Flying over nine different types of fighter aircraft in the past 63 years, the Skull and Crossbones have become the most recognized and feared insignia in the world. The Skull and Crossbones first flew in January 1943 on the F4U Corsairs assigned to VF-17, the most lethal Navy fighter squadron of World War II. By the end of the war, the original Jolly Rogers had racked up 154.5 kills in the skies over the Pacific. In 1946, VF-17 was redesignated VF-5B and then again in 1948 to VF-61, as the Jolly Rogers transitioned from the F4U to the F-8 Bearcat. VF-61 subsequently transitioned to the Navy's first jet fighters, the F-9 Panther, then the FJ-3 Fury and finally the F-3H Demon, prior to the squadron's decommissioning in March 1959.
Flying F-8 Crusaders at the time, the VF-84 Vegabonds were redesignated as the Jolly Rogers in June 1959 to preserve the tradition and history of "The Bones." Eventually the VF-84 Jolly Rogers transitioned from the F-8 Crusader to the F-4 Phantom and finally to the F-14A Tomcat in 1975.
Following VF-84's decommissioning in October 1995, the decision was made to retire the "Club and Cloverleaf" insignia of the VF-103 "Sluggers" and have Fighting 103 adopt the Jolly Roger insignia and the Tactical callsign, "Victory," on October 1st, 1995. Prior to assuming the Jolly Rogers name and insignia, VF-103, commissioned in 1952, had consistently proven ready and willing to accomplish all assigned missions while flying successively more complex and more capable aircraft. VF-103 flew numerous sorties in the moonless skies over Vietnam and achieved the only night MiG kill of the entire conflict.
The Skull and Crossbones had now moved on to its fifth home in order to preserve the rich history and multiple achievements of all Jolly Rogers, spanning four generations and four fighter squadrons. VF-103 made it's last deployment flying the F-14B Tomcat in 2004 aboard the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, conducting missions in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and the squadron transitioned to the F/A-18F Super Horne in February of 2005, becoming re-designated VFA-103
In October 2006, VFA-103 deployed with CVW-7 aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) to the CENTCOM AOR in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM, and Horn of Africa Operations off the coast of Somalia. Returning in May 2007, the squadron completed and eight month surge period. In 2008, the Jolly Rogers transited the Straits of Magellan aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) during the Partnership of the Americas deployment before beginning workups in June. The Jolly Rogers deployed again in February 2009 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. During five months of supporting coalition ground forces engaged in close combat with the enemy, the squadron led the air wing in kinetic effects.
Less than six months later, the Jolly Rogers returned to sea for a seven month surge deployment beginning in January 2010 aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. VFA-103 continued their role as Carrier Air Wing SEVEN's (CVW-7's) go-to squadron for the most demanding combat and combat support missions. While deployed, the Jolly Rogers led the air wing in combat operations, flying over 1850 sorties and nearly 5900 hours. The squadron's relentless effort to prepare for operations on the tip of the spear culminated in the successful delivery of 14 precision weapons, over 600 rounds of 20mm, and more than 80 non-kinetic shows of force/presence in direct support of coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan.
The Jolly Rogers of VFA-103 continue to exemplify the Naval Aviation traditions of excellence and professionalism. With the Jolly Roger emblem proudly emblazoned on the tails of the most lethal and history-rich fighter squadron in all of Naval Aviation, the legacy of "The Bones" promises to endure for many years to come.