Naval_Air_Station_Key_West

Naval Air Station Key West

Naval Air Station Key West , is a naval air station and military airport located four miles (6 km) east of the central business district of Key West, Florida, United States.

NAS Key West supports the needs of aviation units and is host to many tenant commands, including Fighter Composite Squadron 111, (VFC-111), Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) Detachment, the Caribbean Region Operations Center (CARIBROC), Naval Security Group Activity Key West, the Air Force's 6947th Electronic Security Squadron (6947 ESS), the U.S. Army's 749th Military Intelligence Company, the U.S. Army Special Forces Waterborne Operations Division (SFWOD) and Joint Interagency Task Force East (JIATF - East).

NAS Key West comprises several separate facilities in the Key West area. Some of the military family housing for enlisted and officers, as well as the Navy Exchange, Commissary, RV park and other Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) activities are located at Sigsbee Park, a man-made island created from dredging of seaplane runways in the 1940s. Additional family housing is located at Trumbo Point and Truman Annex. Single service member housing for enlisted is located at Truman Annex and Boca Chica for E-5 and below and at Truman Annex for E-6 and above. The Combined Bachelor Quarters (CBQ), formerly known as the Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ), located on Trumbo Point, accommodates transient senior enlisted (E-6 through E-9) and commissioned officers. Distinguished Visitors (DV) quarters are also available for senior commissioned officers (O-6 through O-10). The CBQ is very visible from North Roosevelt Boulevard and Palm Avenue, with its "FLY NAVY" logo printed prominently on the south side of the building (it is the tallest building on the island of Key West). Truman Annex, which is the remaining portion of the former Naval Station Key West that closed in 1974 and is still under military control, has a sandy beach and is the location of the Joint Interagency Task Force East (JIATF East). Fleming Key is the site of the U.S. Army Special Forces Waterborne Operations Division (SFWOD). NAS Key West also provides a degree of support for an a U.S. Air Force installation north of Key West, Cudjoe Key Air Force Station, located north of Key West

History

The U.S. Navy's presence in Key West dates back to 1823 when a Naval Base was established to stop piracy in this area. The lower Keys were home to many wealthy shipping merchants whose fleets operated from these waters. This drew the interest of pirates such as Blackbeard and Captain William Kidd, who used the Keys as a base from which to prey on shipping lanes. The base was expanded during the Mexican-American War and the Spanish-American War. In 1898, the battleship Maine sailed from Key West to Havana, Cuba, where it sank. The sinking of the Maine resulted in the United States declaring war on Spain, and the entire U.S. Atlantic Fleet moved to Key West for the duration of the war.

During World War I (1914-1918) the base was expanded again, and in 1917, a U.S. naval submarine base was established on what is now naval air station property. Its mission during World War I was to supply oil to the U.S. fleet and to block German ships from reaching Mexican oil supplies.

The nation's southernmost Naval Base proved to be an ideal year-round training facility with rapid access to the open sea lanes and ideal flying conditions. The Navy's forces were expanded to include seaplanes, submarines and blimps. Ground was broken for construction of a small coastal air patrol station on July 13, 1917, at what is now Trumbo Point, on land leased from the Florida East Coast Railroad Company. The project involved dredging, erection of station buildings, three seaplane ramps, a dirigible hangar, a hydrogenerator plant, and temporary barracks.

On September 22 of that year, the base's log book recorded the first naval flight ever made from Key West - a Curtiss N-9 seaplane flown by Coast Guard LT Stanley Parker. About three months later, on December 18, Naval Air Base Key West was commissioned and LT Parker became the first Commanding Officer.

Naval Air Base pilots flew in search of German submarines resting on the surface to recharge batteries. The aircraft was armed only with a single machine gun, but gunners were supplied with hand grenades. The slow Curtiss biplanes flew low over surfaced subs, and gunners dropped grenades into open conning towers. Naval aviation antisubmarine warfare was beginning to prove itself in combat.

On January 18, 1918, the first class of student aviators arrived for seaplane training, which launched the station's reputation as a premier training site for Naval Aviators, a reputation which continues today. The base was primarily used for antisubmarine patrol operations and as an elemental flight training station, with more than 500 aviators trained at the station during World War I.

The lessons of war are easily forgotten in peace. After World War I, the base was decommissioned and its personnel were transferred or released. Most of the buildings were destroyed or dismantled and moved to other locations. The remaining facilities were used only occasionally during 1920–1930 for seaplane training. The station remained inactive until 1939.

The seaplane base was designated as a Naval Air Station on December 15, 1940, and served as an operating and training base for fleet aircraft Squadrons. This set the stage for America's entry into World War II. Fortunately, the government retained the property, which proved to be a wise decision as the nation scrambled to re-arm in a state of emergency at the outbreak of the war.

Naval Base Key West was reopened to support Navy destroyers, submarines, patrol craft and PBY aircraft. Other satellite facilities were established to support other war efforts, including Meachum Field for lighter than air operations on Key West, and runways for land-based and carrier-based aircraft on Boca Chica.

By 1943, German submarines were operating so near Key West that they were sinking allied ships within sight of land. Submarine raids peaked in May of that year, when 49 ships were torpedoed off the coast of Florida. As the war decreased, so did the torpedo raids. In March 1945, the satellite fields were disestablished and combined into one aviation activity designated as U.S. Naval Air Station, Key West.

After the war ended, NAS Key West was retained as a training facility. The air station was to become a focal point during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which posed the first doorstep threat to America in more than a century. Reconnaissance and operational flights were begun October 22, 1962, in support of the blockade around Cuba. During the Missile Crisis, Key West cemented its claim to the title "Gibraltar of the Gulf", coined a hundred years earlier by Commodore David Porter.

Literally built up from the swamp, all of the NAS Key West sites, including the Harry S. Truman Annex {formerly Naval Station Key West), Trumbo Point, Meacham Field, and Boca Chica, were now permanently etched in military history.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron ONE (VX-1) was based at NAS Key West and conducted airborne antisubmarine warfare (ASW) systems evaluation out of Boca Chica, while Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron ONE (HS-1) conducted helicopter fleet replacement training out of the former seaplane base at Trumbo Point until the late 1960s/early 1970s when these squadrons relocated to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland and NAS Jacksonville, Florida, respectively. In the 1970s, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron THIRTY-THREE (VAQ-33) relocated to NAS Key West from NAS Norfolk, Virginia with a mix of EC-121 Warning Star, EA-3 Skywarrior, EA-6A Intruder, EA-4 Skyhawk II, and the sole example of the EF-4 Phantom II aircraft. The squadron also subsequently operated variants of the EP-3 Orion/Aries aircraft. Reporting as an element of the Fleet Electronic Warfare Systems Group (FEWSG), the squadron provided "Orange Air" electronic adversary services for Fleet training until its disestablishment the early 1990s.

In 1973, Reconnaissance Attack Wing ONE began relocation from the closing NAS Albany (formerly Turner AFB), Georgia with its RA-5C Vigilante and TA-4F/J Skyhawk II aircraft. As an operational/deployable Fleet unit, the wing reestablished RVHA-3 as the RA-5C Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) at NAS Key West, as well as eight deployable Vigilante squadrons that routinely embarked with Atlantic Fleet and Pacific Fleet carrier air wings. All squadrons were eventually decommissioned over a six year period that coincided with the phased retirement of the RA-5C and Reconnaissance Attack Wing ONE stood down in early 1980.

Due to its superb flying weather, NAS Key West hosted permanent detachments of NAS Oceana, Virginia-based Fighter Squadron ONE SEVENTY-ONE (VF-171), the Atlantic Fleet F-4 Phantom II Fleet Replacement Squadron, and Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO ONE, the Atlantic Fleet F-14 Tomcat Fleet Replacement Squadron, throughout the 1970s and 1980s for VF-171 and from the 1970s through 2005 for VF-101. Most of the detachments' activities revolved around the Fleet Fighter Air Readiness Program (FFARP). The Atlantic Fleet F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet Fleet Replacement Squadron, VFA-106, also based at NAS Oceana, continues to maintain a Key West detachment to this day in support of the Strike Fighter Fleet Air Readiness Program (SFARP). During the 1980s and 1990s, Fighter Squadron FORTY-FIVE (VF-45) was also based at NAS Key West to provide air combat adversary services with A-4 Skyhawk II, F-5E/F Freedom Fighter and [[F-16 Fighting Falcon|F-16N Fighting Falcon aircraft. Decommissioned in the late 1990s due to budget cuts, VF-45's former mission at NAS Key West is now performed by Fighter Composite Squadron ONE ELEVEN (VFC-111), an Active-Reserve integrated Navy Reserve squadron flying the F-5N and F-5F.

In the late summer of 1994, NAS Key West also seved as a primary staging base for Operations SUPPORT DEMOCRACY and UPHOLD DEMOCRACY in Haiti. The station hosted a wide variety of military aircraft during this period, to include multiple U.S. Navy P-3C Orion aircraft, U.S. Air Force E-3A Sentry AWACS aircraft and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's EC-130E Hercules "Commando Solo" aircraft that were engaged in the operations.

As in the past, NAS Key West continues to be frequently utilized for detachments by active and reserve U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps fighter squadrons and U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fighter and rescue squadrons for exercises and unit level and continuation training. The Naval Air Training Command also uses NAS Key West from time to time for training detachments of student strike pipeline aviators, including initial carrier qualifications.

U.S.Navy P-3C and E-2C aircraft also routinely conduct detachment operations at NAS Key West, primarily counternarcotics (CN) reconnaissance missions in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean basin in support of both the U.S. Coast Guard and Joint Interagency Task Force East (JIATF - East).

On October 5, 2001, Naval Air Station Key West was downgraded and redesignated as Naval Air Facility Key West. On April 1, 2003, the air facility was upgraded and restored to full air station status as Naval Air Station Key West.

Tenant units

Facilities

NAS Key West (Boca Chica Field) has three paved runways:

  • Runway 7/25: 10,001 x 200 ft. (3,048 x 61 m), Surface: PEM
  • Runway 3/21: 7,002 x 150 ft. (2,134 x 46 m), Surface: PEM
  • Runway 13/31: 7,001 x 150 ft. (2,134 x 46 m), Surface: PEM

References

External links

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