VF-302 was activated on May 21, 1971, less than a year after VF-301. From its inception until November 1973 they operated the F-8 Crusader, at this point trading in their Crusaders for F-4B Phantom IIs. Like their sister squadron VF-302's time with the B model was short, the squadron moved to the N-model in January 1975. During their time with the F-4N, VF-302 won the USNR Battle 'E', signifying them as the best fighter squadron in the Naval Reserve. 1981 they transitioned to the F-4S. VF-302 was based at NAS Miramar, near San Diego, California at hangar number 5. Due to its location near the fuel pits, VF-302 operated the transient flight line along with their own flight line. Hangar 5 was the smallest facility on NAS Miramar but managed to accommodate two other squadrons, her sister squadron and VAW 88, which flew E-2C "Hawkeye"s, (command and control aircraft), in the 1980s.
After four years operating the last F-4 variant, VF-302 began to receive the F-14A Tomcat in February 1985. They and VF-301 deployed onto the USS Ranger (CVA-61) in January 1986, performing their first carrier qualifications in F-14's. Two years later the squadron got more carrier experience by spending 12 days onboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) between August 10 and August 22, 1988.
1986 had seen VF-302 pick up the TARPS mission, the first Reserve squadron to do so. In 1986, only eight months after receiving their first TARPS pod, and then again in 1988 they had the chance to practice these skills as part of the biennial, World Reconnaissance Air Meet (RAM) at Bergstrom AFB in Texas, both times achieving first place victories among all participating USN/USMC squadrons. As well as other TARPS equipped F-14 units the meet allowed VF-302 crews to meet Air Force reconnaissance crews, to train together.