Victory in Philadelphia


In December 2017, Strike Fighter Squadron 103, the Jolly Rogers, joined the War Party of VFA-87, the Black Lions of VFA-213, and the Ragin' Bulls of VFA-37 for a joint flyover of the Army/Navy Game, which was being played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 10.  The game itself is a longstanding tradition between the two academies and is usually played in a neutral site between Army's West Point campus and Navy's Annapolis campus.  Over the last 118 times the game was played, 87 of those games were played in Philadelphia, which is nearly halfway between West Point, NY and Annapolis, MD.  Since 2004, all editions of the Army/Navy Game that is played in Philadelphia is played at Lincoln Financial Field, which is home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The historic nature of playing the Army/Navy Game in Philadelphia stems from Philadelphia's historic past; the city was the first capital of the United States before it was moved to Washington, D.C. and was where the Declaration of Independence was signed in July 1776.  Many historical places remain in Philadelphia including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, to name a few.

When the game is played in Philadelphia, numerous military units are known to have fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft fly into civil and military installations in the Philadelphia region.  In years past, both the flyover aircraft for both Army and Navy would stage out of the now closed NAS/JRB Willow Grove in Horsham, PA.  The parachute teams, usually a mix of members of both the Army's Golden Knights and the Navy's Leap Frogs would stage out of Philadelphia International Airport.  Since the closure of NAS/JRB Willow Grove, the flyover aircraft have staged from Philadelphia International Airport.  The close nature of PHL to the football venue (less than three miles) enables the crews to attend at least half of the game.

As VFA-103 was one of the squadrons participating in Navy's flyover, the squadron sent two jets to PHL on December 8.  One of the jets features a striking paint job on the entire aircraft; this was a never-before-seen paint scheme on the aircraft.  Normally, a Navy squadron is allotted only one airplane per squadron to be painted up in a high visibility paint scheme to honor their commander.  The Jolly Rogers of VFA-103 is no different, but the paint scheme on the aircraft featured here was actually completed less than twenty-four hours before the aircraft was flown to Philadelphia.

The lineage of the Jolly Rogers actually dates back to January 1, 1943 when the name was adopted on the squadron as VF-17.  VF-17 became VF-5B in late 1946, then becoming VF-61 in July 1948 until disestablished in April 1959.  After deactivation of VF-61 in 1959, VF-84's commanding officer, formerly with VF-61, requested to change his squadron's name and insignia to that of the Jolly Rogers. His request was approved on April 1, 1960.  VF-84 had a star role with their F-14 Tomcats in the film Executive Decision and the squadron remained until October 1, 1995 when it was disestablished, but the Sluggers of VF-103 then adopted the Jolly Rogers name and insignia to continue the tradition.

VF-103 and their F-14B Tomcats made deployments on the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Washington, and their final tour was on the John. F. Kennedy in 2004.  Following their December 2004 return to Naval Air Station Oceana, VF-103 gave up its F-14B Tomcats to transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet and redesignated as VFA-103.  As VFA-103, the Jolly Rogers have taken part in numerous deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, operations off the Somali coast, operations in the Persian Gulf, and most recently in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016 off of the USS Harry S. Truman

Zinger Aviation Media was joined by representatives from three other highly respected aviation photography media outlets for an impromptu photo shoot on Atlantic Aviation's ramp at PHL on December 8 at the invitation of the crew of both jets.  The crew explained the historic nature of the paint scheme on the jet with nose number 200, that the Jolly Rogers will be celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2018, and even suggested what photos should be taken.  While the photo shoot was taking place, members of the Notre Dame NCAAW basketball team came by to visit and requested a group photo by the jet, which was approved.

The flyover of the Army/Navy Game did not occur due to a snowstorm that hit the Philadelphia metro region.  A few of the photos in the slideshow below were taken during the snowstorm and the final photos were taken on Sunday morning.  The title of this page, Victory in Philadelphia, is two-fold.  Victory is the callsign the Jolly Rogers use when flying, and of course one of the teams was victorious that Saturday, and on that day, victory went to the Army's Black Knights.  Future Army/Navy matchups will occur on the second Saturday in December, with the 2018, 2019, and 2020 games played in Philadelphia.  In 2021 the game will be played in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ and return to Philadelphia in 2022.

Finally, I would like to extend a huge thank you to the crew from the Jolly Rogers for allowing this photo shoot to take place as well as the Black Lions, the War Party, and the Ragin' Bulls for bringing their respective jets to the Philadelphia International Airport.

Photos in the slideshow were taken on December 8, 9, and 10.  Apologies for the large copyrights in each photo - this is necessary in this day and age where photos are widely stolen and passed along as if they are one's own.