Navy Whittles Down Number of ‘Classic’ Hornet Squadrons
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — Another Navy strike fighter (VFA) squadron will begin transition to F/A-18E Super Hornets this month, reducing the number of carrier-based squadrons with F/A-18C ‘Classic’ Hornets to only three.
VFA-131, based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., is the latest VFA to begin the transition to the Super Hornet, according to a source familiar with the transition plan. The squadron will go through the upgrade at VFA-106, the fleet replacement squadron also based at Oceana.
The transition will leave three operational F/A-18C squadrons in the fleet: VFA-34, VFA-37, and VFA-83, all based at Oceana. Another, VFA-15, was deactivated on May 31.
The Navy’s original transition plans for the F/A-18C called for a carrier air wing to be equipped with two F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons and two legacy “Classic” F/A-18A/C squadrons. The increased wear from nearly two decades of combat operations on the F/A-18 fleet, budget pressures in their service life extensions, and the delays in the fielding of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter have led the Navy to procure more Super Hornets to close a gap in the strike fighter inventory. Some carrier air wings now are equipped with four Super Hornet squadrons. Congress has supported extended procurement of Super Hornets to provide relief of the strike fighter shortage.
The first F/A-18 squadron scheduled for transition to the F-35C is VFA-147 at NAS Lemoore, Calif., slated to begin the upgrade in 2018.