VF-32 Swordsmen Last Tomcat Cruise Feature Report
For The Swordsmen of VF-32, 2005 marks the sad end to 31 years of operations with Grumman's Big Cat - this final cruise, as part of Carrier Air Wing 3 (CVW-3) aboard the USS Harry S. Truman is their last with the Tomcat as, come October 2005, they will begin the transition to the Navy’s newest all-singing all-dancing toy - the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet. So, once they transition onto the F/A-18F, VF-32 will no longer exist as they take up a true multi-role mission and change their name to VFA-32.
Report and photos by. Additional photography by .
VF-32 transitioned to the F-14A Tomcat from the F-4B Phantom II in July of 1974, becoming the first East Coast squadron to do so and, during their first Tomcat-equipped cruise (part of CVW-1 aboard CV-67 USS John F. Kennedy), they won an award signifying them as the best squadron in the Navy. Quite an achievement to say they had only being flying the "Turkey" for a relatively short period of time beforehand.
The jets and crews of VF-32 are no strangers to combat and whilst assigned to CVW-3 / USS John F. Kennedy on patrol in the Mediterranean in 1989, two VF-32 F-14As destroyed two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers following attempts by the Libyan MiGs to engage the two Tomcats which were conducting a Combat Air Patrol. One Flogger was downed by an AIM-7 Sparrow fired from F-14A Modex 207, the other being brought down by an AIM-9 Sidewinder fired from F-14A Modex 202 following a failed AIM-7 shot.
Less than two years later, VF-32s Tomcat once again saw combat in Operation Desert Storm between 14th September 1990 and 12th March 1991 - still aboard the Kennedy but this time as part of CVW-17. The squadron proved to be quite invaluable thanks to their TARPS (Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System) capabilities for pre- and post-strike analysis. The Navy record for developing TARPS film, from landing to the final print, is just thirteen minutes. Five days after the cessation of hostilities, after the Tomcat force had flown 781 TARPS missions, a VF-32 crew had the distinction of being the last US Navy crew over Baghdad. VF-32 crews and their TARPs-equipped F-14s have also seen action in the photo-recce role over Grenada and Lebanon.
Since the end of Desert Storm, VF-32 has maintained its role in the defence of the Carrier Strike Group and other US interests in the CENTCOM Middle East region. In addition to their TARPS-equipped recon role, they have also successfully taken on a well spoken of precision strike "Bombcat" role with LANTIRN pods and precision guided munitions. The TARPS mission has been enhanced with the adaptation of digital photography providing a near real-time image to other Tomcats or the Strike Group.
The Swordsmen will be at the NAS Oceana Airshow 2005 in September and they should also have their beloved Tomcats with them...
Libyan aviators beware when VF-32 Swordsmen are up there.
Baby, do we kick ass.
Ask any Libyan Flogger pilot.
High Noon, January 4th 1989.
Tomcats 2 - Floggers 0.