Morón Air Base
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|Morón Air Base
Base Aérea de Morón
|IATA: OZP – ICAO: LEMO|
|Operator||Spanish Air Force
United States Air Force
|Elevation AMSL||87 m / 285 ft|
Morón Air Base (IATA: OZP, ICAO: LEMO) is located at in southern Spain, approximately 35 miles (56 km) southeast of the city of Seville and 75 miles (121 km) northeast of Naval Station Rota. The base gets its name from the nearby town of Morón de la Frontera.
Morón's massive flight line, in-ground aircraft refueling system, long runway and prime location on the Iberian peninsula, close to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, means the base is a vital link in any operation moving east from the United States.
Construction on the Vázquez Sagastizábal Military Aerodrome, as Morón Air Base was initially known, began in 1940. The following year it began to function as a military airfield and was utilised to train fighter pilots for the Spanish Army Air Force.
In 1953, the Spanish and American governments finalized agreements to establish a number of Spanish-American air bases, including Morón Air Base. Morón was one of three major USAF Cold War airbases in Spain, the others being Zaragoza Air Base near Zaragoza and Torrejón Air Base near Madrid. Construction efforts began in 1953 under the direction of the US Navy, taking over 3 years to complete.
On May 13, 1958, the first flight of B-47s were assigned to Morón Air Base to conduct Reflex operations and then KC-97s arrived to conduct strip alert tanker missions, and 6 weeks later the first rotational fighter squadron, the 1st Fighter Day Squadron, flying F-100 Super Sabres and commanded by Lt.Col. Chuck Yeager, arrived from George AFB, CA, for temporary duty to conduct air defence alert.
Morón continued to operate primarily as a Reflex base until 1962, when the first KC-135 aircraft arrived. In 1966, the base was transferred from Strategic Air Command (SAC) to United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE). The mission changed to communications support, "fair weather" flying operations of Temporary Duty (TDY) for RF-4Cs from RAF Alconbury, and RF-101 RAF Upper Heyford, England and the support of air rescue operations provided by the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.
In 1971, Morón Air Base was re-designated to "modified caretaker status." Torrejón Air Base was designated as the Primary Support Base (PSB). A small Spanish Air Force contingent of F-5s utilized the air base during the 1980s; however most of the buildings were empty and on-base amenities were severely limited.
In November 1983, during the joint Spanish/American military exercise CRISEX 83, USAF B-52 bombers were allowed once again to enter Spanish air space and land at Morón Air Base. The B-52 bombers were previously banned from entering Spanish air space after the January 17, 1966 incident near Palomares, when an in-air refuelling B-52G (s/n 58-0256) collided with a United States Air Force KC-135A jet tanker (s/n 61-0273). Two hydrogen bombs ruptured, dispersing radioactive particles over nearby farms. An intact bomb landed near Palomares. The fourth bomb was lost at sea, 12 miles (20 km) off the coast. A search involving three months and 12,000 men was required to recover the device, however, despite the deployment of highly sophisticated technical equipment by the US Navy, it was a local Spanish fisherman who finally guided them to find and recover the bomb.
During 1991, the basing plan for Spain called for retaining Morón AB, along with Torrejón AB, and Naval Station Rota, but on a drastically reduced scale. In 1995, the 496th Air Base Squadron was activated to replace the 712th Air Base Flight. Also at this time, USAFE redesignated Morón as a limited-use base, defined as austerely manned and no permanently assigned operational tactical forces. Throughout this time it was used as a staging base to support deployments. It was heavily used during the Gulf War by B-52s and tankers and during Operation Restore Hope and Operation Allied Force. Throughout 1995 to 1997, Morón became a popular staging area to host Coronet East movements to and from Turkey and Southwest Asia with over 95 fighter and tanker missions. In 1996, the 496th was placed under the 31st Support Group of Aviano Air Base, Italy. In 1999, Morón provided extensive refueling support for Operation Allied Force of the Kosovo War.
In 2001, the base provided record numbers of airlift and fighter rotations for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2003, the operations increased even more as Morón became a key pillar in the airbridge for airlift and fighter deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, Morón started reporting to the 712th Air Base Group and was realigned under the 38th Combat Support Wing of Ramstein Air Base, Germany later that year. In 2007, the 712th ABG inactivated and the 496th ABS was realigned again under the 86th Operations Group of Ramstein Air Base.
In 2011, the base once again proved its strategic importance as it served as the main tanker base for KC-10A and KC-135R aircraft supporting Operation Unified Protector in operations over Libya. In 2013, Marine Corps temporarily based 550 Marines as part of a rapid reaction force in Morón, Spain in support of U.S. Africa Command. This unit was outfitted with MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J aerial refueling / cargo aircraft. An advance element from this unit moved to Naval Air Station Sigonella in May.
In 1984, Morón became a NASA Space Shuttle Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site in support of the space shuttle program. Special navigation and landing aids are in place, and personnel are highly trained to recover landing of the orbiter vehicle. In addition, launch periods during the 1980s saw U.S. Air Force personnel deployed to Morón to provide on-site weather support, coordinating efforts with local Spanish weather personnel.
In 1990, SAC deployed 22 KC-135 and KC-10 tankers to support Operation Desert Shield and changed Morón Air Base from refueling to bomber operations. The 801st Bomb Wing (Provisional) at Morón Air Base consisted of 24 B-52s, 3 KC-135s and over 2,800 personnel. This was the largest deployed bomber wing during the war.
In 1999, Morón became the home of the 92d Air Expeditionary Wing – tasked with providing fuel to Operation Allied Force. In addition to serving as the HQ 92 AEW (serving units in France, Crete, Sicily and Spain), Morón hosted 37 tankers (KC-135 and KC-10) and 800 personnel. The 92 AEW became the largest Tanker Wing since the Vietnam War and held the distinction of being the largest tanker base during the Kosovo war.
Local Base Operations
The base is run under the Turkey Spain Base Maintenance Contract (TSBMC). Specific services include the fueling of US Air Force planes, Fire Fighting, Dining Facility (Food Services), Occupational Health, Ambulance Services, Communications, Postal Services, Safety, Civil Engineering, Lodging, Library, Fitness Center Equipment Maintenance, & Life Guard/Pool Services), Logistics Support Services, Contingency/Exercise Support, and limited support of the Zaragoza Air Base controlled by the Spanish Air Force. The contract does not cover local base security, MWR, and pastoral care.
The contract has historically been awarded for a period of four year intervals; however, the current contract, held by Vinnell-Brown and Root (VBR) —known as Turkey-Spain Base Maintenance Contract (TSBMC)--is for 5 years (1 base year, with four 1-year extensions) and combines USAFE operations in Turkey and Spain. The current Site Manager is Aaron Ewing IV and the Deputy Site Manager is Marcus Hale McCain.
The Base's climate is characterized by the annual alternation between a dry period, which lasts more than four months and which has high temperatures, and another one humid (autumn-winter) with mild temperatures.
The monthly distribution of rain corresponds to one typical of the Mediterranean climate; the rain season takes place during the autumn and the winter; during the summer the absence of rain is the prevailing rule, except for very occasional summer storms. 41% of the rain happens during the autumn. The average annual temperature is 17.5°C (63.5°F). The average absolute maximum temperature is 41.9°C (107.4°F). The coldest month is January and the average absolute minimum temperature is 0.8°C (33.4°F). Summing up, the climate is excellent, although slightly harsh in the summer. The sun and a cloudless sky are predominant most of the time.
Incidents and Accidents
- "US Repositioning 200 Marines in Italy as Precaution for Libya Unrest."
- "Marine rapid reaction unit moved to Italy amid escalating crisis in Libya."
- "Eurofighter crashes at Spain's Moron base near Seville". BBC News. 9 June 2014.
- Airport information for LEMO at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.