Strike Fighter Squadron 161 (VFA-161) spent most of its 27-year service as Fighter Squadron 161 (VF-161). The Chargers were established on 1 September 1960 as one of two VF squadrons in Carrier Air Group 16 assigned to the USS Oriskany (CVA-34). Equipped with the F3H-2 (F-3B) Demon fighter, VF-161 deployed twice to the Western Pacific on board the Oriskany, operating off the coast of South Vietnam during the 1963 coup in which President Ngo Dinh Diem was killed. After the squadron returned home in September 1964, VF-161 began transition to the F-4B Phantom II.
VF-161 joined Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) for four Vietnam War deployments, once on board the USS Constellation (CVA-64) and thrice on board the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). The Chargers were briefly resigned to CVW-16 in 1970 until joining CVW-5 in 1971 on board the USS Midway (CVA-41) for two more war cruises.