Tuesday, July 23, 2013

War Paint: NAS Oceana A-6s

Pictured here is plane #502, an A-6 Intruder from the NAS Oceana-based Attack Squadron Fifty-Five.  The black silhouette of a missile boat to the left of "502" recognizes the pilot's successful sinking of a Libyan Navy Nanuchka-class missile corvette in March 1986. A second marking is shown to the left below the the aviator's name (Lieutenant Commander Larry Jones).  This represents the air strike against Benia Air Base in Libya.  At least four MiG-23s were destroyed, with twelve others damaged. 

Picture here is an A-6E intruder from Attack Squadron Eight-Five, also based at NAS Oceana.  Its kill mark comes from the same operation as the VA-55 Intruder.  VA-85 Intruder launched strikes Lybian missile boats approaching U.S. surface ships.  After being damaged by Rockeye cluster bombs, this particular A-6 shown above fired a Harpoon anti-ship missile, sinking the Libyan vessel. 

Both the VA-55 and VA-85 strikes were part of a series of "Freedom of Navigation" operations in the Gulf of Sidra, which the Libyans claimed as their territorial water.  Disregarding this designation, the United States moved in carrier battle groups.  The Libyan government responded with aircraft intercepts and missile gunboat sorties.  Called Operation Prairie Fire and Operation El Dorado Canyon, naval fighters and bombers made several strikes against the Libyan military units in the spring of 1986.

This is an A-6, plane number "504" from the NAS Oceana based Attack Squadron Seven-Five (a.k.a. "The Sunday Punchers").  VA-75 led the Navy's air assault on the first day of Operation Desert Storm on January 17, 1991 .  The bomb markings signifies that this particular aircraft participated in thirty-four strikes against Iraqi targets.

 According a VA-75 veterans' website, "Over the next 43 days, flying around the clock, the Puncher delivered over 1.6 million pounds of ordnance, flew 2,150 combat hours in 498 sorties without a loss or damage to any aircraft. For their efforts, the Sunday Punchers became the most decorated Navy squadron of Desert Storm."

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