Kindley_Air_Force_Base

Kindley Air Force Base

Kindley Air Force Base was a United States Air Force base in Bermuda from 1948–1970. The base was previously known as Fort Bell, with Kindley Field (named in honour of an American pilot, Field E. Kindley, who had served with the Royal Flying Corps during the Great War), being the airfield. The base was created as a joint British and American airfield following the U.S. being given free 99-year leases for bases in Bermuda. There were two air stations operating in Bermuda at the start of the Second World War, the civil airport on Darrell's Island, which was taken over by the Royal Air Force for the duration, and the Royal Naval Air Station on Boaz Island. Both of these were limited to operating flying boats as Bermuda's limited, and hilly, landmass offered no obvious site for an airfield. The US built two air bases in Bermuda. The U.S. Navy built a Naval Air Station, also for flying boats, at the West End, and the US Army built the airfield at the East End. Both bases were built by levelling small islands. The US Army levelled several small islands at the North of Castle Harbour to create a landmass contiguous with St. David's Island and Cooper's Island.

In 1947, it was decided to separate the U.S. Army Air Forces from the U.S. Army to create a separate air service, the United States Air Force (USAF). Fort Bell lost its distinction from Kindley Field, at that time, and the entire base was re-named Kindley Air Force Base (although some civilians still refer to it as Kindley Field). The USAF continued to operate the base, primarily as a refuelling station for trans-Atlantic flights. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the base was also used to operate reconnaissance flights by aeroplanes tracking Soviet shipping in the Atlantic. By the 1960s, with the increase in ranges of transport aircraft, Kindley Field's usefulness to the USAF had rapidly diminished. The U.S. Navy was still operating anti-submarine air patrols with P5M / SP-5B Marlin seaplanes from NAS Bermuda at the West End. Whereas the Second World War air patrols had protected merchant shipping in the Atlantic, the Cold War patrols aimed to guard US cities from Soviet submarines armed with ballistic nuclear missile. The Martin flying boats the Navy had used since the War, however, were withdrawn and replaced by landplanes. In 1965, the US Navy moved its air operations to Kindley Field, flying landbased SP-2H Neptune and P-3 Orion aircraft. With the airfield having attained vastly greater importance to naval operations, it was permanently transferred to custody of the U.S. Navy in 1970, operating until 1995 as U.S. Naval Air Station Bermuda. During the latter stages of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy would normally station an entire patrol squadron consisting of nine P-3C Orion aircraft on six month rotations from their home bases at either NAS Jacksonville, Florida or NAS Brunswick, Maine. These squadrons were frequently augmented by Navy Reserve P-3 aircraft from various bases in the eastern United States, as well as NATO/Allied support comprised of Royal Air Force Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2s, Canadian Armed Forces CP-140 Auroras and other similar maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. During one period in 1985 that was characterized by exceptionally heavy Soviet Navy submarine activity off the United States, several U.S. Navy S-3 Viking aircraft, normally a carrier-based ASW platform, were also temporarily deployed to Bermuda from their home base of the former NAS Cecil Field near Jacksonville, Florida in order to augment the forward deployed P-3 squadron.

The previous NAS Bermuda was renamed the NAS Annex and served primarily as a dock area for visiting U.S. naval vessels and as support facility for the nearby Naval Facility (NAVFAC) Bermuda that supported the Sound Undrewater Surveillance System (SOSUS) activity. Both bases closed in 1995 and the former Kindley Field became the present Bermuda International Airport.

Since 1962 several sounding rockets were launched from Kindley and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has operated a tracking and telemetry station on the eastern edge of the former Naval Air Station since the 1960s in support of manned space flight operations.

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