VF-142, the Ghostriders


VF-142 began life as VF-193 on August 24, 1948 flying the Grumman F8F Bearcat. They were first assigned to the USS Yorktown (CVA-10).

They switched to the F4U-4 Corsair in 1950 and did two deployments during the Korean War aboard the USS Princeton (CV-37), with the last tour in 1952.

In 1953 they transitioned to the F2H-3 Banshee. VF-193 would do two deployments in the Western Pacific aboard the USS Oriskany (CVA-34) from 1953-1955 and one tour back on the USS Yorktown in 1957.

Another four tours on the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) in the Western Pacific saw VF-193 transition to the F3H-2 Demon. This lasted from 1957 to 1963.


In 1963 the squadron was renamed VF-142 and switched aircraft once again to the F-4B Phantom.

Between May 1964 and May 1968, the Ghostriders made seven deployments to the Pacific in support of the Vietnam War. The first four tours were on the USS Ranger (CV-61) with three other deployments aboard the USS Constellation (CV-64).

During these cruises, the Ghostriders downed two Mig-21’s, one Mig-17 and one AN-2 Colt. In 1969 they transitioned from the F-4B to the F-4J and headed out for a new cruise with the Constellation on August 11, 1969. See photo above showing an F-4J Phantom from VF-142 (background) and one Phantom from VF-143 (foreground) on board the Constellation in 1969.

The Ghostriders were awarded the Naval Aviation Safety Award for 1969-1970. In June 1971, they deployed with the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for their sixth combat deployment to Vietnam.

In September 1972, the Ghostriders deployed for their seventh and last combat deployment to Asia. Missions were flown in support of the first B-52 strikes into the heart of North Vietnam prior to the cease fire. They downed their fifth enemy aircraft, a MiG-21, making them the Navy’s first ace squadron of the war.

The squadron transitioned to the F-14A Tomcat in 1974. They deployed to the Mediterranean with the USS America (CV-66) and moved from NAS Miramar to NAS Oceana in 1975.

Photo of a F-14A Tomcat (159431) above was taken by Horace Sagnor at Andrews AFB in August 1976. This Ghostrider aircraft had flown in from the USS America.

In April 1976, the Tomcat squadron deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and conducting the first F-14 intercept of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear bomber. They received the Battle E award for outstanding performance prior to and during the cruise.


The decade of the 1980s saw a quiet time for the Ghostriders. They participated in several training exercises and engaged in several cruises aboard the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69). Their cruises were worldly, with tours of the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and Central America.

In 1989, the squadron received their long awaited Tomcat upgrade, the F-14B. They became the first Navy squadron to deploy with the new Tomcat.


On board 'Ike' once again, the Ghostriders were active in Operation Desert Shield flying their F-14B Tomcats. The battle group known as Airwing 7 (CVW-7) with the USS Eisenhower at its focal point, were the first to arrive in the Persian Gulf.

The squadron exceeded 2300 flight hours and logged over 1200 arrested landings in their new Tomcats during their deployment in 1990. A second deployment on board 'Ike' ensued in 1991.

In 1992, the Ghostriders said goodbye to the Eisenhower, having been assigned to the newest carrier at the time, the USS George Washington (CVN-73). It would be their last carrier assignment.

Because of budget cuts and air wing reorganization, the squadron was disestablished in April 1995.

The Ghostrider Cougar???

The US Navy is famous for its renaming and reassigning of squadrons. It leads to much confusion as it did with me as I researched the Ghostriders.

In 2006, I visited the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, FL. One of the aircraft on display was an F9F-6 Cougar (128109) as seen in the photo below.

Note the squadron markings - VF-142. Huh? The Ghostriders never flew the Cougar. So, why the VF-142 markings?

The answer is easy...well, if you are the US Navy. Not so for the rest of us.

The first VF-142 was dubbed the 'Fighting Falcons'. It was an active US Navy squadron from 1953 to 1962 flying the Cougar and the F-8 Crusader.

Before becoming the active squadron VF-142, the Fighting Falcons had been a reserve squadron designated VF-791. After VF-142 was given to the Ghostriders, who used to be VF-193, the Fighting Falcons became VF-96, which was subsequently disestablished in June 1962.

Phew!!! I'm exhausted.

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