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Old Viper Tester

VF-124 CarQuals - 1982

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In 1982, my USAF Test Pilot School class visited CV-61 USS Ranger as she was steaming down the California coast. The objective of the visit was to see how the 'other guys' do it. We were shuttled out to the boat in C-1 CODs, spent the night in forward quarters under the catapults - whoosh, bang, wirr continuing through much of the night for A-6Es doing their thing. In the morning, a briefing on carrier ops and then left to our own devices to watch VF-124 Tomcats do their Carrier Qualification exercise. After lunch, off to NAS North Island via CH-46 then a long drive back to Edwards.

 

The deck was relatively empty, but watching the activity for recovering each jet and then marshaling it up to the cats for another go certainly gave one a certain respect for the choreography required to get this done without a misstep or mishap. Made me appreciate the opening scenes of "Top Gun" all the more - I thought the carrier deck sequences were one of the better aspects of the movie. And the Tomcats, great aircraft.

 

My apologies for the lighting. I had asked if we couldn't steam northward to get better light from the Pri-Fly, but the crew would have none of it. Go figure.

 

F-14A vf-124 CV-61 19820300 31cr

 

F-14A vf-124 CV-61 19820300 01cr

 

F-14A vf-124 CV-61 19820300 26cr

 

161771 vf-124 NJ401 CV61 19820300 11cr

 

F-14A VF-124 NJ670 CV-61 19820300 38F-14A VF-124 NJ670 CV-61 19820300 21cr

 

161771 vf-124 NJ401 CV-61 19820300 07cr

 

161165 vf-124 NJ674 CV-61 19820300 21cr161165 vf-124 NJ674 CV-61 19820300 28cr

 

161144 vf-124 NJ670 CVA-61 19820300 33cr

 

 

161144 vf-124 NJ670 CVA-61 19820300 23cr

 

161144 vf-124 NJ670 CVA-61 19820300 04cr

 

160693 vf-124 NJ437 CV-61 19820300 36cr

 

160693 vf-124 NJ437 CV-61 19820300 33cr

 

 

161144 vf-124 NJ670 CVA-61 19820300 05cr

 

161771 vf-124 NJ401 CV-61 19820300 03cr

 

161771 vf-124 NJ401 CV-61 19820300 37cr160693 vf-124 NJ437 CV-61 19820300 35cr

 

161771 vf-124 NJ404 CV-61 19820300 08cr

 

For those who track such things, MODEX and BuNo:

 

161771  NJ401

160692  NJ436

160693  NJ437

160911  NJ662

161144  NJ670

161165  NJ674

 

In 1987, I revisited USS Ranger. As part of my assignment at the Ministry of Defense. I was to be the carrier suitability expert, even though I was a USAF exchange officer. The thinking went something like this from my commanding Group Captain: We (the UK) don't operate carriers anymore, you (the US) operate carriers, so you are going to be our carrier suitability Subject Matter Expert. I went to point to my USAF badges, but our uniform-of-the-day was civilian business suit, so the gesture was kind of pointless. I arranged to get a carrier suitability indoctrination from some US Navy offices in Silver Spring Maryland and then off to Point Mugu to get some carrier ops orientation from VX-4 (operational test squadron). Got a couple of flights each in their F-14s and F-4s going out and back from Pt Mugu to Ranger. The reason for the west coast visit was that there was no carrier doing air ops off the east coast at the time. Unfortunately, my camera was in the shop, though I don't think the USN guys would have let me carry a camera anyway.

 

Thanks for looking,

Sven

 

 

 

 

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Very cool stories to go with the pics Sven, really keep them coming! Only thing I have to ripe about is those horrible early -80's plain jane schemes the Navy had on those Tomcats, just horrible looking lol!

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Ahh pull up a sandbag.... great pictures and interesting story to boot.

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Very interesting pictures again, thanks for posting !

The markings shown are interesting as illustrate the mix of low and high visibility markings carried by USN Tomcats in those years... here we have overall 36440 paint with high-vis insignia and stencils but dark grey unit markings and numbers...as Whiskey said above, very plain markings overall. It was a time of transition between the good old days of decorated tails and fuselages to the introduction of the Tactical Paint Scheme, a time when most units toned down most markings and that resulted in some unusual combination too.

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fantastic post Sven. Keep them coming.

 

Do you think the Navy put you under the cat's all night deliberately? Sounds like a dirty trick :-)

 

Andy

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4 hours ago, Red Dot said:

Do you think the Navy put you under the cat's all night deliberately?

Red Dot - I'm sure it was deliberate. Seeing as the entire air wing was ashore at the time and Ranger was preparing to take on an air wing rotation, all of the air crew quarters were vacant. I was surprised that the berths they put us in were marked for one of the air wing fighter squadrons. Would've thought the fighter pukes would have rated better, but then maybe the rest of the ship took a vote and wanted to counter the fighter pilot ego?

 

Sven

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On 29/11/2017 at 8:18 PM, Old Viper Tester said:

For those who track such things, MODEX and BuNo:

 

161771  NJ401

160692  NJ436

160693  NJ437

160911  NJ662

161144  NJ670

161165  NJ674

Many thanks for those pics.

And for the details.

I've never quite understood the purpose of VF-124 MODEXes being in the 4xx range (and 6xx, apparently), as usually VFs are in the 1xx/2xx?

Any idea?

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3 hours ago, Antoine said:

Many thanks for those pics.

And for the details.

I've never quite understood the purpose of VF-124 MODEXes being in the 4xx range (and 6xx, apparently), as usually VFs are in the 1xx/2xx?

Any idea?

 

The reason goes way back in the history of USN markings system. Originally the name of a squadron was linked to the Air Wing of which the squadron was part. VF-124 started its life as 4th squadron withing Carrier Air Wing 12, hence the name VF-124. In the '50s there were fighter units that had higher modex number than 1xx or 2xx, and 4xx was not uncommon. The system at some point stopped being so "logical" and squadrons retained their identity while moving across different air wings.

Carrier Air Wing 12 at some point became the training wing on the US West Coast so that all units with a 12 became training units. In 1970 the training air wings were replaced with the concept of Fleet Replacement Squadrons but every unit retained the tail code and the modex of the air wings it belonged to, so VF-124 retained the NJ code and the 4xx modex. In 1970 VF-124 was on F-8s, modex 1xx was used by VF-121 on Phantoms, 2xx was for VA-122 on A-7s, modex 3xx was not used for some reason (was later used by VFA-125)

When VF-124 was assigned as West Coast FRS for the Tomcat, they retained the 4xx modex and mostly used this til the end.. apart from some aircrafts that at some points used a 6xx modex, for which I may have an explanation somewhere.

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