Warship Wednesday: Coral Sea, arriving with a mighty flock, 55 years ago today
A brief WW this week gives us the view of the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) underway in the Pacific, April 18, 1963, just out of Pearl Harbor with various aircraft of Carrier Group Fifteen (CVG-15, NL) spotted on deck.
Would you look at that enormous Douglas A-3 Skywarrior (Whale) from VAH-2 on the center deck!
Other aircraft are F-4B Phantoms from VF-151, A-4C/Es Skyhawks from VA-153 and 155, F-8C Crusaders from VF-154 along with photo birds from VFP-63, and A-1H Vigilantees from VA-165. The radar domes of VAW-11’s E-1B “Stoofs with a roof” are easy to spot.
All of the above aircraft types have long been discarded in U.S service (although Japan, Turkey, Iran and others still fly F-4s in limited numbers and roles).
Of the squadrons, most don’t exist anymore. Two notable exceptions are the Vigilantes of VF-151 that fly F-18E/Fs from CVW-9 (Stennis) while the Knights of VF-154 fly the same type from CVW-11 (Nimitz). In 1968, the VAH-2 was redesignated as Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) and have been in the jamming game ever since, flying EKA-3Bs, then later EA-6Bs and currently EA-18G Growlers.
As for CVG-15, on 23 Dec. 1963, it became CVW-15 and would deploy on the Coral Sea an amazing 10 times (Vietnam-1964, Vietnam-1967, Vietnam-1968, Vietnam-1969, Vietnam-1970, Eastpac-1971, Vietnam-1972, Vietnam-1973, WestPac-1975, WestPac-1977). After the Coral Sea was retired, CVW-15 spent two decades swapping between Carl Vinson and Kitty Hawk before it was disestablished in 1995 as part of the post-Cold War drawdown.
The Coral Sea, decommissioned in 1990 after 43 years of hard service, was dismantled slowly over a seven-year period and was the largest vessel ever scrapped up until that date. Her sistership, USS Midway, of course, survives as a museum.