The 1960s was a decade filled with many nostalgic memories and future challenges – the Vietnam War, triumph in Space, a lunar landing, and a time in which Naval Aviation attained new stature as an effective fighting force. In 1961, one nuclear-powered and two conventionally-powered attack carriers joined the operating forces, perhaps the greatest array of carrier-air might added during peacetime to any fleet in a single year.
Before the decade was out, two more attack carriers had been commissioned and another was on the way. Four new amphibious assault ships, and others built to exploit the unique capabilities of helicopters in vertical assault and replenishment, joined the Fleet. New high-performance aircraft went into operation. Vertical and short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft were developed; one went into service. New types of missiles appeared and such old standbys as Sparrows and Sidewinders were given new capabilities.
Naval Air Auxiliary Station (NAAS) Kingsville witnessed its share of transitions during the decade. Squadron missions were fine-tuned to take advantage of a myriad of technological advances to the flight training syllabus, and flight simulators were introduced into the training curriculum, cutting the time required to train Student Naval Aviators.
On May 21, all Advanced Training Units throughout the Navy were re-designated. At NAAS Kingsville, ATU-202 became Training Squadron Twenty One (VT-21). Within the next year the squadron would fly 15,216 consecutive accident-free hours, the first advanced jet training squadron to accomplish this feat. ATU-212 was re-designated Training Squadron Twenty Two (VT-22), with a mission of training newly-designated aviators in familiarization, formation tactics, instruments and navigation. ATU-222 became Training Squadron Twenty Three (VT-23).
The new training aircraft in the 1960s was the Grumman F9F Cougar, which replaced the F9F Panther. The Panther had distinguished itself as both a combat and a trainer aircraft during its lifespan. Grumman’s first XF9F-2 model was first flown in 1947. In the Korean Conflict, the Panther delivered more ordnance against enemy ground targets than any other jet aircraft. In the war, 715 Panthers were used, flying a total of 78,000 sorties, averaging 100 missions each.
The Navy acquired 377 two-seat F9F-8T Cougar trainers between 1956 and 1960. They were used for advanced training, weapons training and carrier training, and served until 1974. In the 1962 re-designation, these were called TF-9J. Armed with two 20mm cannons and underwing/fuselage provisions for ordnance ranging from bombs to air-to-surface rockets, the Cougar was a light attack strike fighter and capable dogfighter that could undertake carrier-based or land-based operations.