Training Squadron TWENTY ONE (VT-21)
The mission of Training Squadron TWENTY ONE (VT-21) is to conduct advanced pilot training for the carrier jet aviators of the future. Originally commissioned as ATU-202 in April 1951, the squadron began training students in the F-6F Hellcats. May 1954 was the first time students were trained in a combat aircraft. The Panthers were replaced in January 1958, by another Grumman cat, the swept-wing F-9F8 Cougar.
The squadron was redesignated VT-21 on May 21, 1960. Within the next year, the squadron flew 15,216 consecutive accident-free hours, and the first advanced jet training squadron to accomplish this feat. After 12 years of service, the Cougar was replaced by the Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk.
A record for an advanced jet training squadron was achieved in 1972 when a total of 60,850 accident-free hours was accumulated by the instructors and students of the squadron. That same year, the squadron was presented with a Meritorious Unit Commendation.
A long list of awards attest to the squadron’s outstanding safety record over the years. In 1972, the squadron was presented with its 17th ACES (Alertness, Competence, Effectiveness and Safety) Award. This award was presented by the Chief of Naval Air Training for distinguished performance in aviation safety. The Admiral John H. Towers Flight Safety Award was presented to VT-21 in 1968. All 19 jet and propeller squadron that were part of the Naval Training Command competed for this award.
The Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award has been presented to VT-21 on numerous occasions. This prestigious award is given annually to the squadron with the best safety record in its class. VT-21 won it in 1962, 1965, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1988, 1990, 1996, 1998, and 1999. In 1982 and 1984, VT-21 was awarded the CNATRA Training Effectiveness Award for the Best Advanced Training Squadron. In 1976, 1985, and 1996, the squadron was awarded the Vice Admiral Robert Goldwaite Award singling out VT-21 as the number one of 20 training squadrons in CNATRA.
VT-21 was the first squadron to transition to the T-45 Training System. This transition from the Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk to the T-45 Goshawk began in February 1992, with the first students training in January 1993. The T-45TS combines the newest technologies and teaching techniques to enable the Naval Aviation Training Command to produce a more capable and better Naval Aviator than ever before. Students are taught on state-of-the-art visual simulators, more up-to-date instrument simulators, a computer classroom with better visual displays, and the best and newest training aircraft in the world.