VFH-855 "Wolfpack" Heavy Fighter Squadron
VFH-855 Heavy Fighter Squadron is a fighter squadron of the Royal Canadian Navy Fleet Air Arm. They were the first RCN squadron to be equipped with the CF-184B Super Tomcat, and the first to be embarked on a Canadian aircraft carrier. Known as the "Wolfpack," they inherited the lineage of the United States Navy's Fighter Squadron 1, nicknamed the Wolfpack, one of the first USN squadrons to operate the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. VFH-855 has seen extensive service during the Kosovo War, Operation Enduring Freedom, the 2008 Indian Ocean War, and the 2015 Indonesian War.
History[edit | edit source]
After the newly elected Government of the Right Honourable Jean Charest finalised the deal to take possession of the carrier USS Forrestal, Pilots from the Canadian Forces Air Command and the Canadian Fleet Air Arm proposed the transfer of CF-184B Super Tomcats to the Fleet Air Arm for operations aboard the new carrier. Volunteers from several AIRCOM Super Tomcat Squadrons offered to transfer to the Fleet Air Arm to form new fighter squadrons with the Super Tomcat. As the debate over whether to operate Canada's fleet of Tomcats from the carrier progressed, the United States Navy offered to provide assistance.
With the Collapse of the USSR and the recent decommissioning of the USS Ranger, Fighter Squadron 1, the "Wolfpack," was to be disestablished, with its personnel to be reassigned to other squadrons. Some squadron members heard of the talks to operate Tomcats from the next Canadian aircraft carrier and volunteered to go on exchange in Canada, training Canadian Tomcat pilots in the art of carrier take-offs and landings. After much deliberation, and with the rise in support for the Canadian Forces following Operation Messiah, the Defence Staff approved the new squadrons in the fall of 1994.
On October 14, 1994, VFH-855 was established at CFB Shearwater with the final Commanding Officer of VF-1 presenting the First CO of VFH-855, Captain(N) Frederick Davis, with regalia from the disestablished USN Squadron. VFH-855 was also granted permission to adopt the Wolfpack Name and Wolf logo design. The initial squadron comprised seven USN instructors, with the other pilots comprising mostly ex-AIRCOM pilots and a smaller number of Fleet Air Arm Pilots, who previously flew CF-188 Hornets or the CF-174 Phantom IIs aboard HMCS Eagle. After six months operating from land, they would be stationed aboard the American training carrier, Saratoga, the sister ship of the ex-USS Forrestal from October 1995 to June 1996.
In July 1996, VFH-855 was returned to CFB Shearwater in anticipation of Canada's new carrier, now renamed the Warrior. Following the launch of the Warrior in August, VFH-855 landed for the first time on HMCS Warrior on September 8th, 1996. From September to May 1997, the Wolfpack trained aboard the Warrior and made themselves home onboard the capital ship. During the official commissioning ceremony for the Warrior on June 26th, 1997, the Wolfpack and the rest of the Warrior's Air Wing performed a flypast, highlighting the rise of Canada's Naval Air Power.
The Squadron would see its first deployment with part of the squadron aboard HMCS Warrior during operations in support of IFOR in Bosnia. During this time, the debate over the air wing composition for Warrior would be argued until 1998 when a decision was finally made. The Squadron would see combat for the first time in 1999 as part of Operation Allied Force over the former Yugoslavia.