On 1 February 1956 Attack Squadron 146 (VA-146) became the Navy's newest jet attack squadron at NAS Miramar. Since there were no fleet replacement squadrons at this time, VA-146 started with only a handful of aircraft and began an "in-house" training regime in various models of the F9F Cougar. Their first deployment was aboard USS Hornet in 1957. In September 1957, the squadron transitioned to the FJ-4B Fury, deploying twice aboard USS Ranger prior to 1960.
VA-146 FJ-4B Fury on USS Bennington, in 1958.
VA-146 A-4Cs in August 1964
On 17 January 1960, VA-146 Furys participated in a coast-to-coast non-stop cross-country flight. The squadron deployed Furys aboard USS Oriskany and USS Lexington. VA-146 A-4Cs in August 1964 In May 1962 the squadron moved to NAS Lemoore, and transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk in June 1962. The squadron's first Skyhawk deployment was to the Western Pacific aboard USS Constellation. From June to September 1964, while operating from USS Constellation off Yankee Station, VA-146 participated in photo reconnaissance missions over Laos. The squadron's A-4C Skyhawks were used to provide tanker and rocket-armed escort support for the photo reconnaissance sorties over Laos and South Vietnam. During this time, VA-146 aircraft also flew night sorties in support of DESOTO Patrol operations (the collection of signal intelligence) conducted by American destroyers operating in international waters off the coast of North Vietnam.
In April 1970, the squadron embarked aboard USS America at NS Norfolk for her extended combat deployment to Vietnam, returning in December 1970. In December 1971, VA-146 became the first Navy squadron to use a laser-guided bomb (LGB) in combat. In February 1980, VA-146 made the first Pacific deployment with the new Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) system installed on the A-7. In early 1980, VA-146 was named the safest A-7 squadron in combined Navy-Air Force history by surpassing all previous records for accident-free flight operations at 36,175 hours.
In 1983 the squadron was tasked with fleet introduction of the HARM missile system, and their 14-year association with CVW-9 was broken when VA-146 was reassigned to Carrier Air Wing 2. Upon their return from a WestPac deployment aboard USS Kitty Hawk in August 1984, the squadron was again reassigned to CVW-9. In September 1988, VA-146 embarked aboard USS Nimitz for a Western Pacific deployment. The highlight of this cruise were operations in the Sea of Japan during the 1988 Summer Olympics.
VA-146 A-7E Corsair II, in 1974.
In the spring of 1989, VA 146 was re-designated VFA 146 and transitioned to the multi-role F/A-18C Night Strike Fighter. The Blue Diamonds were the first fleet squadron to receive this new version of the Hornet. VFA 146 made its first deployment with the Hornet on NIMITZ in 1991, arriving on station just after Operation DESERT STORM.
The Blue Diamonds spent the majority of 1997 preparing for a World Cruise onboard NIMITZ, and extended their 13-year history of over 55,000 hours without a Class "A" safety mishap. The highlight of the work-up cycle was a 96-hour surge operation in which the Diamonds flew 226 sorties. On 4 September 1997. Shortly after their return to Lemoore, the Blue Diamonds were named the 1997 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" winner. The Diamonds were also awarded the Captain Michael J. Estocin, Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky and the Scott F. Kirby Awards. These awards recognize the outstanding efforts of the entire squadron in 1997.
VFA-146 F/A-18C launches from USS Carl Vinson, in 2003.
In July 1998, the Diamond's handed over their Lot XVI Hornets for Lot XI aircraft. The arduous process began, getting these older Hornets ready for their upcoming cruise onboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74). Maintenance efforts were outstanding evident by twelve competent Hornets trapping on the deck of the STENNIS as it pulled out of San Diego on January 7, 2000 in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The Millennium cruise was a great success. The Blue Diamonds' amassed over 1,900 sorties and 2,900 flight hours with a phenomenal sortie completion rate of 97%. Diamond Aviators flew 136 sorties over Iraq destroying several Iraqi targets as a result of precision ordnance delivery.
VFA 146 began its 27th deployment onboard USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) on 15 January 2003. The Blue Diamonds and the CVW 9 team were not tasked with supporting Operation IRAQI FREEDOM but were attached to 7th Fleet in the Sea of Japan as a power projection asset. It was the first “traditional” WESTPAC for the Blue Diamonds in several years. The deployment lasted 8 months to the day, getting the Sailors home on 17 September 2003.
On November 12, 2001, the Blue Diamonds deployed with CVW-9 on the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74), this time to conduct combat operations in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM over Afghanistan, deploying two months early in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. On December 12, 2001 the Blue Diamonds began their first night strikes into Afghanistan. Milestones included extending their Top Hook Award streak to 24 after the first line period. Weapons included the JDAM, Laser Guided Bombs, and Mk-82s. The Diamonds returned at the end of May 2002.
The Diamonds 28th deployment commenced onboard CARL VINSON on 17 January 2005. The “around-the-world” deployment took them across the Pacific and Indian Oceans into the Persian Gulf. For three months the Blue Diamonds, along with the rest of CVW 9 - to steam around the Sinai Peninsula into the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, then across the Atlantic. On 31 July 2005 the CARL VINSON pulled into its new homeport of Norfolk, VA completing another successful deployment for the Blue Diamond team.
On 18 January 2007 the Blue Diamonds deployed again onboard STENNIS. For the next six months, the Diamonds flew combat missions in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. The squadron reached an incredible milestone of 22 consecutive years with no Class A mishaps, extending their outstanding safety record to more than 92,000 mishap-free flight hours. Additionally, VFA 146 flew more than 400 combat sorties, encompassing over 2,500 flight hours during a highly dynamic deployment.
In April 2010 the Blue Diamonds transitioned to the CVW 14 team. Again, the Blue Diamonds were awarded the 2010 Bruce Carrier maintenance award. On 2 February 2011, the Blue Diamonds deployed onboard USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76). During a seven month deployment, the Blue Diamonds participated in Operation TOMODACHI, providing over 336,000 pounds of vital supplies for over 34,000 displaced Japanese citizens during humanitarian relief efforts. The Blue Diamonds then headed west, and flew 212 combat sorties in support of Operations NEW DAWN and ENDURING FREEDOM. RONALD REAGAN and the Blue Diamonds returned home on 9 September 2011.
In December 2011 VFA 146 joined the CVW 11 and NIMITZ team and began work-ups for their next deployment. In addition to the normal work-up cycle, the Blue Diamonds embarked onboard NIMITZ from June to August 2012 while participating in the 2012 Rim of the Pacific international exercise, completed an additional Airwing Fallon SUSTEX in January 2013, and a SUSTEX onboard NIMITZ in April 2013 prior to deploying.VFA 146 and CVW 11 deployed onboard NIMITZ in April 2013. While deployed, the Blue Diamonds conducted operations in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Fleet AORs. They flew combat missions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and extended on station in response to the Syrian Crisis.
Since returning from deployment VFA 146 underwent an extensive maintenance phase to transfer 14 Lot 10 F/A-18C Hornets to other squadrons and Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). From December 2014 to May 2015 the Blue Diamonds transitioned from Lot 10 Hornets to Lot 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets. On 26 May 2015 the Blue Diamonds achieved their Safe-for-Flight in the Super Hornet. In October 2015 the Blue Diamonds tested some of the new systems and capabilities of the ‚ /Super Hornet executing live missile shoots with CVW 11 during a detachment to Tyndall Air Force Base.
In early 2016, the squadron spent a week onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) for carrier qualification and later a week onboard CARL VINSON for Flight-Deck Certification. Regaining carrier proficiency after a long period ashore. In September 2016, the Blue Diamonds started work ups for a 2017 deployment with CVW 11. In June 2016, VFA 146 and CVW 11 deployed onboard NIMITZ and supported operations in the Fifth and Seventh Fleet AORs. Over the course of the six month deployment, the Blue Diamonds participated in multinational exercises with India, South Korea, and Japan and flew 1,132 hours in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE over Iraq and Syria. Additionally, VFA 146 successfully employed over 92,000 pounds of ordnance. On 6 December 2017 the Blue Diamonds returned from deployment. In January 2018, the Blue Diamonds transitioned to newer Lot 26 F/A-18 Super Hornets equipped with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars. The added capabilities of the AESA radar increased the combat lethality of the squadron.
Throughout 2018, the Blue Diamonds maintained tactical proficiency despite a very challenging maintenance period. Despite reduced flight hours, VFA 146 participated in various detachments and maintained carrier proficiency during a carrier qualification detachment onboard STENNIS in June 2018. In the summer of 2018, VFA 146 and CVW 11 bid farewell to CSG 11 and started a new era with CSG 9 onboard THEODORE ROOSEVELT. In November 2018, VFA 146 and CVW 11 began workups for a scheduled 2020 deployment. In addition to the normal Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) detachments, VFA 146 and CVW 11 participated in the NORTHERN EDGE exercise onboard THEODORE ROOSEVELT off of the coast of Alaska in late spring 2019; working to strengthen coalition interoperability with the U.S. Air Force. The Blue Diamonds continue to be forged into an elite combat team - lethal and ready to defend our nation's interests abroad...keeping the away game, away. Fly Navy!