Strike Fighter EIGHT SEVEN
On 1 February 1968, The Golden Warriors were established as Attack Squadron EIGHT SEVEN, the first to fly the A-7B Corsair II from NAS Cecil Field, Florida. The first combat mission flown by the squadron was on 4 March 1969 from the USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14), striking enemy targets in South Vietnam. In August 1970, VA-87 joined CVW 6 and made twelve deployments aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), USS America (CV 66) AND USS Independence (CV 62).
In the fall of 1973, The Golden Warriors embarked onboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) to protect U.S. interests during the Arab-Israeli War. Transitioning to the improved A-7E Corsair II, the squadron returned in October 1975 to the Middle East following the assassination of the American Ambassador to Lebanon and assisted in the evacuation of U.S. citizens. During the Iranian hostage crises and the Israeli-Syrian disputes of 1981, VA-87 deployed to the region for 195 days. One year later The Golden Warriors were back in the fray, supporting U.S. peacekeeping operations in Lebanon for 172 days.
In October 1983, The Golden Warriors participated in Operation URGENT FURY, protecting American citizens from political strife in Grenada. During the same deployment, VA-87 participated in strikes against Syria in the on-going United Nations efforts to stabilize the Middle East. The Golden Warriors began a new era on 24 October 1986 when the venerable Corsair was retired and the squadron was designated Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT SEVEN with the new McDonnell Douglas FA-18A Hornet, the first Naval aircraft designed from conception as a Strike Fighter. After a temporary assignment with Carrier Air Wing ONE, The Golden Warriors embarked in USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) while joining the world’s most powerful air wing, Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW 8), in December 1988. Then, on 28 December 1990, VFA-87 deployed for Operation DESERT STORM, flying 629 sorties over 43 days of intense combat to liberate Kuwait.
From March to September 1993, The Golden Warriors supported Operations DENY FLIGHT, PROVIDE COMFORT, and SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW) with the newer FA-18C Hornet. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and VFA-87 returned to the Arabian Gulf in March of 1995 for OSW followed by combat sorties over Yugoslavia. On 30 August 1995, Golden Warrior jets were the first to strike Bosnian-Serb targets during Operation DELIBERATE FORCE. The Golden Warriors then participated in Operation DELIBERATE GUARD during a summer deployment with USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). They also returned to the familiar Arabian Gulf for OSW before coming home in October of 1997 to Cecil Field for the last time in the squadron’s history.
VFA-87 made history again by participating in combat operations in two different theaters during a single deployment, operating from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). While en route to the Arabian Gulf in April 1999, crisis erupted in the former Yugoslavian republic of Kosovo, prompting the largest aerial bombing campaign since the Vietnam War. In just 68 days, Golden Warrior FA-18s dropped 430,000 pounds of ordnance and flew 595 combat missions during Operation ALLIED FORCE, contributing to a NATO victory, and expelling Serbian oppressors from the war-torn province of Kosovo. In July, VFA-87 returned to the Arabian Gulf and flew 176 combat missions in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The Golden Warriors returned to their first new home in over thirty years, NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Golden Warriors left Oceana in April 2001 for the Mediterranean onboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier. VFA-87 left the Arabian Gulf after six weeks of OSW support, beginning the long transit back to Virginia when the history of America changed forever. Following the tragedy of 11 September 2001, The Golden Warriors answered the call when the United States Navy responded with a massive offensive against the Taliban and Al Qaida forces in Afghanistan – the birth of a war against global terrorism in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
While preparing for a spring 2003 deployment to the Mediterranean, escalating tensions in the Middle East again brought The Golden Warriors to the action as a member of the CVW 8 team, embarked in USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Deploying to the eastern Mediterranean five months ahead of schedule, The Golden Warriors again made history by contributing to the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In September 2005 the Golden Warriors deployed onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM for a second time, ensuring a successful constitutional referendum and the first ever Iraqi free election. They returned to Oceana on 11 March 2006.
The Golden Warriors were awarded their first ever Battle Efficiency Award in 2005 and repeated with the 2006 Battle “E”. They transitioned to the F/A-18A+ in 2006. Throughout 2007 and 2008 VFA-87 participated in various work-ups exercises including Air-to-air and Air-to-ground SFARP, TESTA, COMPTUX, Air Wing Fallon, and JTFEX to prepare for their next deployment. The War Party sailed with the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) beginning on 08 September 2008 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and returned home to NAS Oceana on 18 April 2009.
2010 was a year of significant accomplishment for the "War Party". VFA-87 participated in three embarked periods in preparation for the maiden deployment of the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), including a deck qualification, Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE), and Tailored Ship's Training Assesment (TSTA). Additionally the "War Party" completed three command detachments; one to NAS Key West for the Air-to-Air Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) and two to NAS Fallon for Air-to-Ground SFARP.
The "War Party" was home briefly for the holidays and then embarked USS George H. W. Bush for Composite Training Unit Exercise/Joint Task Force Exercise (COMPTUEX/JTFEX). In May 2011 the "War Party" deployed onboard George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) executing 3784.5 maintenance mishap-free flighthours and flew 1436 sorties in support of coalition ground forces during Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN. The Golden Warriors flawlessly delivered over 2500 lbs of precision guided ordnance on 12 separate kinetic events achieving Ground Commander's Intent on 100 percent of these strikes.
In 2012 the Golden Warriors successfully completed four operational detachments, transferred 10 F/A-18A+ and accepted/groomed 11 F/A-18C aircraft.