Reports of Super Hornet squadron coming to Atsugi called premature
Stars and Stripes May 27, 2004
YOKOSUKA, Japan — A U.S. Navy spokesman said Tuesday that no decision has been made to bring a squadron of F/A-18E/F fighters to Atsugi Naval Air Facility and the USS Kitty Hawk, despite news reports that the new jets would arrive in September — and a Navy news release saying a Kitty Hawk squadron already was in California learning to fly the new jets.
“It’s not definite. No decision has been made,” said Cmdr. John Wallach, spokesman for Commander Naval Forces Japan. “The transition is not a done deal. That’s the official Navy position.”
Kyodo News on Tuesday reported that a squadron of state-of-the-art, single-seat Super Hornets would be deployed in September to Atsugi for use on the Kitty Hawk. The newspaper reported the story after an interview with Dick Corpus, Carrier Group 5 chief of staff, upon the Kitty Hawk’s return Monday from months at sea.
Navy officials on Tuesday called the report “premature” and said they were uncertain whether any change in force structure — such as replacing a squadron of Atsugi’s F/A-18 Hornets with Super Hornets — would occur, or if it did, when.
They maintained that position despite a Monday press release on the Navy Newsstand Web site headlined “Hawk-5’s Royal Maces Go Super.”
The news release said the Kitty Hawk’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27, known as the “Royal Maces,” had left the ship in early May to begin “a transition from the F/A-18 Hornet to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.”
The news release went on to say the squadron would learn to fly the new fighters from June to August at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., then work for “safe-for-flight” certification the next month.
When asked about the news release, Wallach did not say it was inaccurate. But he did say it was “posted in error … and does not reflect the Navy’s official position.” He also said it would be taken down from the Web site.
Brian Naranjo, spokesman for Atsugi Naval Air Facility, said he could not comment on the reports. Asked how VFA 27 would be getting back to Atsugi in September, Naranjo said, “I can’t comment on it.”
In November, a squadron of two-seater F/A-18-F Super Hornets were deployed to Atsugi to replace F-14A Tomcats aboard the Kitty Hawk, which berths at Yokosuka and is part of Carrier Group 5.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, with room only for the pilot, is “the latest and greatest fighter technology for the Navy,” according to a VFA 27 petty officer quoted in the Navy news release.