VF-211 Fighting Checkmates

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VF-211 CAG Birds

Base:NAS Oceana





VF-211 Squadron Patch
VF-211 Insignia Courtesy of Darryl Shaw

VF-211's origins trace back to VB-74, which was established upon the 1st of May 1945. The squadron acquired it's present designation on the 9th of March 1959. Before receiving the F-14A Tomcat VF-211 flew the Navy's last all gun fighter, the famous F-8J Crusader, becoming widely known due to their attractive and visible markings. However, the Crusader's days were number after the 23rd of December 1975, when VF-211 made it's maiden flight in the, at that time, brand new and highly advanced F-14A (VF-211 had officially stood up as a F-14 squadron on the 1st December 1975).
VF-211 was the ninth squadron to receive the F-14A, following VF-124, VF-1, VF-2, VF-14, VF-32, VF-142, VF-143, and VF-114. Within six months VF-211 was flying the F-14A in that most difficult of Navy arts: carrier landings, the first taking place on the USS Constellation (CV-64) in June of 1976. The squadron's first cruise (with VF-24 as part of CVW-9) was also on board Constellation, beginning in April of 1977. Within a few short months the Checkmates showed their proficiency with the F-14, becoming the first West Coast F-14 unit to win a Battle E readiness award in 1977. Whilst competing for this ward VF-211 achieved 5000 accident free F-14 flights hours and over 1400 traps.
Regular cruises on board Constellation followed, until in October 1980 VF-211 was selected to pick up the reconnaissance mission, with the "interim" TARPS pod. The original plans envisaged the introduction of a recon version of the F/A-18 Hornet within a few years, but VF-211 (and the rest of the F-14 community) are still performing this vital mission today.
July of 1983 saw the first cruise on board another carrier, as CVW-9 shifted to the USS Ranger (CV-61), due to the USS Constellation going into the Naval Shipyard at Bremerton to have a refit and update that would install the F/A-18 avionics and maintenance areas. VF-211 shifted again in 1985, this time to the USS Kitty Hawk so that Ranger could have the F/A-18 update. The Kitty Hawk cruise lasted from July to December of 1985. After this cruise VF-211 renewed it's association with the Constellation, then in early 1987 moved to the Kitty Hawk again, being aboard from January to June 1987. Following this cruise the whole of CVW-9 moved to the USS Nimtz (CVN-68), newly transferred from the Atlantic fleet.
In 1986 VF-211 took part in trials of experimental water based camouflage schemes, painting at least four aircraft in temporary schemes that consisted of browns and greys, three different shades of each colour being used. These paint schemes were found to weather fairly quickly and on different aircraft the underlying TPS greys and squadron markings could be seen to differing extents. The paint took around four hours to apply and ten to remove, resulting in some of the most interesting F-14 schemes to date.
VF-211 started to receive the upgraded F-14A (now F-14B) in April of 1989, for the first time being able to fly the F-14 to it's aerodynamic limits rather than it's engine limits. While VF-211, as with most Navy F- 14 units, may well have been eagerly looking forward to receiving the vastly superior F-14D, this was not to be. With the end of the Cold War and changing requirements the Secretary of Defence, Dick Cheney, halted all production of the F-14D, after only 55 had been produced. Instead, in 1992, VF-211 was forced to return to the F-14A, due to a decision to shift all F-14B's to Atlantic Fleet units.
VF-211 has received training for air to ground weapons and now routinely flys sorties with the aircraft primarily configured for air to ground attack, which while part of the original Navy specification for the F-14, was a capability which for a long time was left untapped. VF- 211 has received LANTIRN capable F-14's in small numbers, but the present lack of pods means they are not fully operative in the LANTIRN roles. The squadron left NAS Miramar in August of 1996, and is now settled in it's new home at NAS Oceana. When required for cruises, all squadrons assigned to west coast carriers will now fly across the USA, but for administrative reasons will be under the command of COMNAVAIRLANT.

VF-211 Squadron Patch

VF-211 deployed onboard the USS Nimtz in September 1997, taking 10 aircraft and several LANTIRN pods. The cruise became even more eventful than normal whne Saddam hussein expelled UN weapon inspectors from Iraq. The resulting crisis saw a large build up of forces in the Gulf, assisting CVW-9, who had already been present, enforcing the Southern Watch No-Fly Zone. As tension rose the F-14's of VF-211 proved invaluable. In the event the forces gathered in the Gulf were not used, but proved again an important lesson regarding carriers-you don't need anyone else's permission to use it. The Checkmates, despite having been in theatre for several months took up the extension of the cruise without complaint, flying daily missions until the crisis was resolved. They even had time to paint an aircraft with the squadron mascot Bluto (seen on a patch at the bottom of the page), a tradition whenever the Fighting Checkmates spend Christmas away from home.
After the long cruise the welcome back to Oceana in Janaury 1998 was even better than usual. After the normal stand down VF-211 restarted flight ops and in the period since have sent jets to NAS Fallon and the NAS Norfolk airshow, in addition to normal flying.
The next cruise date is uncertain, but whenever it comes the Fighting Checkmates of VF-211 will be ready.
As mentioned above, during the 1970's VF-211 had some of the most visible markings around and even in the present era are some of the most attractive in the F-14 community. Today's VF-211 markings feature dark grey checks upon the rudder, twin dark grey horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the tailfin and the NG tailcode in small letters. Aircraft from the squadron are often seen with a black/dark grey anti- glare panel that continues along the cockpit and down the spine of the aircraft. A second thin stripe is often used to highlight this area.
The images below show the first steps in the move from hi-vis to low-vis markings for VF-211. The first shows a VF-211 aircraft in the early gull grey/white camouflage scheme, with very hi-vis markings. The coloured stars on the tail represent the squadrons assigned to CVW-9.
In this second image the white has gone from the camouflage and the tailcode has reduced in size. Later changes would see the red, white and blue tail markings replaced with grey, as would be the blue canopy hood and the red underfuselage strake.

Grumman Corporation Tomcat News - November 1977
Grumman Corporation Tomcat News - November 1978
Grumman Corporation Tomcat News - Summer 1983


VF-211 CAG bird, 2004.
Image Copyright Andy Mullen

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File:Vf-211 2t.gif

VF-211 CAG bird, late 70s.
[MAILTO:<TorstenAnft@post.rwth-aachen.de> Image Copyright Torsten Anft]

VF-211 Fighting Checkmates’ Aircraft Tail Design, 1996-1998

From the time we began flying Tomcats in 1975, the Fighting Checkmates painted our aircraft tails with checkerboard rudders, horizontal stripes at top and bottom of rudders, and the air wing letters, NG. Around the canopy we painted a dark anti-glare panel, known as a "bandit stripe." Several people have asked about recently seen changes, so I offer the following comments.
In July 1996, outgoing Commanding Officer CDR Gerry Beaman announced at his change of command that he was adding a "check-mark" to the center of the tail. This served two purposes:
Honored the soon-to-decommission Fighting Renegades of VF-24, long-time sister squadron of VF-211. Many VF-24 personnel joined VF-211 to complete their prescribed sea duty. VF-24 decommissioned in August 1996.
Recalled one of the tail designs VF-211 had used while flying F-8 Crusaders in the 1960s.
Each squadron was allowed to paint 2 aircraft in color. On these aircraft the check-mark was red, outlined in dark blue; the horizontal stripes were red, white, and dark blue; rudder checkerboards were red and white. The bandit stripe was dark blue. On the remainder of our aircraft, the markings were dark gray. We painted NG100 and NG101 in color; some photos show other side numbers in color, since side numbers occasionally changed as aircraft were transferred in or out of the squadron.
The next C.O., CDR J. D. Oliver, did not change the tail design during his tour as C.O.
Shortly after I became C.O. in August 1997 we went on deployment. In September I directed that the check-mark be removed, so the design reverted to VF-211’s traditional Tomcat design. Since the squadron was deployed during the Christmas Holidays, we painted a Christmas-theme design on the tails of NG101. During the 1995-96 deployment this had been "the Grinch" cartoon character. For 1997-98, it was the character from squadron logo, dressed in a Santa Claus suit. Noting the high quality of this tail design (applied by AMSAN Mike Kreisher, under the supervision of AMS1 Patricia Shannon), I directed that the character from the squadron logo be applied to NG101’s tails upon return from deployment.
In March 1998 COMFIT-WINGLANT further standardized paint schemes on Tomcats, eliminating anti-glare panels and limiting squadrons to painting one aircraft in color. Many squadrons painted their "CAG bird" in color, but I had my jet (NG101) painted in color, with the logo character.
CDR David Baranek, USN
July 1998

VF-211 Squadron Patch-Bluto

VF-211 Insignia Courtesy of LCDR Dave Baranek

VF-211 Commanding Officers
Commander Dates
Cdr. Philip R. Wood -7th Apr 1977
Cdr. Gary Hakanson 7th Apr 1977-1st Jun 1978
Cdr. David E. Cowles 1st Jun 1978-Oct 1979
Cdr. Bruce H. Hart. Oct 1979-
Cdr. Steve Husak -Jun 1982
Cdr. Larry Ernst Jun 1982-28th Jun 1983
Cdr. Charles M. deGruy 28th Jun 1983-
Cdr. Gerald W. Hull -Oct 1987
Cdr. James Flaherty Jr. Oct 1987-
Cdr. D.R. 'Bad Bob' McCort 1990
Cdr. William W. Reynolds -Apr 1992
Cdr. David R. Bryant Apr 1992-13th Jan 1993
Cdr. George R. Leuchauer 13th Jan 1993-31st Mar 1994
Cdr. James A. Winnefeld Jr. 31st Mar 1994-1st Mar 1995
Cdr. G.R. Beamen 1st Mar 1995-
Cdr. David Baranek -14th Aug 1998
Cdr. Mark Kohart 14th Aug 1998-
Cdr. Michael Ullrich -2nd Feb 2001
Cdr. Owen P. Honors 2nd Feb 2001-

VF-211 Cruise Dates
Departure & Return Dates Carrier Area of Ops Air Wing Aircraft Modex
12th Apr 77- 21st Nov 77 USS Constellation CV-64 WestPac CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
26th Sep 78- 17th May 79 USS Constellation CV-64 WestPac CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
26th Feb 80- 15th Oct 80 USS Constellation CV-64 WestPac, IO CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
20th Oct 81- 23rd May 82 USS Constellation CV-64 WestPac, IO CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
15th Jul 83-29th Feb 84 USS Ranger CV-61 WestPac, IO CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
24th Jul 85- 21st Dec 85 USS Kitty Hawk CV-63 WestPac, IO CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
3rd Jan 87- 29th Jun 87 USS Kitty Hawk CV-63 World Cruise CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
2nd Sep 88- 4th Mar 89 USS Nimtz CVN-68 WestPac, IO CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
15th Jun 89- 9th Jul 89 USS Nimtz CVN-68 NorPac CVW-9 F-14B NG 1xx
25th Feb 91- 24th Aug 91 USS Nimtz CVN-68 WestPac, Persian Gulf, Desert Storm CVW-9 F-14B NG 1xx
2nd Feb 93- 29th Jul 93 USS Nimtz CVN-68 WestPac, Persian Gulf CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
27th Nov 95- 20th May 96 USS Nimtz CVN-68 WestPac, Persian Gulf CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
1st Sep 97- 1st Mar 98 USS Nimtz CVN-68 World Cruise CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
7th Jan 00- 3rd Jul 00 USS John C. Stennis CVN-74 WestPac, Persian Gulf CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
12th Nov 01- 28th May 01 USS John C. Stennis CVN-74 WestPac, Arabian Gulf CVW-9 F-14A NG 1xx
28th Aug 03- 29th Feb 04 USS Enterprise CVN-65 SoLant, Med, Persian Gulf CVW-1 F-14A AB 1xx

VFA-211 Cruise Dates
Departure & Return Dates Carrier Area of Ops Air Wing Aircraft Modex
2nd May 06- USS Enterprise CVN-65 CVW-1 F/A-18F AB 1xx
VF-211 CAG bird, 1980s. Image Copyright Torsten Anft
VF-211 F-14A Images

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