Inspiration for the squadron's identity came in two forms... from the famous character in the Monty Python movie "The Holy Grail", and from the U.S. Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 154 (VFA-154). In using their namesake, the virtual Black Knights are proud to honor VFA-154s history of service to our country.

History of the Black Knights

VF-154 arose when a Naval Reserve squadron was activated as VFB-718 upon the 1st of July 1946. Initially based at NAS Floyd Bennett, NY, their first mount was the F-6F Hellcat, soon followed by the F-4U Corsair. As well as changing aircraft, the squadron went through several designation changes, becoming VF-68A then VF-837. During their time as VF-837 the squadron was known as the “Grand Slammers” and moved from NAS Floyd Bennett to NAS Moffett Field, CA.

 

VF-837 was called to operational duty for the Korean War, and flew a combat cruise off the USS Antietam (CV 36). By this point they had moved from the F-4U to the F9F-2 Panther. VF-837 returned from their first cruise and started working up for a second. On the 4th of February 1953 while passing under the Golden Gate Bridge onboard the USS Princeton (CV 37) on their way back to Korea, VF-837 was officially redesignated VF-154.

 

After the Panther, VF-154 acquired the FJ-3 Fury for a brief time, before transitioning to the new F-8 Crusader in 1957. The F-8, the Navy’s first carrier-based supersonic fighter, persuaded VF-154 to change their insignia and name. The new insignia featured a Crusader Knight, armed with a sword to strike down the enemies of peace and justice and a shield to protect those unable to defend themselves. Two F-8 divisions (4 plane formations) crossed in the background. Because of the patch design, and the arrival of new Crusaders configured for night operations, the squadron became known as the “Black Knights”. That designation was added to the insignia and the name and insignia remain as VF-154 symbols to this day.

 

The next time VF-154 went into harm’s way was the Vietnam War. The first deployment was in 1965 on board the USS Coral Sea (CV 43), as part of Carrier Air Wing 15. Their first combat strikes occurred on the 7th of February. After that, yearly combat cruises followed. The time between the first and subsequent cruises was put to good use as VF-154 transitioned from the F-8 to the F-4B Phantom II; the standard aircraft for Naval fighter squadrons at that time. As well as changing aircraft VF-154 moved from CVW-15, where it had resided since its establishment to become part of CVW-2, where it remained until 1980. After a second cruise onboard the Coral Sea the Black Knights shifted to the USS Ranger (CV 61), completing five further cruises to South East Asia.

After the 1970 cruise, VF-154 upgraded their aircraft again, this time gaining the F-4J version of the Phantom II. With this new aircraft the squadron’s final Vietnam tour took place. The timing saw VF-154 taking part in some of the last US Navy strikes of the war. This last combat tour saw such a high standard from the Black Knights that they were awarded the Clifton Award, recognizing them as the best fighter squadron in the Navy.

In 1979 the unit transitioned to the F-4S, the last Navy version of the Phantom II aircraft, but returned to the older F-4N in January 1981. Several cruises with the USS Coral Sea (CV 43) followed, as the carrier did not have strong enough decks to carry the larger, heavier F-14A. During this time VF-154 spent 120 days at sea off the coast of Iran during the Iranian hostage crisis until the hostages were formally released into United States custody just minutes after the new American president Ronald Reagan was sworn in.  VF-154 (and sister squadron, VF-21), would be among the last to convert to the F-14A.

VF-154 finally transitioned to the Grumman F-14A  Tomcat beginning in October of 1983. Due to their late transition to the Tomcat, the squadron received TARPS equipped F-14’s from the start. The first cruise with the F-14A was in 1985 onboard the USS Constellation (CV-64), as part of CVW-14. Several further cruises onboard ‘Connie’ followed, with one taking place in 1987. This eventful cruise saw VF-154 operating around the Persian Gulf, intercepting Iranian P-3F’s and conducting movements in the Gulf of Oman (at the so called “Gonzo” station).

After the cruises onboard Constellation, CVW-14 moved to the USS Independence (CV 62) and it was as part of this team that saw VF-154 and VF-21 become the first F-14 squadrons to arrive in the Persian Gulf as part of “Desert Shield”. Due to taking part in “Desert Shield” and having been deployed for several months already VF-154 and Independence returned to the USA before Desert Storm began.

The USS Independence moved in August 1991 to her home base at Yokosuka, Japan, to replace the USS Midway(CV 41). VF-154 stayed with the carrier for this, but moved from CVW-14 to CVW-5 and from NAS Miramar to NAF Atsugi, thus becoming the first forward deployed F-14 squadron. At the same time as joining CVW-5, VF-154 became the first F-14 squadron to deploy with an air-to-ground bombing capability. Along with the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Independence and her air wing were involved in operations to demonstrate US resolve in support of Taiwan as Chinese military exercises raised tension in the region.

With the drawdown in F-14 squadrons during the mid-1990s, VF-154’s sister squadron, VF-21, was disestablished, leaving the Black Knights as the only F-14 squadron in CVW-5. Sea duty called again in July, as CVW-5 made their last cruise on board USS Independence. After a cross Pacific transit to Pearl Harbor the air wing cross decked to their new home – USS Kitty Hawk. During the transfer, Kitty Hawk picked up the famous ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ Jack – signifying her as the oldest ship on active service. Once again the shore period was short, on August 30 the air wing and carrier departed once more. At this point, VF-154 was flying the oldest Tomcats in the fleet off of the oldest ship in the Navy.  By the time the Black Knights pulled back into port during November they had spent 240 days at sea.
The commitment of the Black Knights was recognized soon after – the squadron gaining numerous awards, most notably the Pacific Fleet Battle ‘E’, Safety ‘S’ and ‘Boola-Boola’ missile awards. Later in 1999 VF-154 would add the Clifton award to that batch.

In January of 2003, The Black Knights sailed west and into the Persian Gulf in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Due to the squadron’s excellent reputation, four jets were flown off the Kitty Hawk and operated from the beach during the war.  VF-154 “Bombcats” dropped over 320 tons of ordnance and flew nearly 300 sorties during OIF.

While forward deployed to Japan, the Black Knights would routinely go out to sea twice a year; once in the fall and once in the spring.  Hong Kong, Guam and Singapore became very familiar ports and served as welcome breaks from pitching decks and the Kitty Hawk. In September of 2003 the Black Knights left Atsugi for the last time and ended their proud 13 years in Japan.  All 11 jets made it across the Pacific and back into the break at Oceana, thus ending the Black Knights’ twenty years in the Tomcat.

In October of 2003 VF-154 was redesignated VFA-154 and began transitioning to the Navy’s newest strike fighter, the F/A-18F Rhino.  From October 2003 to June 2004, aircrew and maintainers of VFA-154 learned to fly and upkeep the new F/A-18F’s.  Only two weeks after achieving the “Safe for Flight” designation, the squadron once again found itself embarked, marking the start of a dynamic workup cycle in preparation for deployment.  Throughout the rest of 2004, VFA-154 participated in demanding workup exercises to make sure aircrews and squadron personnel would be ready to fight with the new airframe.

Black Knights reported in January 2005 aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) under the flag of Carrier Strike Group Three (CSG 3).  VFA-154 showed they were ready when on their first cruise in the F/A-18F they flew over 1,000 missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  The squadron finished their round-the-world cruise as they departed the USS Carl Vinson in Norfolk, VA, arriving home on 31 July 2005.

The beginning of 2006 presented the second round of workups for VFA-154 in the Rhino. Demanding schedules had the squadron traveling from NAS Lemoore, to NAS Fallon, and back once again to sea, only now aboard the USS John C. Stennis. The Black Knights tour on the Stennis would last a little over 3 years.

In 2009, VFA-154 reported aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) attached to Carrier Airwing Fourteen, where they are presently assigned. In March of 2011, the Black Knights deployed off the coast of Japan after the record Tsunami, providing humanitarian assistance to Japan as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi.

Excited about the potential for co-operative multiplayer play within a combat simulator, squadron CO SkyKnight appreciated the benefits of organizing a group of individuals with similar interests to fly together.

What began as dedicated LAN parties in the late 1990’s eventually evolved into online meets over the course of several years, flying such titles as “Team Apache”, “Enemy Engaged” and the “Janes” combat series “F-15”, “WWII Fighters”, “USAF”, and “F/A-18”.

As the Internet and multiplayer gaming evolved, the group formally organized into a private squadron, and the virtual Black Knights were officially founded in 2003.

The first campaigns flown by the squadron were in the sim “IL-2: The Forgotten Battles”.

The squadron transitioned for a time to “Lock-On: Modern Air Combat” before returning to the World War II genre in “Pacific Fighters”. The enormous variety of aircraft available in the sim when coupled with IL-2 Forgotten Battles and the “Aces Expansion Pack” kept the Black Knights busy flying custom built campaigns and missions for several years.

Members of the squadron designed elaborate missions and campaigns for exclusive use by the Black Knights, using the mission editor tools found in each sim.  These unpublished works easily rivaled any commercial versions available at the time, featuring realistic depictions of famous historical battles as well as fictional ‘what if’ scenarios. They all shared a singular focus on co-operative, squadron vs AI based combat.

After an extended run in the WWII genre, the Black Knights traded in their propellers for turbines, and began combat operations in “Lock-On: Flaming Cliffs”.  Early campaigns in these sims featured the A-10A, F/A-18 and Su-25T, though soon the squadron would settle on the Su-25T exclusively, due to its advanced flight modeling. Closing out the decade, the squadron returned to rotary-wing aircraft for a spell in “DCS: Black Shark” before returning to the Su-25 models in “Flaming Cliffs 2”.

In 2010, the squadron transitioned to the A-10C “Warthog” featured initially in “DCS: A-10C”, and then prominently in the new “DCS World” simulator, launched in 2012. As the DCS World simulator evolves to encompass more theaters and aircraft types, the squadron has evolved with it. Presently, the Black Knights are flying a variety of fixed and rotary-wing combat aircraft in “DCS World” across multiple theaters of conflict, such as Vietnam, the Gulf Wars and present day hot spots.