Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT THREE, originally Naval Reserve Fighter Squadron NINE ONE SIX, was called into active duty at NAS Squantum, Massachusetts, in April 1950. Shortly thereafter, VF-916 moved to NAS Oceana as part of Air Group EIGHT. As a fighter squadron, VF-916 flew the F-4U “Corsair," the F-8F “Bearcat,” the F9F-5 “Panther” and the F-7U “Cutlass” from the decks of USS SAIPAN, USS MIDWAY and USS CORAL SEA.
In 1955, the squadron was re-designated Light Attack Squadron 83 and in 1957 received its first A-4 “Skyhawks." During the “Skyhawk” years, the RAMPAGERS operated from the decks of USS ESSEX, USS FORRESTAL, USS SARATOGA, USS SHANGRI-LA and USS JOHN F. KENNEDY.
In 1966, the squadron moved to NAS Cecil Field. As part of Air Wing ONE, VA-83 was the last squadron to fly A-4’s aboard USS JOHN F. KENNEDY. Later that same year, the “Skyhawks” were traded in for the new A-7E “Corsairs."
In January 1971, VA-83 deployed with Air Wing SEVENTEEN on USS FORRESTAL, compiling a perfect safety record and distinguishing itself by being one of the first squadrons to fly the A-7E on deployment.
In 1973, the squadron won its third CNO Aviation Safety Award and in March 1974 commenced its fourteenth Mediterranean deployment. During this deployment, the RAMPAGERS helped provide U.S. Naval presence in response to the Cyprus crisis and completed more than ten months at sea.
Between 1975 and 1982, the squadron made three deployments, including extensive operations with NATO allies in the North Atlantic. Aboard USS FORRESTAL for the last time beginning in March 1982, the squadron supported American peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, during and after OPERATION PEACE FOR GALILEE.
The squadron left Cecil Field in June 1987 for its twenty-second Mediterranean, and final “Corsair,” deployment. Upon return to Cecil Field in November, the RAMPAGERS received twelve new F/A-18C “Hornets” and on March 1, 1988 the squadron was re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT THREE.
In the summer of 1990, the squadron deployed to the Red Sea, employing its Hornets aboard USS SARATOGA in OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD / DESERT STORM. During 43 days of combat operations, the squadron flew 427 long-range strike missions over Iraq and Kuwait. VFA-83 was awarded the 1990 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency “E” Pennant and the 1991 CNO Aviation Safety Award.
In May 1992, the squadron deployed to the Mediterranean aboard USS SARATOGA. The 1992 deployment was marked by extensive Adriatic Sea operations in support of United Nations relief efforts in the former Yugoslavia.
In December 1993, the RAMPAGERS completed a compressed turnaround training cycle and in January 1994 began the final USS SARATOGA deployment. Like the previous one, this deployment was marked by extensive Adriatic Sea operations and the first ever F/A-18 detachment to Jordan. During this deployment, the squadron was awarded its sixth CNO Aviation Safety Award.
In June 1996, the RAMPAGERS deployed to the Mediterranean, Adriatic Seas and Persian Gulf onboard the USS ENTERPRISE in support of OPERATION DECISIVE ENDEAVOR and OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH. VFA-83 was awarded both the 1996 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency “E” pennant and the CNO Michael J. Estocin Award, declaring the RAMPAGERS the best F/A-18 squadron in the United States Navy.
In April 1999, VFA-83 moved to its current home of NAS Oceana. On 21 June 1999, Carrier Air Wing SEVENTEEN and the RAMPAGERS began their first deployment aboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON. VFA-83 flew missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, helping to enforce the NATO and UN mandate in that war-torn region. Several weeks later, the RAMPAGERS found themselves flying OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH patrols in response to Iraqi aggression. In mid-August, two RAMPAGER pilots became the first CVW-17 personnel to successfully deliver JDAM and SLAM-ER in combat. VFA-83 capped off the deployment with the “Top Hook” award for cruise.
Immediately after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, CVW-17 deployed aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON off the coast of New York City in support of OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE. The RAMPAGERS next deployed in July 2002, again aboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON. In a few short weeks the carrier arrived in the Northern Arabian Sea in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.
In the period between March and May 2003, the squadron completed two detachments aboard USS STENNIS and USS ENTERPRISE. In June, VFA-83 traded in their LOT XIX Hornets for twelve LOT XIII Hornets in a trade with VFA-131. VFA-83 also participated in the USS RONALD REAGAN’s shakedown cruise in September and then began preparations for the next deployment.
On 7 June 2004, the RAMPAGERS deployed aboard USS JOHN F. KENNEDY. In November, the RAMPAGERS flew combat missions in support of OPERATION PHANTOM FURY which provided direct support to ground troops in Fallujah and Mosul.
In July 2005, the RAMPAGERS were re-assigned to Carrier Air Wing SEVEN attached to the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER.
In March 2006, the squadron was awarded the Commander, Fleet Forces Command “Golden Anchor” award for retention excellence and its eighth Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award. During 2006, VFA-83 started the workup cycle to prepare for cruise in October 2006. While deployed aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, the RAMPAGERS participated in OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.
In 2007, the RAMPAGERS returned home from their challenging and lengthy combat deployment to the Middle East and returned to a rigorous post-deployment surge period, deploying again to support the USS HARRRY S. TRUMAN during a Joint Task Force Exercise.
The RAMPAGERS began 2008 embarked on the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON in support of their TSTA. In April, the RAMPAGERS detached to Tyndall AFB in Panama City, FL for air-to-air training with the USAF 43rd Fighter Squadron. In June 2008, the RAMPAGERS started the first stage of workups. The squadron then spent two weeks supporting an Army Brigade in the Ft. Irwin Training Complex. In September, the squadron participated in TSTA aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER followed by Air Wing Fallon in late October.
2009 marked a very busy year for the RAMPAGERS. The squadron once again found itself deployed aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER in support of combat operations from February to June. The squadron excelled in the carrier environment, earning the TOP HOOK award for the 2009 deployment. After a highly successful cruise with memorable port visits the RAMPAGERS returned home for a short break. After just a few short months, the squadron participated in COMPTUEX to prepare for a surge deployment back to the Middle East aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. 2009 was capped off with the RAMPAGERS earning the 2009 Battle “E” and 2009 Michael J. Estocin Award.
2010 brought another successful deployment in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. From January to the end of July, the RAMPAGERS proved yet again their prowess in combat by supporting coalition troops on the ground. Upon returning from cruise the RAMPAGERS enjoyed several months of rest.
Throughout 2011, the RAMPAGERS would assist the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER in flight deck certification and complete SFARP in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground arenas. After a short TSTA in October, the RAMPAGERS returned home to prepare for Air Wing Fallon in January of 2012.
In 2012, the RAMPAGERS completed their preparations for deployment and left to support Operation ENDURING FREEDOM which spanned the second half of the year. Returning home in December, they maintained a high level of readiness in their few months ashore before embarking once more aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN-69). They spent the first half of 2013 supporting 5th and 6th Fleet operations to include numerous combat sorties in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. While deployed they enjoyed multiple port calls and participated in Operation EAGLE RESOLVE with the Qatari Air Force.
Upon returning home in July 2013, the RAMPAGERS enjoyed some well-earned down time but soon began training for their next operational requirement. Squadron travels included two Close Air Support detachments to Alpena, MI where the RAMPAGERS worked closely with Navy Special Operations Forces, a detachment aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT keeping aircrew and maintainers current in flight deck operations, an adversary detachment to Key West, FL in support of Carrier Air Wing ONE, a Naval Weapons System Evaluation Program detachment to Tyndall AFB, FL where six air-to-air missiles were successfully expended and highlighted by a Dissimilar Air Combat Training detachment with the 525th and 90th Fighter Squadron in Elmendorf AFB, AK to complete the summer of 2014.
The beginning of 2015 coincided with the start of the Fleet Readiness Training Program. The RAMPAGERS of Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT THREE, along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW 7), spent the year increasing their operational readiness in preparation for a scheduled November 2015 deployment aboard the USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75).
In February, the RAMPAGERS spent two weeks in Key West, Florida for the Air-to-Air Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (A/A SFARP). This unit level training focused on increasing the level of the RAMPAGERS’ air-to-air mission execution in both section and division elements.
After the completion of A/A SFARP, the RAMPAGERS returned home for a brief period of local operations. In April, the squadron travelled to NAS Fallon, Nevada to take part in the Air-to-Surface Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (A/S SFARP). The Fallon Range Training complex is a world class resource that facilitated unsurpassed training in air-to-surface tactics. The RAMPAGERS expended over 6,000 rounds of 20mm and 63,000 pounds of ordnance during the detachment.
In June, the RAMPAGERS embarked aboard CVN 75 for Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA). The RAMPAGERS’ return to the aircraft carrier environment provided invaluable shipboard training for the aircrew and maintainers. Additionally, TSTA presented the first opportunity for the RAMPAGERS to conduct flight operations aboard CVN 75.
The conclusion of TSTA allowed the RAMPAGERS only a few days at home before returning to NAS Fallon, Nevada for Air Wing Fallon. This detachment afforded the RAMPAGERS the opportunity to incorporate unit level skills honed during SFARP into CVW 7’s strike mission. On this detachment, it was vital for all CVW 7 assets to achieve synergy. In this case, the resultant whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
The return of the RAMPAGERS to Virginia Beach gave the warriors a much needed four weeks of local operations. September called the RAMPAGERS and the rest of CVW 7 back to CVN 75 for Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX). The completion of COMPTUEX marks the end of the FRTP syllabus and signals the Carrier Strike Group’s certification to deploy. COMPTUEX challenged the entire RAMPAGER family with four weeks of a continuous around the clock scenario. This scenario was tailored to present relevant threats CVW 7 could potentially encounter during deployment. COMPTUEX presented an opportunity to combine all experiences and skills gained during the workup cycle.
The RAMPAGERS deployed in November. After transiting the Atlantic, they culminated an outstanding year flying strike missions in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT THREE expertly employed over 50,000 pounds of ordnance in the fight against ISIS.
During their tremendously successful year, the RAMPAGERS earned the 2015 Battle Efficiency Award, 2015 Safety “S”, 2015 Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic “Golden Wrench” Award for maintenance excellence, 2015 Retention Excellence Award, and 2015 Blue “M” for medical readiness.
The RAMPAGERS of Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT THREE began 2016 by continuing from where they left off in 2015, flying combat operations in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. Combat operations began with “Vampire Ops” covering vulnerability windows entirely at night over Iraq and Syria. Despite the challenging schedule, the RAMPAGERS excelled during this time period, filling numerous air wing combat spares. Over the course of the deployment, the ever-ready RAMPAGERS filled for 22 air wing spares. As a result, the RAMPAGERS contributed 372 combat sorties to the fight, had an overall combined combat sortie completion rate of 102.17 percent, and delivered 349 pieces of ordnance, totaling an impressive 329,895 pounds. With just three stations loaded on normal close air support missions, these numbers are a testament to the training and execution of the RAMPAGER pilots and the focused maintenance that kept the jets flying.
In addition to combat operations, the RAMPAGERS participated in numerous international exercises during deployment in order to strengthen regional ties with strategic partners and ensure mission success in future endeavors. They provided jets, pilots, and maintainers to both the Dubai Airshow and the Omani Air Exercise. Additionally, the RAMPAGERS led exercise DESERT FLAG in Al Dhafra, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the most important, difficult, and longest-lasting exercise of our deployment. This outstanding exercise facilitated 60 sorties where Carrier Air Wing SEVEN received valuable training from dynamic air-to-air missions with Saudi Arabian Typhoons, Bahraini F-16s, French Rafales, and other UAE and United States Air Force aircraft.
Efficiently utilizing the training and manpower we cultivated and refined during the Fleet Response Training Plan, the RAMPAGERS executed a supremely successful deployment and posted a 98.6 percent sortie completion rate for the year. With a positive command climate reinforced by a stellar Chief’s mess and incredibly mature First Class Petty Officers, the RAMPAGERS took maintenance excellence to new heights through 255,591 maintenance man-hours resulting in the completion of 24 maintenance phase inspections, 64 functional check flights, and 32,353 maintenance actions. They finished the year of demanding and diverse operations with zero Class A or B mishaps, extending the impeccable RAMPAGER safety record to 22 years and 93,861.1 flight hours without a Class A mishap.
During their incredibly successful year, the RAMPAGERS earned the 2016 Battle Efficiency Award (Battle “E”), the 2016 CNO Aviation Safety Award (Safety “S”), the 2016 Retention Excellence Award, the 2016 Blue “M” for medical readiness, and the 2016 Michael J. Estocin Award for outstanding achievements and contributions to Naval Aviation (VFA A+/C). This incredible feat is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and professionalism of each RAMPAGER Sailor.
The beginning of 2017 continued the RAMPAGERS post-deployment OFRP maintenance phase stemming from June of 2016. Over the course of a year, the RAMPAGERS flew 1,606 sorties for a total of 1,919.5 mishap-free flight hours with an overall sortie completion rate of 96.5 percent. Undeterred by an extended maintenance phase and squadron transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet, the RAMPAGERS upgraded pilot qualifications to include six Combat Division Leads, five Combat Section Leads, one Combat Wingman, and one Combat Division Lead Instructor.
With three successful detachments under their belt, the RAMPAGERS increased their air-to-air proficiency. Displaying exceptional versatility, the squadron worked with F-15 Strike Eagles out of NAS JRB New Orleans, advanced air-to-surface lethality with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller Schoolhouse located at Nellis AFB, and heightened their Fighter Integration knowledge and skills with the Tyndall AFB F-22 Raptor Squadron during exercise SENTRY SAVANNAH.
In addition to successful tactical qualifications and training evolutions for the aircrew, the RAMGERS maintenance department operated with keen efficiency and tenacity. Led by a savvy Chief’s mess and hard-charging First Class Petty Officers, the RAMPAGERS executed a total of 8,841.7 maintenance man-hours, completed 10 maintenance phases, 32 functional flight check flights, and 5,219 maintenance actions. The aforementioned achievements were completed without a Class A or B mishap which lengthens the RAMPAGERS safety streak to 23 years and a total of 95,832.2 flight hours without a Class A or B mishap.
Toward the end of 2017, the RAMPAGERS began to focus on the impending aircraft transition. The squadron successfully prepared ten F/A-18C Hornet aircraft for transport to numerous locations across the fleet. Additionally, the RAMPAGERS were awarded the 2017 Retention Excellence Award for their superior sustainment of Sailor retention rates and the 2017 Retention Excellence Award, the 2017 Blue “M” for medical readiness.
Turning the calendar over in 2018, the RAMPAGERS thrusted into their transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. The maintenance department and its personnel engaged in a large series of new training qualifications. The operations department was charged with ensuring the pilots met the new F/A-18E Super Hornet requirements for operating the new aircraft safely and according to regulation. Finally, at the end of June 2018 the squadron received their Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification (SFFOC) and was officially a fully certified and operational F/A-18E squadron. Additionally, a small footprint of RAMPAGERS temporarily supported fellow Carrier Air Wing Three Fighter Squadron, VFA-131, while participating in a exercise known as RED FLAG-Alaska. RED FLAG-Alaska is a realistic, United States Air Force air combat training exercise designed to incorporate multi-nation, multi-service, multi-platform, combat operations designed to practice the capabilities of participating units.