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Naval Aviation On Its Way to Achieve Readiness Goal

By Adm. Robert Burke
Vice Chief of Naval Operations

It has been less than a year since the Navy set out to restore strike fighter readiness rates to 80 percent, and the one-year deadline of Oct. 1 is approaching. For the aviation community, the endeavor to increase the mission-capable rate of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets posed a challenge that Naval Aviation leadership attacked with fervor.

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 12, 2019) F/A-18E Super Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136 “Knighthawks” fly in formation during a photo exercise over the California coast. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)


It is with good reason that the Naval Aviation community has risen to this challenge. For over 100 years, carrier aviation has led the way in power projection and bringing the fight to our adversaries. In WWII, the aircraft carrier replaced the battleship as the most powerful offensive naval weapons system as the battles between fleets were increasingly fought outside of the ships’ gun ranges. The Battle of Coral Sea was the first air-sea battle in history, and the lessons learned by the Naval Aviators during that battle helped form new tactics and techniques that led to a decisive victory and the turning point of the War in the Pacific during the Battle of Midway.

Today, U.S. Navy carriers routinely deploy worldwide, in harm’s way, providing our national leadership credible options ranging from deterrence to major combat operations, without the need to consult another host nation.

I recently completed an informative trip to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach to get a first-hand look at the changes to aviation maintenance practices and to gain insight on the challenges and priorities of aviators and maintainers.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Aug. 7, 2019) Cmdr. Brandon M. Scott, commanding officer of the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Wing (VFA) 106, right, discusses hangar condition with Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Robert P. Burke during a hangar tour on board Naval Air Station Oceana. Burke visited VFA-106 to meet with command leadership and discuss aviation readiness. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark Thomas Mahmod/Released)


Under the leadership of Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic and CSFWL, the east coast Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 was the most recent squadron to initiate reforms under the Naval Sustainment System (NSS), starting in April of this year. VFA-106 has the largest inventory of Super Hornets on the flight line, as they are responsible for training newly-winged aviators for the fleet.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 12, 2019) Sailors direct an F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi/Released)


In short, this squadron is the largest contributor to the strike fighter readiness recovery. Since VFA-106 maintenance performance impacts overall Super Hornet readiness status more than any other squadron, the recent implementation of NSS procedures had a significant impact on the overall goal. Like the pioneering naval aviators in WWII rapidly incorporated lessons learned between Coral Sea and Midway, VFA-106 learned from the FRS squadron at NAS Lemoore who completed early iterations of NSS changes. This rapid learning and improvement drove VFA-106 to reduce maintenance turnover timeframes, raise the average mission capable (MC) aircraft numbers, and return several long-term down aircraft to a flying status.

I spoke with two plane crew chiefs – both junior Sailors – to ask what they thought of the new processes. With pride, they both spoke of ownership, of learning the whole aircraft, well outside of their rating expertise, and of true teamwork. This is a great example of U.S. Navy Sailors being given tremendous responsibility – and running with it!

This effort is a testament to the adaptability and determination of the aviators and maintainers in the VFA community and VFA-106. The squadron is reaching the point where lack of MC aircraft is no longer a limiting factor to pilot production, even when supporting operations in multiple locations or underway on the aircraft carrier. These are powerful results that will ensure we have enough instructors and pilots in the future.

LEMOORE, Calif. (Feb. 12, 2019) Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Joshua Norris, center, a Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU) Lemoore instructor, observes student Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Jamie Kenney as she troubleshoots simulated issues on the F/A-18 aircraft ALR-67 system. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate Alvin Zuilan)


Success at VFA-106 is one example of how the Naval Aviation Enterprise is working together to achieve our 80 percent readiness goal. Because NSS addresses all elements of aviation maintenance – people, parts and processes – to make permanent changes that increase aviation readiness and lethality, we are seeing improvements that are sustainable for the future. Through collaboration and a whole-of-aviation approach, the Naval Aviation Enterprise is on its way to achieve and sustain its readiness goal.

It is a remarkable time for Naval Aviation, and I’m proud to have seen the determination, passion and professionalism during my visit. Keep up the hard work, and I’ll see you in the fleet! U.S. Navy

To the Men and Women of NAS Oceana, Happy 75th Birthday!

By Capt. Chad P. Vincelette
Commanding officer, Naval Air Station Oceana

Victory in World War II remained in doubt when the U.S. Navy commissioned something it desperately needed 75 years ago – an East Coast Navy base to prepare aviators to fight.

Naval Auxiliary Air Station Oceana was born on Aug. 17, 1943, out of a need for aviators to work up for deployments away from the crowded Naval Air Station Norfolk, where airspace and airfield facility restrictions was an issue for tactical flying units.

Known at the time as Potter’s Farm, about 328 acres of land belonging to John W. and Dean S. Potter was purchased for $35,000 in 1940. Considered remote at the time, Oceana was the perfect location for an auxiliary field. The town’s only industry being a sawmill operation, three or four small food stores, a restaurant, three gas stations and a post office within one of the food stores.

Fast forward 75 years, and not only is Virginia Beach and surrounding area a vibrant tourist destination, the men and women of what is now Naval Air Station Oceana are still accomplishing that original mission – preparing aviators to fight.

The team at NAS Oceana is also a key contributor to the Chief of Naval OperationsFour Lines of Effort for maintaining maritime superiority – focusing on warfighting, achieving high-velocity learning at every level, strengthening our One Navy Team for the future and expanding and strengthening our network of partners.

The more than 10,000 Sailors and 5,800 civilian employees are the lifeblood of Oceana’s contribution to these Four Lines of Effort, and are directly responsible for training our aviators and maintaining the world’s most capable and lethal naval aircraft.

NAS Oceana and its outlying Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake are the backbone of our east coast naval air forces, conducting, on average, more than 100,000 air operations a year.

Oceana is the sole East Coast master jet base. Its carrier air wings and strike-fighter squadrons have quick and easy access to the most advanced flight simulators and world-class intermediate aircraft maintenance facilities. And our aviators are only minutes away from the 94,000 square miles of offshore air-to-air combat training ranges and NALF Fentress for carrier landing practice. This proximity maximizes the amount of training that our Navy can achieve with each gallon of jet fuel.

F/A-18F Super Hornets attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 land in Naval Air Station Oceana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Mora Jr./Released)


When deployed, our air wing and squadron personnel can be confident that their families are safe and taken care of. They have access to Oceana’s outstanding support services, provided by Fleet and Family Services, the childcare center, NEX and commissary, religious ministries, and MWR and youth programs.

Plus, there is the great quality of life that Hampton Roads offers: Affordable housing, fantastic schools, a strong economy and access to outstanding recreational venues.

None of this would be possible without the commitment and support of the community and the invaluable partnerships with the State of Virginia and cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. They are truly our shipmates when it comes to fulfilling the important mission of NAS Oceana.

If you go by the past performance and history, I believe NAS Oceana will continue to play a vital role in the future readiness of our Navy and the overall defense of our nation. Happy birthday to the men and women of NAS Oceana!

Logo for the 75th anniversary of NAS Oceana U.S. Navy