Don’t Mess with Them: Meet the F-14 Tomcat Grim Reaper Squad

Don’t Mess with Them: Meet the F-14 Tomcat Grim Reaper Squad

Dario Leone


Who are they? 

After having been reestablished in May 2012, the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 was officially reconstituted on Oct. 1, 2013 when the rollout ceremony for the delivery to the U.S. Navy of its first F-35C Lightning II was held at Eglin AFB by the 33rd Fighter Wing, the joint USAF – U.S. Navy – USMC F-35 training unit. With the delivery of the first F-35C, the Grim Reapers have become the Lightning II Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), a role already played in the past by the then Fighter Squadron (VF) 101 for iconic aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom and the F-14 Tomcat, before the squadron was disbanded in 2005.

The origins of the Grim Reapers traceback after the battle of the Coral Sea, when they were formed as VF-10 by Jimmy Flatley, the legendary World War II naval aviator, who chose the Grim Reaper as the squadron name along with the slogan, “Mow em Down!”, that the unit practically did when the VF-10 pilots shot down many Japanese aircraft in the skies above the Solomon Islands with their Grumman F4F Wildcats. Flatley became the first Grim Reapers commanding officer and he began the squadron tradition in training fighter pilots when he taught the art of the aerial combat to its young pilots, among whom there were naval aviators such as Edward L. Feightner and Martin Carmody.

Disestablished in 1945, the Grim Reapers were reactivated as VF-101 in 1952, flying several types of fighters such as the Vought F4U Corsair, the McDonnell F2H Banshee and the Douglas F4D Skyray before receiving the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom in the 1960s.

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