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AMARC Experience - VS-31 'Topcats'
Monday, June 18, 2018

Squadron History

Established April 1948
Base NAS Jacksonville
Tail Code AG
Squadron Name Topcats

Composite Squadron 31 (VC-31) was established in April 1948 at NAS Atlantic City, NJ. In 1949, VC-31 became the Atlantic Fleet’s first VS Squadron when its role was changed to carrier-based anti-submarine warfare. The squadron was re-designated Air Anti-Submarine Squadron 31 (VS31) and moved to its new homeport at NAS Quonset Point, RI.

VS-31's first aircraft was the TBM Avenger, these were followed by the AF Guardian and in 1954 the squadron began its transition to the Grumman S-2 Tracker. This was the units first true Anti-Submarine warfare aircraft which was possessed of both search and destroy capabilities. In 1956, VS-31 was deployed onboard the USS Antietam to provide ASW support during the Suez Crisis. 1958 saw the unit provide ASW support during the Lebanon crisis and four years later VS-31 provided support during the Berlin crisis.

In 1973, VS-31 departed NAS Quonset Point, to its new home at to NAS Cecil Field, FL. The following year VS-31 became the first VS squadron to deploy onboard the USS Independence, this deployment was the last made by the unit operating the S-2 Tracker. In the mid 1970s the squadron transitioned to the turbofan powered S-3A Viking, and like other VS squadrons benefited greatly from this much improved ASW platform. The first deployment operating the S-3 was to the Mediterranean, again on the USS Independence.

VS-31 deployed to the Mediterranean again in 1988, this would be the last deployment with the S-3A as on return to the USA the unit transitioned to the S-3B Viking. The S-3B gave VS-31 and all of the other VS units a massive improvment in Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface Warfare capabilities. VS-31 became the first squadron to deploy with the S-3B Viking in March 1990, during which the unit participated in Operation DESERT SHIELD, arriving in the Red Sea within days of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

In September 1991 VS-31 became the first operational squadron to employ the S-3B’s Harpoon missile system by launching a missile during exercises in the North Arabian Sea.

   

In 1994 the squadron worked in the Adriatic Sea in support of UN Operations SHARP GUARD and DENY FLIGHT and also flew in the Arabian Gulf in support of SOUTHERN WATCH and VIGILANT WARRIOR. In January 1996, VS-31 deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf and participated in Operations JOINT ENDEAVOR and again in SOUTHERN WATCH.

During 1999, VS-31 took part in the operational testing of new weapons and sensor upgrades. This included the evaluation of the proposed EO/IR improvement for the Viking community. At this time VS-31 became the first squadron to control the live firing of a Standoff Land Attack Missle (SLAM) through the AWW-13 Data Link Pod and Maverick Missile Control System.

VS-31 has earned an impressive number of awards and has maintained a remarkable safety record during its 57 years of service. VS-31's safety record speaks for itself. In over 30 years the squadron has carried out over 120,500 hours of Class-Alpha mishap-free operations. A record which has been recognised in the more recent years by being awarded the CNO Aviation Safety Award for the years 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999, bringing the squadron’s total to eight since 1980 .

VS-31's operational record is also very impressive and includes a record-breaking number of consecutive sorties completed by any S-3 squadron. This record was set while on deployment on the USS John C. Stennis in 1998, and consisted of a total of 1459 consecutive flown without missing a launch. What makes this even more impressive was that this total included launches through a period of 4 and a half months operating in summertime temperatures in the Arabian Gulf.

During VS-31's service with the Navy they have served aboard numerous ships, including those in the following list;

USS Antietam
USS Valley Forge
USS Yorktown
USS Siboney (CVE 112)
USS Independence
USS John C. Stennis
USS Palau
USS Essex (CVS 9)
USS Intrepid (CVS 11)
USS Monterey
USS Wasp (CVS 18)
USS Lake Champlain (CVS 39)
USS Tarawa (CVS-40)
USS Wright (CVL 49)
USS Lexington (CVT 16)
USS Forrestal (CVA 59)
USS Saratgoa (CVA 60)
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)
USS George Washington (CVN 73)

 

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