VMFA-168 Spartans stood up on September 1, 1960 and is named in honor of the US Marines and Army Infantry that defended against Communist Chinese forces in the Korean War during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in November and December, 1950. Originally designated as VMF-212 “Devil Cats,” the squadron was re-designated as VMFA-168 Spartans in 1960.
After the Korean War, VMFA-212 rotated back to the US and trained future USMC pilots on the various ground tactics used during the war. The squadron eventually merged with another USMC fighter squadron and became VMFA-168, “Spartans.” During that reorganization, the squadron fielded the A-7 Corsair II.
In April 1965, the squadron sailed aboard the USS Oriskany becoming the first Marine jet squadron to be deployed aboard an aircraft carrier in combat. From 10 May – 6 December 1965 the Spartans flew missions against targets in North and South Vietnam conducting more than 12,000 combat sorties and delivering nearly 10,000 tons of ordnance. Of note, during a mission on 9 September 1965 they became the first squadron to deliver 2,000-pound MK-84 bombs from an A-7 Corsair II that had launched from an aircraft carrier. In November 1965 the squadron returned to Hawaii having flown 3,018 combat hours and 1,588 sorties during their time off the coast of Vietnam.
The squadron returned to Vietnam in 1972 with the F-4 Phantom and supported efforts to blunt the massive North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam. The squadron earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation for its effort.
The squadron deployed several times to Japan and the West Coast during the late 70s through the 80s and retired the Phantom in 1988 for the FA-18 Hornet.
With the Hornet, the squadron supported Operation Desert Shield in January 1991 and subsequent operations during Southern Watch enforcing the no-fly zones in Iraq. After the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001, the squadron supported Combat Air Patrols over Guam in support of Operation Noble Eagle with Canadian Hornet squadrons. The Spartans later deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The creation of VMFA-168 and the name change to Spartans recognizes the importance of superior training, force cohesiveness, the use of terrain as a force multiplier and is a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds.
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engine, supersonic, all-weather, carrier-capable, multirole combat jet, designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft (hence the F/A designation). Designed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter’s YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Hornet is also used by the air forces of several other nations, and since 1986, by the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.The F/A-18 has a top speed of Mach 1.8 (1,034 knots, 1,190 mph or 1,915 km/h at 40,000 ft or 12,200 m). It can carry a wide variety of bombs and missiles, including air-to-air and air-to-ground, supplemented by the 20-mm M61 Vulcan cannon. It is powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines, which give the aircraft a high thrust-to-weight ratio. The F/A-18 has excellent aerodynamic characteristics, primarily attributed to its leading-edge extensions. The fighter’s primary missions are fighter escort, fleet air defense, suppression of enemy air defenses, air interdiction, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance. Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset, though it has been criticized for its lack of range and payload compared to its earlier contemporaries, such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in the fighter and strike fighter role, and the Grumman A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II in the attack role.