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The eagles fly in operation Iraqi freedom.

It was truly a storybook cruise for the Eagles of VFA-115 aboard Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet on its inaugural deployment, they participated in three major military operations.

The first combat missions were flown over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Next, they entered the Arabian Gulf to participate in Operation Southern Watch. After record-breaking performances in those operations, the Eagles began heading home. But with talk of war dominating the headlines and rumors of going back to Iraq spreading, the decision was made to keep Lincoln forward deployed. Following a detachment to Pearce RAAFB, Perth, Austalia, and almost three months of waiting and uncertainty, CVW-14 began flight operations on 19 March in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

As the war began, the Eagles were quick to showcase the capabilities of their new aircraft. Among the Super Hornet's many improvements are increased bringback, two extra wing stations and a larger internal fuel capacity. The squadron operated its F/A-18Es in a single-centerline configuration which freed up wing stations for more ordnance. Taking advantage of these attributes, two VFA- 115 Super Hornets delivered their first-ever quantity-four JDAM release in support of the "Shock and Awe" campaign. The capability for a single aircraft to deliver 8,000 pounds of ordnance to four targets allows a section of Super Hornets to perform what in the past would take two divisions of aircraft to accomplish. In addition, the extra fuel the Super Hornet carries allowed for single-cycle close air support missions deep into Iraq while maintaining an impressive and flexible 4,000-pound loadout of recoverable ordnance. In addition, the Super Hornet's new IDECM suite, including the latest radar warning receiver, extra chaff and flares, towed missile decoys and radar jammers, gave the pilots enhanced confidence to operate deep into the heart of Iraq's air defense systems.

The Eagles expended more than 350,000 pounds of ordnance during OIF, with a success rate of 98 percent. VFA-115's outstanding maintenance department sustained an impressive combat sortie completion rate while averaging over 55 flight hours per day throughout the campaign.

An improved strike capability wasn't the only way VFA-115 was able to contribute to the war effort. Along with VS-35, the squadron provided organic tanking for the air wing. Along with strike sorties, they began flying 18 to 20 tanking sorties a day since one Eagles Super Hornet tanker could provide fuel to two strike aircraft. Throughout the conflict, VFA-115 passed over 2.3 million pounds of fuel, generating more than 430 extra combat sorties.

After a 10-month cruise, CVW-14 and Lincoln finally headed home. Flying over 5,400 hours and expending 460,000 pounds of ordnance with a sortie completion rate of 97.5 percent shows that the Eagles have successfully integrated the Super Hornet into fleet operations. Participating in three operations in two theaters, the Eagles have proven themselves to be one of the finest strike-fighter squadrons in the Navy.

By Lt. Robert Kihm, VFA-115 PAO
COPYRIGHT 2003 Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center
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Author:Kihm, Robert
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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