VF-103 and the Jolly Rogers

VF-103 and the Jolly Rogers

VF-103 and the Jolly Rogers


The Jolly Roger (Skull and Crossbones) that you see above is emblazoned on the tail of an F-14 Tomcat. It has graced the aircraft of several different US Naval squadrons.  In this case, it is part of VF-103 and has quite a history. It didn’t start as the Jolly Rogers, but it flies the name proudly today.

The squadron designated VF-103 (known as the Sluggers) was put together on May 1, 1952. At the time they flew the FG-1D Corsair and was part of Carrier group CVG-10. The squadron was stationed in the Mediterranean. In 1957 the squadron switched to the F8U-1 Crusader, a supersonic jet, a first for the squadron.

In 1958 during the Lebanon crisis (yeah, that’s been going on for a while) the USS Forrestal and VF-103 were dispatched to the region. They arrived after the crisis abated.  After switching plane models several times in the early 1960’s they finally settled on the F-4B Phantom II. The plane that would make up the squadron until 1980.

During the height of the Vietnam War, VF-103 took part in Operation Linebacker. In 1972 one of the pilots of the squadron shot down a Russian MiG 21 with an air to air missile during a night flight. The first only (so far) MiG kill for the US Navy.

VF-103 would be one of the last air squadrons to transition to the legendary F-14 Tomcat in 1983. During that decade the squadron would be involved in several operations. It would be on the front line of Cold War. With the coming of the Gulf War in 1991, VF-103 flew escort for the bomber groups, did reconnaissance and bomb assessment missions.

The Jolly Rogers

All that brought us to this. In 1995 VF-84, a sister squadron that was known as the Jolly Rogers and used the Skull and Crossbones insignia was disbanded. Rather than see the name and insignia leave the Navy, VF-103 did away with their Slugger moniker and adopted the name Jolly Rogers and the infamous insignia. They would go on to take part in the Kosovo conflict and on into Operation Iraqi Freedom. Finally, they gave up the F-14 and transitioned to the F/A-18. In 2016 the Jolly Rogers were actively engaging with the ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.

To this day the Skull and Bones fly with the Jolly Rogers where ever they are needed.