US Navy’s East Coast Master Jet Base
Naval Air Station Oceana, in the state of Virginia, is home to 18 Hornet and Super Hornet squadrons. 16 squadrons deploy on carriers into combat and two are permanently based at Oceana: VFC-12 -the adversary squadron- and VFA-106 -the largest Fleet Replacement Squadron of the US Navy. Routinely, two-thirds of this complement is “working up” on carriers off the coast or deployed at NAS Fallon, Nevada for live air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons training. Typically, an air wing overseas deployment lasts six to seven months. The base is also home to VR-56, operating the Boeing C-40 Clipper.
The history of the base goes back to 1940, when the US Navy acquired the land that eventually became NAS Oceana. It served as an outlying field for the -in that timeframe- rapidly expanding Navy forces at NAS Norfolk. In the 1950s the base got the status of Master Jet Base. The base is now one of the largest air stations in the world. It has four runways in use to perform its mission to train and deploy the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet F/A-18 strike fighter squadrons.
VFA 106 training F/A-18 crews
The largest squadron on base is VFA-106, nicknamed Gladiators. The unit trains US Navy and Marines F/A-18 pilots and Weapon Systems Officers for the East Coast squadrons. The unit has about 90 F/A-18s in its inventory. Every 6 weeks, a new class starts the 9-month training course, where students learn the basics of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, leading up to day/night carrier qualification at the end of the course. After graduation the students will receive their assignment to a fleet Hornet squadron.
The Gladiators also are responsible for the airshow TAC DEMO team to demonstrate the abilities of the (Super) Hornet to the American public. Compared to other US Navy units, the squadron is young. It was established in 1984 at NAS Cecil Field to train F/A-18 crews. In 1999 the squadron moved to Oceana and received its first F/A-18 E and F Super Hornets in 2004.