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Strike Fighter Squadron 143 (VFA-143), also known as the "Pukin Dogs," is a United States Navy strike fighter squadron based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. The Pukin Dogs are an operational fleet squadron and flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet. They are currently attached to Carrier Air Wing Seven and the USS Harry S. Truman. They are currently at their homeport of NAS Oceana. Their radio callsign is Taproom.
The squadron adopted its current insignia in 1953, a winged black lion on a blue shield. Sometimes mistaken for a mythical Griffin, it is actually more accurately a Chimera_(mythology), as the Griffin has the head of an eagle. In heraldic terms, it would be termed a winged lion passant (one paw raised) coward (tail between its legs). The distinctive squadron name "Pukin' Dogs" came about when the squadron commander's wife saw the creature’s droopy head and gaping mouth design. She stated, in front of the squadron pilots, that it looked like a "pukin' dog." The pilots loved that, and the name stuck. In the aftermath of the Tailhook scandal in 1991, the squadron was forced to officially rename itself the "Dogs". This official banishment was widely ignored until Admiral John Mazach, Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, rescinded the policy in a 1996 speech to the squadron.
Two Navy squadrons have held the designation VF-143. The first VF-143 was established on 20 July 1950 as VF-821 redesignated VF-143 on 4 February 1953 and disestablished on 1 April 1958. The second VF-143 was established in 1950, was eventually redesignated VFA-143, and is the subject of this article.
VF-871, a reserve F4U-4 Corsair squadron based at NAS Alameda called to active duty on 20 July 1950. The squadron deployed twice during the Korean War, flying from the aircraft carriers USS Princeton and USS Essex. On 4 February 1953, the squadron was redesignated VF-123 and transitioned to the F9F-2 Panther. In April 1958 they transitioned to the F3H Demon and were redesignated VF-53.
On 20 June 1962, the unit was redesignated VF-143 and began its transition to the F-4 Phantom II. They deployed seven times during the Vietnam War. The squadron was credited with the downing of the first MiG-21 in 1967, led by LtCmdr R.M. "Pacer" Hooper.
The last VF-143 Vietnam deployment commenced in September 1972 with Carrier Air Group 14 aboard USS Enterprise. On 27 January 1973, the last day of official American hostilities, a squadron Phantom was struck by AAA fire near Quảng Trị while performing one of the last combat missions of the war. Executive Officer, Cmdr Harley Hall and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) ejected near the coast and both were seen alive on the ground by their wingman. Hall's RIO was captured by North Vietnamese and returned from captivity a few months later. Cmdr Hall became the last Naval Aviator listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Two weeks after the shoot down, however, his status was changed from MIA to "Prisoner of War (POW), authenticated", a designation held until he was declared deceased in February 1980, his remains were identified on 6 September 1994.
The squadron returned to NAS Miramar in June 1973, and three months later made a final Phantom deployment to the Mediterranean. In 1974 VF-143 transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat and then changed homeport to NAS Oceana in 1976. VF-143, along with sister squadron VF-142, were aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for her maiden voyage in 1979.
In 1980 VF-143 deployed to the Indian Ocean in response to the Iran-Iraq War, setting a Navy underway record of 153 days. VF-143 soon gained Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) capability, and provided the first time imagery of the new Soviet aircraft carrier Novorossiysk and the new Soviet Slava class cruiser. On August 5, 1983, VF-143 intercepted five Libyan Air Force MiG-23s some 220 kilometers south of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Sea. No weapons were fired during these encounters but the situation was described as "very tense". The squadron became the first to fly combat TARPS missions when they flew 45 combat reconnaissance sorties over Lebanon in the autumn of 1983.
VF-143 was one of the first squadrons to deploy with the F-14A(+) (later renamed F-14B), in March 1990 aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and her battle group rushed to the Red Sea to deter the Iraqis from further advancement into Saudi Arabia. In late August, the Saratoga relieved USS Dwight D. Eisenhower .
In early 1991, VF-143 was awarded COMNAVAIRLANT’s 1990 Battle Efficiency Award as the Atlantic Fleet’s finest fighter squadron. In addition, VF-143 was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Rear Admiral Joseph C. Clifton Award. In May 1991 during the Air Wing’s detachment to NAS Fallon, VF-143 dropped air-to-ground ordnance for the first time. In September, the squadron deployed to the Persian Gulf, and participated NATO exercises in the Norwegian Sea.
In August 1992, the squadron and the rest of Carrier Air Wing Seven switched aircraft carriers to the USS George Washington, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. VF-143 deployed for USS George Washington’s maiden cruise and then again for the carrier’s first Mediterranean Sea deployment in May 1994 where she took part in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion and Operation Deny Flight. VF-143 was awarded the 1994 Battle E, Safety S, Joseph C. Clifton and Golden Wrench awards.
In December 1994, the VF-143 departed on their second deployment in fifteen months, operating in support of Operation Decisive Endeavour and Operation Southern Watch. The squadron provided TARPS, Forward Air Controller, air superiority and air-to-ground missions. VF-143 returned to Oceana in July 1996.
In early 1997, VF-143 transitioned to the Navy's newest carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, deploying in 1998. The maiden deployment took them to the Persian Gulf, spending 131 days there in support of Operation Southern Watch. VF-143 played key roles using LANTIRN, night vision goggles and digital TARPS. VF-143 was recognized by COMNAVAIRLANT with the 1998 Battle “E” Safety "S" awards.
VF-143 deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The last deployment with the F-14 was in 2004 aboard USS George Washington in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which time the squadron participated in strikes over Fallujah between April 28-April 29.
In 2005 VF-143 transitioned to the F/A-18E Super Hornet, and was designated Strike Fighter Squadron 143 (VFA-143).
The first deployment with the F/A-18E commenced in 2006 and ended in the spring of 2007. During the cruise aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, VFA-143 supported Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and operations off the Somali coast.
On February 21, 2009 VFA-143 and CVW-7 embarked aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for a deployment supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf. On 30 July 2009, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower returned to Naval Station Norfolk after almost a six-month deployment.
VFA-143 and the rest of CVW-7 embarked on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 2, 2010 for a seven-month deployment in support of 5th and 6th Fleet operations.