top of page

The History of the VT-3

The aircraft operated by the Training Squadron Three "Red Knights" through their modern history.

The Project

This was my first “Official Commission” after a couple of years living in the the US. During late 2014 I coincidentally got in contact with the Squadron after they saw my T-34C on Facebook and agreed to donate that one and build the remaining aircraft to complete their modern training history.

Training Squadron Three (VT-3) “Red Knights”

According to the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) website, on May 1, 1960, a new generation of warriors picked up the torch lit by their World War II predecessors (the VN-3) and continued the legacy of "Training the Best for America's Defense." On that day Training Squadron Three (VT-3) was re-commissioned at South Whiting Field and tasked with preparing the younger generation to become world class Naval Aviators. They would utilize the T-28 Trojan to train student pilots in the art of Formation Flying, Radio Instruments, and Air-to-Air Gunnery.

Although VT-3 had been re-established in the training scene for only a few years, they had already earned a reputation for high standards, and they proved it in April 1962 when the squadron organized a precision formation flight team dubbed the "Flying Diamonds." The team consisted of sixteen airplanes, piloted by the squadron's own formation flight instructors. They flew demonstrations for the next three years as a model for teamwork, knowledge, and safety. The "Flying Diamonds" appeared in several local air shows where they continuously affirmed their level of expertise to the local, as well as the military flying community. In 1965, the squadron revamped its training syllabus and Air-to-Air Gunnery was discontinued; Flight Familiarization and Basic Instrument Training were added in its place.

In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, VT-3 was at its peak in size and consisted of 174 instructor pilots, 494 student pilots, 649 enlisted members, and 162 T-28 aircraft. By the end of 1968, VT-3 had flown almost 110,000 instructional hours and trained 902 students in the basic prop-training course for that calendar year. These figures represent the record for any training squadron in the history of the Naval Air Training Command. With the Vietnam War winding down in the early 1970s, VT-3, like most other military commands, began to downsize.

VT-3 remained at South Whiting Field for thirteen years until 1973, when the squadron joined VT-2 at North Whiting Field to make room for the newly formed Helicopter Training Squadrons at South Field. The VT squadrons have remained in these spaces ever since. Even though VT-3 has not been relocated in over 50 years, it has remained steadfast in its mission, earned a host of accolades, and experienced a lot of significant changes.

In 1977, VT-3 was identified as the first primary training squadron to officially transition from the T-28 Trojan to the T-34C Turbomentor, thus ushering in a new era of Student Naval Aviators training completely in turbine engine aircraft. The 1980s again placed VT-3 on the historical timeline when it became the only primary fixed wing training squadron to be alternately commanded by a Navy and Marine Corps officer. Lt Col G.A. Brown was the first Marine Corps Commanding Officer from 1980-1981.

Known well through history to lead the way as pioneers in Naval Aviation training, the "Red Knights" were honored yet again in 1994 when they became the Navy's first and only Joint Service Primary Flight Training Squadron. The first Air Force instructors reported in February 1994; the first Air Force students followed in July of that same year; and the first Air Force Commanding Officer, Lt Col Shawn Elliott, took Command of the squadron from 1995-1996. The transition to a joint flight training program was also accompanied by an update to the squadron patch, which is the design currently worn by instructor pilots and student aviators.

The 21st century brought yet another phase in evolution where the U.S. Navy found a need to bridge the technological gap between its training aircraft, and its sophisticated fleet aircraft. Being no stranger to innovation, VT-3 was tasked as the first Navy training squadron to fly the new Joint Primary Pilot Training aircraft, the T-6B Texan II. The T-6B is faster, stronger, and more efficient than the T-34C, and is designed specifically to position students for success in modern aerial platforms.

Today, the "Red Knights" continue to provide the highest quality training to student aviators from the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and several allied nations. Each student is instructed in Day and Night Familiarization, Precision Aerobatics, Basic Instruments, Radio Instruments, and Primary Formation. Upon completion of their training, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard students are tracked for further training in Rotary Wing Aircraft, Maritime, Strike, or Command and Control Communities.

Each of the 60 flight instructors, 1 enlisted, and 12 civilian personnel assigned to VT-3 take great pride in being an integral part of training Student Aviators. Their combined effort is responsible for approximately 20,000 annual flight hours and the successful completion of over 225 primary students per year.

The Models

All the models are in 1/72nd. scale

North American T-28B Trojan

The T-28 is the Sword T-28B kit pretty much straight from the box. I used the Xtradecal decals set, which comes with a VT-3 version.

The kit is painted in Testors white and red. I know the standard calls for orange, but in most of the photos looks more like red, so I went with that one.

The display base it’s a Plymor walnut piece while the ramp is one of my good friend Alex from Uschi Van Der Rosten.

Beechcraft T-34C Turbomentor

The Turbomentor was already built when this became a project. It’s the Sword kit in 1/72 straight from the box with some scratch in the interior. I had to paint the shark mouth by hand, while the overall airframe is again just white and red.

By the time I delivered it to the VT-3 I changed the base by a bigger one to place the patch outside the tarmac, which is also Uschi’s. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find close up photos, so these are just the ones I took when I originally built the model.

Beechcraft T-6B Texan II

The Texan II kit is the LF Models in 1/72, which was the only one I was able to get at that time. This one was a real challenge because it’s basically a chunk of resin with kinda the shape of a Texan II. It lacks any detail or interior, so a lot of it was scratch work.

It’s painted in white and Testors International Orange. Decals were just printed at home, and the base is the usual Plymor walnut with an Uschi’s ramp.

Project Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this project a lot. Trainers are a forgotten subject in scale modeling, which I think deserves a more relevant space.

The LF Models Texan was a real challenge, but overall came out pretty decent I guess. Currently a kit from Isra Cast exists, which seems to be really nice.

The donation of these models gave me a great friend (Mike) who was an instructor at the Squadron and received the models, making sure they were properly displayed. Since I delivered the models at the US National Naval Aviation Museum it also gave me the opportunity to visit that amazing place for the first time.

The models on display at the VT-3
The models on display at the VT-3

The models are currently displayed at the VT-3 hallway. Mike and I treasure a friendship that keeps growing as time goes by.

Mike and me with a VT-3 Texan II (and some excess lbs I was packing at that time HA!)

I hope you enjoyed this little article, drop a comment below if you want to. I know the photos aren't great, I took these in early 2015 and I'm improving with time. Find more photos of these and others models on Facebook at

Happy Modeling!



bottom of page