VC-10 Challengers Squadron Patch – Plastic Backing
VC-10 Composite Squadron Challengers is an inactive United States Navy aircraft squadron. It was originally known as the Mallards in 1943, but when assigned the F-8 Crusader the squadron pilots unofficially used the name “Challengers”. The squadron was formally known as the Challengers from 1961 through 1993.
VC-10 has a unique history, with its designation being used by two separate units in the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets, respectively.
One version of VC-10 was commissioned as Composite Squadron TEN (VC-10) 23 September 1943 at Naval Air Station Seattle (Sand Point) in Seattle, Washington. The commissioning officer was LCDR G. L. Richard and LCDR Edward J. Huxtable, Jr. took command of VC-10 the following week on 29 September 1943. Planes and material allowance for the squadron were drawn at Sand Point. On 5 April 1944, VC-10 was assigned as part of the air group for the escort carrier USS Gambier Bay.CVE-73 was a Casablanca class escort carrier and was sunk in the second Battle of Samar. At the time, the squadron had 195 men and 31 pilots assigned.
The other version of VC-10 began on 1 December 1943 with the establishment of Utility Squadron SIXTEEN (VU-16) at NAS Isla Grande in San Juan, Puerto Rico. VJ-16’s mission was to provide gunnery target tow services, radar tracking, search and rescue, and photographic services to ships and aircraft in the Caribbean area. As was typical for most of its service, the squadron was equipped from the outset with a variety of aircraft types. Initially, the squadron’s inventory consisted of Grumman J2F-5/6 Duck, Consolidated PBY-5/5A Catalina, Grumman TBF-1 Avenger, Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless and North American SNJ-4 aircraft.
After a brief move to NAAF Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico in April 1944, VJ-16 settled in at NAS Miami, Florida in May 1944 and added Martin JM-1/2 Marauder, Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, General Motors FM-2 Wildcat and Grumman TBM-1J/3J Avenger aircraft to its roster. For the remainder of World War II, the squadron operated detachments in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Brazil, Cuba, Panama and Trinidad. VJ-16 consolidated its operations at NAS Guantanamo Bay/McCalla Field, Cuba in April 1945 and was redesignated as Utility Squadron TEN (VU-10) on 15 Nov 1945.
Over the next fifteen years, VU-10 variously operated JD-1, UF-1, Martin PBM-5A Marine, Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina, Douglas R4D-5 Skytain, Beechcraft SNB-5, Grumman F6F-5D Hellcat, Grumman F7F-2D Tigercat, Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Grumman F9F-6/8 Cougar and North American FJ-3 Fury aircraft, as well as Grumman F6F-5K Hellcat, Culver TD2C, and Radioplane KD2R-5 target drones. In 1957, VU-10 also established an operating detachment at NAS Jacksonville, Florida that was absorbed into Utility Squadron FOUR (VU-4) in 1963.
With the closure of McCalla Field, VU-10 moved to the nearby NAS Guantanamo Bay/Leeward Point Field in January 1960 and added defense of the base as one of its missions after Communist rebels took over the Cuban government during the Cuban Revolution. During the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, VU-10’s Vought F-8A Crusader fighters became the front line defense force for the base against both Cuban and deployed Soviet forces. The squadron, which acquired Grumman US-2C Trackers and, in succession, Vought F-8B/D/A/C/K Crusaders, was redesignated as Fleet Composite Squadron TEN (FLECOMPRON TEN or VC-10) on 1 July 1965.
Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk IIs modified to carry air-to-ground ordnance and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles replaced the last of VC-10’s F-8 Crusaders in 1976, augmented by an Douglas EA-4F Skyhawk II in the late 1980s. VC-10 continued to provide aerial target services for fleet training and dissimilar air combat maneuver training (DACT) for fleet aircraft during Atlantic Fleet carrier battle group deployment work-ups.
VC-10 was disestablished at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 14 August 1993 as part of a post-Cold War reduction in naval forces and the transfer of the composite squadron mission to the Naval Air Reserve.