Hunter Army Airfield , located in Savannah, Georgia, United States, is a military airfield and subordinate installation to Fort Stewart. Originally built in 1929 as Savannah Municipal Airport, the airfield was renamed Hunter Field in 1932, and continued to operate as a civil airport until 1940. Since 1940, the airfield has operated primarily as a military airfield and training site; originally as Savannah Army Air Base and then as Hunter Air Force Base. In 1967, the airfield was named Hunter Army Airfield (AAF) as part of the transfer from the United States Air Force to the United States Army.
Hunter features a runway that is 11,375 feet (3,467 m) long and an aircraft parking area that is more than 350 acres (1.4 km²). The runway and apron, combined with the 72,000 sq ft (6,689 m²) Departure/Arrival Airfield Control Group (DAACG) Facility and nearby railhead, allow the 3rd Infantry Division from nearby Fort Stewart to efficiently deploy soldiers and cargo worldwide. NASA identified Hunter as an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle orbiters.
In 1929, the General Aviation Committee of the Savannah City Council recommended that the 730 acre (3 km²) Belmont Tract, belonging to J. C. Lewis, be accepted by the Council as the future site of the Savannah Municipal Airport. The cost of the land was $35,000. By September 1929, the runway and several buildings were ready and the city officially opened the new facility.
The airport became a part of Eastern Air Transport Incorporated air route on 2 December 1931, when Ida Hoynes, daughter of the Mayor, Thomas M. Hoynes, broke a bottle of Savannah River water on a propeller blade of an 18-passenger Curtiss Condor II during the christening ceremony.
The airport was named Hunter Municipal Airfield in May 1940 during Savannah Aviation Week in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Frank O’Driscoll Hunter, a Savannahian and World War I flying ace. Lt Col Hunter, who would later climb to the rank of Major General, was not scheduled to appear in Savannah that week. However, he paid a surprise visit to the field on the first day of Aviation Week while enroute to France to serve as a United States Military Air Attaché.
At the end of the war, the Hunter was used as a Separation Center for the discharge and furlough of servicemembers returning from Europe. In June 1946, the airfield was returned to the City of Savannah. From 1946 to 1949, many of its buildings were leased to industrial plants. Some of the buildings were used as apartment houses, and an orphanage was located in the former commanding officer’s quarters. The University of Georgia established an extension campus on part of the old base, as well.
In 1949, the 2d Bomb Wing was reactivated and moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Savannah’s Chatham Air Force Base. The limited facilities at the base, located eight miles (13 km) northwest of Savannah, made the site unfit for permanent use. Rather than see the Air Force move elsewhere, Savannah offered to exchange airfields with the federal government along with 3,500 acres (14 km²) of additional land around Hunter for future base expansions. September 1950, Hunter Air Force Base became the only U.S. Military installation named for a living American, MGen (Ret.) Frank O'D. Hunter
Brigadier General Frank Meszar, Commanding General of Fort Stewart, formally accepted the base from Colonel James A. Evans Jr., Commander of Hunter AFB, in a formal change of command and service ceremony on 1 April 1967. The headquarters of the Army Aviation School Element moved to Hunter from Fort Stewart, where it had been established during the summer of 1966. The element's mission was to coordinate the training of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aviators as an extension of the Army’s training programs at Fort Rucker and Fort Wolters, Texas.
On 28 July 1967, the combined facilities of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield were re-designated the United States Army Flight Training Center. Included was the Attack Helicopter Training Department, the Army's first attack helicopter school whose purpose was to train pilots in the AH-1G Cobra, the world's first purpose-built attack helicopter. The first class of Republic of Vietnam Air Force students began Advanced helicopter training at Hunter on 13 March 1970. As the number of Vietnamese flight students increased, flight training for U.S. Army officers and warrant officers at Hunter was gradually phased out, ending on 16 June 1970.
In 1973, Hunter was deactivated. It reopened in 1975, serving as a support facility for the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), at Fort Stewart. The 24th Infantry Division, or Victory Division, became part of the nation’s Rapid Deployment Force on 1 October 1980. The Victory Division’s ability to deploy on short notice was enhanced by its large runway (the Army’s longest runway east of the Mississippi River), Savannah’s deep-water port facility and excellent rail and road networks.