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The Aircraft of 
Carrier Air Wing Nine
From a Modeller's Viewpoint


Rodger Kelly






Perth, Western Australia has long been a destination for ships of the United States Navy and amongst these visiting ships are the carriers of the Pacific Fleet. Local enthusiasts eagerly await these visits and look upon them as a means of catching up with the latest developments in naval aviation.

  The stern of 
USS John C. Stennis 
(Click to Enlarge)

The USS John C Stennis and the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW 9) were the latest visitors to our shores and I was I was fortunate enough to be given a pass for a tour of the ship. I spent the whole afternoon aboard happily taking photographs and buying patches from the squadron ready rooms.

The Achilles Heel for these tours is the weather as the carriers anchor out in Gage Roads some mile or so offshore. A ferryboat takes you from the passenger terminal in Fremantle Harbour out to a pontoon that is secured to the stern of the ship. If the wind is up and a swell is running coming alongside and transferring to the pontoon is difficult to say the least. Fortunately, the weather on the day my tour was superb and the transfer was not a problem.

  USS John C. Stennis
(Click to Enlarge)

Once you arrive on the ship you scale the first of the many, many ladders that you will negotiate during the tour to the hangar bay where you are greeted by the Ship's Public Affairs Officer (PAO). The PAO welcomes you aboard and provides a brief on the ship then assigns each group a Tour Guide. These formalities over with, your Guide shepherds you up more ladders to the flight deck and the waiting aircraft.

Believe it or not, there is some semblance of order in the seemingly chaotic world that is the flight deck and the aircraft communities each have their own territory. Generally, the F/A 18s of the attack squadrons own the forward bow area, the S-3s of the ASW world are next spreading to roughly the forward part of the island. The E-2s, EA-6Bs and H-60s own the middle part of the flight deck with the stern area being the domain of the F-14s. The deck tractors, APUs, crane and "everything else" is generally stacked-in-close to the island. Having said all that though each ship does it a little different and no two ships are the same. So, what were the colours and markings of the aircraft of CVW 9 like?

CVW 9 is made up of nine squadrons:

  • VF-211 Checkmates, VFA-146 Argonauts, VFA-147 Blue Diamonds 

  • VMFA-314 Black Knights, VAW-112 Goldenhawks, VS-33 Screwbirds, 

  • VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets, HS-8 Eightballers, Det 4 VRC-30 Providers



VF-211 Checkmates


All the Tomcats of VF-211 were the older "A" models. These aircraft have been around for a long time and are showing their age. All were painted in the standard TPS scheme for the Tomcat with few detail differences between each machine.

Their CAG aircraft bore full colour red and white checkerboards on the rudder (outboard only) with red white and blue stripes to the top and bottom of the vertical stabilizers again, outboard surfaces only. The words "BOOLA-BOOLA" were painted on the top of the vertical stabilizers with USS John C Stennis across the bottom. Interestingly, and unusual was that a second aircraft, 101, was also painted up in full colour markings.

"Bomb logs" were stenciled on the noses of some aircraft. I was told enjoy them now as that they would be painted over as soon as the squadron got back to the US.

The remainder of the Checkmates aircraft had the same basic squadron markings but they were all painted in shades of grey. The centerline auxiliary fuel tank of all aircraft bore the title Checkmates painted on in large black letters. Unfortunately, I missed getting even one photo of these tanks.

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CAG Aircraft's Tail

Bomb Log

CO's Aircraft Tail



VFA-146 Blue Diamonds


Unfortunately, the Blue Diamonds CAG aircraft was parked on the starboard side of the flight deck with the tail hanging out over the catwalk so getting pictures of it was not easy.

Nothing tricky here. All the Blue Diamonds aircraft were "C" models and all were finished in the standard TPS scheme for Hornets.

Blue and yellow are used as the colors for their markings. Modex codes were prefixed with 3 and painted in blue with thin black shadow below and to the right of the numerals. The other Blue Diamonds aircraft were marked in the same manner as the CAG aircraft but their markings were all in black.


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CAG Tail Left

CAG Aircraft's Droptank

CAG Tail Right



VFA-147 Argonauts


Using the modex prefix of 4 the F/A-18s of the Argonauts were again, all C models.

Their CAG aircraft was parked beside the Blue Diamonds CAG so the same comments apply in regard to getting photographs The CAG markings were painted in orange with black shadowing to lower rear of the lettering and numerals.

Other aircraft in the squadron were similarly marked with the helmet and sword on the vertical stabilizers but painted in shades of grey and black.

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CAG Tail

CAG Aircraft

Normal Tail




VMFA-314 Black Knights


At first glance the markings of the C model F/A 18s of the Black Knights look bland and ordinary. A closer look however reveals many differences from their Navy cousins.

The only coloured markings displayed by the CAG aircraft are the red lances on the outboard faces of the vertical stabilizers. The 4 prefixed Modex codes worn by the aircraft are painted grey and are shadowed to the right and below in black.

The use of grey shadowed with black also extended to the MARINE scripting on the rear fuselage. All aircraft had the squadron's knights helmet and lance painted on both sides of the fuselage in grey and black.

Like the Checkmates, the Black Knights also had a second aircraft painted up in CAG-type colored markings. The CO's aircraft, 401 sported the same red lances on the tail but also had the Knight's helmet painted black and yellow with two red plumes to the top of the helmet. That this coloured marking was not on the CAG aircraft was out of the ordinary

The markings for all three Hornet squadrons of CVW 9 are very restrained when compared to those of the other Pacific Fleet Air Wings, the black-tailed CAG of VFA-151 Vigilanties of CVW 2 and the "whole of fin" dragon markings of VFA-195 Dambusters of CVW 5 being examples.

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Full Colour Squadron Insignia

CAG Aircraft

Non-CAG Markings



VAQ -138 Yellow Jackets


The EA-6Bs of the Yellowjackets were in a surprisingly clean condition as far as Prowlers go.

The Yellowjackets aircraft bore their hornet on both sides of the rudder in the same shade of grey paint that the 5-prefix modex, NAVY script and Bureau numbers were painted in.

Their CAG aircraft on the other hand was a lot brighter with a yellow and white hornet on a black painted rudder with the "N "of the Air Wing identifier placed on top of the "G". Colouring is black with a yellow outline. Wingtip airbrakes were painted black with yellow stripes, something that I have never seen done on EA-6s of any other squadron.

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CAG Aircraft

CAG Tail Markings

CAG Aircraft



VS-33 Screwbirds


The S-3s of the Screwbirds were all in the standard TPS scheme for the Viking with their 7-prefix modex in black. The remainder of stenciling, national markings, and the antiglare panel on the nose was finished in the same shade of grey.

I was disappointed in not being able to find and photograph their CAG aircraft. If it was on the deck I'm afraid I missed it. The S-3 is going out of service in the near future so I took as many photos of their aircraft as I could.

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Screwbird S-3

Screwbird Tail

Screwbird S-3





HS-8 Eightballers


The HH-60Hs and SH-60Fs of HS-8 were well spotted around the deck which made photography easy. Most of their aircraft were fitted with an external fuel tank which bore the text EIGHTBALLERS in black with an eight ball painted on the on the right of the text. As usual for the helicopter squadron, the modex was prefixed by the numeral 6.

Unfortunately, their CAG aircraft had the tail folded which ruled out getting a photo of the bright artwork. which was a shame as it had the squadron insignia painted in full colour on the white background that covered the vertical tail surface.

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External Fuel Tank Markings





VAW-112 Goldenhawks


Now this is more like it! The E2s of the Goldenhawks were all painted in overall Gloss Gull Grey and were nice and shiny.

The CAG aircraft featured the squadron emblem of a hawk's head in yellow and dark blue on the outer faces of the vertical tails. The tops and bottoms of both outer vertical tail surfaces as well as the tops of the two inner vertical tail surfaces were painted in the same dark blue with a thin yellow stripe. The 6-prefixed modex was in black with yellow shading to rear and behind of the numerals. A full colour squadron insignia featured on both sides of the fuselage to the rear of the cockpit windows.

The other aircraft of the squadron featured the same squadron markings as the CAG bird but in black The national markings of all aircraft were in full colour.

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CAG Aircraft

CAG Tail

Non-CAG Tail Markings



Det 4 VRC-30 Providers


Yahoo! Gull Grey and White! The last time I saw US Navy aircraft, other than a COD, in Gull Grey and White was way back in 1985. Det 4s C-2 CODS were the cleanest and shiniest that I have ever seen and are a real credit to their maintenance crews.

It is unusual to see a COD on a carrier when it visits Perth. More often than not the CODs are flown off before the ship anchors and spend their time at the local RAAF base out of the reach of enthusiasts. It is always great to see these aircraft as their markings are a reminder the way that all US Navy aircraft used to be.

Both of the aircraft that were on deck were marked the same. Tops and bottoms of the vertical stabilizers were tipped in black with a thin black stripe with a full colour US flag on the outer faces of the two inner vertical stabilizers. United States Navy titles in black lettering with VRC-30 underneath them grace both sides of the fuselages with a full colour VRC-30 squadron insignia just to the rear of and below the cockpit windows. The two-numeral only modex were applied to the normal positions on both sides of the nose, the front facing nose undercarriage door, the tops of the inner flaps and on the rear tailcone. The "stars and bars were, of course, in full colour.

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C-2 COD of Det 4 VRC-30. 
Look at that shine!

Front View





Well, that's the way I saw it. I'm sure that I missed a few things but I guess that is a good enough reason as any to go and have a look at the next carrier that comes our way.If you would like more information on the USS John C Stennis and Carrier Air Wing Nine you can go to their homepage at: http://www.cvn74.navy.mil/ Well worth the visit!

Text & Images Copyright 2000 by Rodger Kelly
Page Created 25 July, 2000
Last Updated 27 May, 2001

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