Naval Air Station Key West is the southernmost U.S. military naval airfield in the continental United States. It specializes in providing pilots with the best possible combat simulations and tactical training. Its isolated location and abundant open ocean provide an ideal arrangement for practicing aerial maneuvers. To assist in this training, the station is equipped with a sophisticated sensor array that tracks and records all jet movements. The Navy describes the facilities as reminiscent of the film "Top Gun."
The first connection between the Navy and Key West comes in the form of a historic American sailor, Matthew Perry. As a commodore, Perry opened the first Western diplomatic relations with Japan, but one of his first duties as a lowly lieutenant was claiming Key West for the U.S. government in 1822. In 1823, Captain David Porter received an assignment to combat piracy in the Caribbean and used Key West as his base of operations.
Key West also played a prominent role in the Civil War. It was the lone southern naval station Union forces retained and proved decisive in blockading Confederate ports. Rebels lost countless tons of supplies to the fleet operating out of Key West.
The naval station began its air operations in 1917 as seaplane operations commenced. During the last year of World War I, over 500 pilots trained at the facility in the nascent field of anti-submarine warfare. Although mothballed between the World Wars, the station has been in constant Naval usage since 1940.