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ATSUGI NAVAL AIR FACILITY, Japan — A squadron of F/A-18F Super Hornets from Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif., join the USS Kitty Hawk’s Carrier Air Wing 5 next month.

The “Diamond Backs” of Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102), will replace Fighter Squadron 154 (VF-154), the F-14 Tomcat squadron that left Atsugi last month, Navy officials said Friday.

The Tomcat squadron was reassigned to Lemoore where it will change to the new jet and be redesignated VFA- 154.

The Navy has been gradually replacing aging F-14s with Super Hornets — a newer long-range, multimission, all- weather strike fighter.

According to the Navy, the Super Hornet is 40 percent cheaper to fly and requires 75 percent less labor hours than the F-14 Tomcat.

The new squadron is about the same size as VF-154, which has about 270 personnel, officials said.

The Diamond Backs squadron is led by Cmdr. Michael A. Vizcarra. Its executive officer is Cmdr. A. McGowen.

The squadron was established in 1955 and has used a variety of aircraft over the years.

Most recently, it was an F-14 squadron until 2002 when the Super Hornet replaced the older aircraft.

The squadron was certified for flight operations in October 2002 and began preparing for its move to Atsugi, according to the squadron’s Web site.

The Diamond Backs flew in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, logging more than 1,400 combat hours during the six-week campaign and flying missions from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Air Wing 5 has three other fighter squadrons that fly the F/A-18C Hornet, a cousin of the Super Hornet.

The Super Hornet has a longer wingspan, holds more fuel and can fly farther than a Hornet.

The F/A-18F is a two-seat jet.

The air wing also has S-3B Vikings, EA-6B Prowlers and helicopter anti-submarine squadrons as well as a logistics detachment.

Meet the Super Hornet

• The Super Hornet is capable of conducting air-to-air and air-to- ground combat missions.• Its missions include gaining air superiority, day and night strikes with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close-air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, forward air control and refueling.• It has greater range and can carry a heavier payload than most other fighters. It also features enhanced survivability and built-in potential to incorporate future technologies.

— Source: U.S. Navy

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