designs. I waited a long time for the return of the striking yellow and black design from the 1970's and was thrilled when it was recently added to the squadrons showbird. No fighter looks sharper!

Beware the Jolly Rogers!

Rick would like to thank CDR Gary Williams, LCDR Tony Desmet and all the Jolly Rogers for their support

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