‘Knighthawks’ — the ’emergency response’ squadron

Photo: US Navy/LCDR Darin Russell


The US Navy is focused on the big buzzword of readiness and its ability to become more dynamically deployable. VFA-136 ‘Knighthawks’ is part of Carrier Air Wing One, it’s ‘on the hook’ and ready to embark the aircraft carrier at very short notice, writes Jamie Hunter in the forthcoming June issue of Combat Aircraft, on sale next week.

‘We spent 192 days at sea last year. We came back in the middle for 38 days — which was an unprecedented move — it’s unheard of, certainly during my time in the Navy,’ says CDR E.P. ‘Blue’ Hadler, commanding officer of the ‘Knighthawks’. ‘We had a charter to become more operationally unpredictable,’ he adds, and this is how they are delivering on that promise.

Unusually for a squadron that is assigned to an East Coast air wing, the ‘Knighthawks’ are based at NAS Lemoore, California, and assigned to Strike Fighter Wing Pacific. Typically, a squadron coming off a major deployment goes into a maintenance phase, which is essentially the very early stage of regenerating and starting a slow two-to-three year build-up back towards the next cruise. However, VFA-136 and its air wing remain ‘tethered’, which means they are maintaining a posture of being able to re-deploy at very short notice.

‘Right now we are in what’s known as a sustainment phase,’ explains Hadler, ‘which means we are tied to a certain level of readiness so we can respond quickly as a strike group if need be. Since we are in sustainment we are also on a tether to be able to deploy with the carrier strike group.’ This new approach to unpredictable deployability will rotate between the air wings, but not before CVW-1 heads back on the road once again this year, indeed during Combat Aircraft’s visit the truncated spin-up process for the ‘Knighthawks’ had already begun.

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