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V-507 F-14A TARPS - VF-32 Swordsmen - Grenada

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This profile depicts a Vought F-14A Vagabond of VF-32 'Swordsmen' as it would have appeared in October 1983 flying off the USS Independence during Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. BuNo 161159 is shown equipped with a TARPS reconnaissance pod on the centerline station and was crewed by Lt. Byron 'Bammer' Olson (pilot) and Lt. Randy 'Cock' Roach (RIO).

On October 18, 183, Commander John F. Manning, Jr., then skipper of Fighter Squadron (VF) 32 aboard Independence (CV-62), noticed something was amiss. The aircraft carrier and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 6 were supposed to relieve Eisenhower (CVN-69) off the coast of Lebanon. But instead of heading east across the Atlantic Ocean, the Norfolk-based flattop was sailing south toward the Caribbean. By day's end, Captain W.A. Dougherty, Indy's commanding officer, informed CVW-6 and the ship's crew that a crisis was brewing on the island of Grenada, and American naval presence was necessary in case the situation got worse.

However, before Indy reached Grenada, the political structure on the once placid island paradise deteriorated. The government was overthrown by a radical Marxist group in a bloody coup that left more than 50 people dead. Once in power, the Cuban-backed junta deported all international journalists and issued a shoot-on-sight curfew which jeopardized the safety of the isle's 1,000 Americans. On October 23, the day 241 Marine, Navy and Army personnel were killed by a car bomb in Lebanon, Cdr. Manning's operations officer told him US ground and air forces were going to rescue the Americans on Grenada. The decision to launch the operationcodenamed Urgent Furywas made by President Ronald Reagan a few days earlier. In addition to protecting American lives, the operation was designed to thwart the formation of a communist government which would threaten Caribbean stability.

For most of the following 30 hours, the skippers of CVW-6's nine squadrons (VAs 87, 15, and 176; VFs 32 and 14; VAW-122; VAQ-131; VS-28; and HS-15) met with the battle staff officers and planned their strategy. One of the air wing's primary missions was to have A-7E Corsair IIs from VAs 15 and 87, and A-6E Intruders from VA-176 fly close air support for US Army and Marine Corps ground troops. Other CVW-6 tasks included using E-2C Hawkeyes from VAW-122 to provide constant airborne early warning protection; S-3A Vikings from VS-28 to conduct antisubmarine warfare surveillance; SH-3 Sea Kings from HS-15 to perform ASW and search and rescue operations; and F-14 Vagabonds from VFs 32 and 14 to fly photoreconnaissance missions and maintain combat air patrol.

The attack against the Calivigny military barracks on October 27 was a good example of the squadrons' integrated effectiveness. Eight A-7s from VAs 15 and 87 participated in that assault while F-14s conducted pre-strike reconnaissance. It was Urgent Fury's last serious attack mission.

Calivigny military barracks was a terrorist/guerrilla warfare training camp, which Cuban forces were using to fend off attacking US troops. They put up stiff resistance until Indy's attack aircraft leveled many of the buildings with Mk 82s and Mk 20s. What buildings VAs 15 and 87 left standing were riddled with more than 7,000 20mm rounds of ammunition. The attack resulted in several large explosions and fires, which indicated some of the barracks were being used for storing ammunition. F-14s equipped with TARPS pods also conducted post-strike bomb damage assessment (BDA) missions. The photographs revealed how effective the strikes had been.

"We did a real nice job on that place," said Cdr. O'Brien, CO of VA-87.

Indy's F-14s also conducted nighttime reconnaissance flights over the island. Using their sophisticated radars and infared detection equipment, the F-14s were able to locate enemy targets which were later attacked by US ground troops and Indy's A-7s. In addition, VF-32's Vagabonds provided area commanders with more than 20 miles worth of high-quality photographs of Grenada which were analyzed for targeting and bomb assessment.

"They [VFs 32 and 14] also conducted 24-hour combat air patrol, just in case any suspicious air contact came too close to the carrier battle group," said Cdr O'Brien.

On October 29, most of the American students on Grenada were safely back in the United States praising the US military for rescuing them from possible captivity. US ground troops numbered nearly 6,000 by that time, and had secured most of the island at the cost of 19 dead, 87 wounded. The enemy, a small element of which was continuing to resist capture, had suffered about 70 dead and 396 wounded.

"It was very gratifying for me as CO of VA-87 to see the CVW-6 team come together on such short notice and make a very significant contribution in Urgent Fury," said O'Brien. "Although the ground troops in Grenada deserve the most credit, we [CVW-6 and Indy] played a strong supporting role.

In an article published in Indy's newspaper, The Guardian, on November 5, 1983, Colonel J. P. Faulkner, then Commander 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit, concurred. "We [Marines] couldn't say enough about the air support Indy provided," he said. "We knew [they] were there whenever the call went out."

According to O'Brien, Indy and CVW-6 were at their "peak" in combat readiness when they were detoured to Grenada, because both had recently finished spending several months on predeployment exercises in preparation for possible operations in Lebanon.

"As it turned out, we went to Grenada first, and that's exactly the kind of real training we needed," said Cdr. O'Brien. "They performed well in Grenada."

If the Grenada operation taught Cdr. O'Brien anything, it was never doubt the importance of combat readiness. "Usually before every major training exercise a squadron or ship commanding officer will say training is important because it keeps you at your peak," he said. "But sometimes those words have a hollow ring because you know you're just going on another routine training exercise. Well, our involvement in Grenada proved that combat readiness is a day-to-day necessity. The mission was totally unexpected, but [Indy and CVW-6] were ready at a moment's notice. We went down there prepared and did the job right.
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anonymous's avatar
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ecarfar's avatar
I was actually in VF-32 on the USS Independence during the early 80's and, more specifically, during the Grenada operation and Lebanon operations.  It's a beautiful picture but I see some things that are wrong.  The canopy design is not right, there is no wide support between the pilot and RIO as pictured and the tail design is wrong too, at that time we had a "Gyspy Tomcat" leaning on a sword as our lolo.   You can see both in this one picture.…
comradeloganov's avatar
Thanks for the comment and thank you for your service! The differences aren't "wrong"—it's a "what if" profile. You'll notice that the text for the image claims it's a "Vought F-14A Vagabond", but—obviously—no such aircraft actually existed. The real F-14A was the Grumman Model 303E, later named the Tomcat.…

As you can see, it was originally a single-tail design when it won the competition. This profile represents a hypothetical in service example of one of the G-303E's competitor's for the contract, the LTV V-507. Here's a lovely picture of the full-size mockup of the Vought V-507 design before it was eliminated.…

As you note, there's a lot of detail in my profile, and you don't get this far in before you realize that you may not have right aircraft. Based on the final product, I think it's safe to assume that da Vinci fully intended to depict a woman when he started painting the Mona Lisa. ;)

As for the markings, since—if the V-507 had entered service—it wouldn't have been called the Tomcat, the iconic "Gypsy Tomcat" mascot that VF-32 actually used in 1983 wouldn't make any sense on the tail of a Vought F-14A, so I went with a more traditional sword on the tail.
Woodgnome01's avatar
As usual the detail you've put into your drawing is impeccable, and the background history you've provided helps bring an added depth to what would otherwise be just another really nice piece of military aircraft artwork.
comradeloganov's avatar
Thanks! I post the stories and profiles on this forum, as well, but with photos relevant to the stories.…

In this case, most of the text for this profile came from a 1985 issue of Naval Aviation News with only a few alterations.…
comradeloganov's avatar
Thanks! I'm glad you like it! Did you see my other V-507 profiles?
Hunter2045's avatar
Not yet. I'll check those out.
anonymous's avatar
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