Naval Air Station Cecil Field

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Coordinates: 30°13′07″N 081°52′36″W / 30.21861°N 81.87667°W / 30.21861; -81.87667

NAS Cecil Field
NAS Cecil Field FL aerial 1992.JPEG
IATA: NZCICAO: KNZCFAA LID: NZC
Summary
Airport type Military: Naval Air Station
Operator United States Navy
Location Jacksonville, Florida
In use 1941 - 1999
Occupants See below
Elevation AMSL 81 ft / 25 m
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
9L/27R 8,002 2,439 Asphalt/Concrete
9R/27L 8,003 2,439 Asphalt/Concrete
18L/36R 12,504 3,811 Asphalt/Concrete
18R/36L 8,003 2,439 Asphalt/Concrete
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]

Naval Air Station Cecil Field or NAS Cecil Field (IATA: NZCICAO: KNZCFAA LID: NZC) was a United States Navy air base, located in Duval County, Florida. Prior to 1999, NAS Cecil Field was the largest military base in terms of acreage in the Jacksonville, Florida area.

NAS Cecil Field consisted of four separate facilities, the NAS Cecil Field Complex (Cecil Field), Outlying Field Whitehouse (OLF Whitehouse), the Yellow Water Weapons Department and the Pinecastle [Pine Castle] Electronic Warfare Target Area / Warfare Range. Including nearly 2,500 acres (10 km²) at OLF Whitehouse, the NAS Cecil Field complex consisted of 22,939 acres (92.8 km²); in addition, the base leased another 8,379 acres (33.9 km²). By late 1999, approximately 17,200 acres (69.6 km²) were transferred to the civilian sector in the form of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, while the remainder was transferred to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

As directed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) and the U.S. Congress pursuant to BRAC 1993 and BRAC 1995, NAS Cecil Field was decommissioned as an active naval installation on 30 September 1999. It is now a civilian, public-use, joint civil-military airfield and industrial park known as Cecil Commerce Center and Cecil Airport.

History[edit]

NAS Cecil Field was named in honor of Commander Henry Barton Cecil, USN, who died in 1933 in the crash of the Navy airship USS Akron. Shortly before the United States' entry into World War II, a 2,600 acre (11 km²) tract of land was purchased in western Duval County and construction began on the "U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cecil Field" (NAAS Cecil Field).

An FJ-3 from VF-62 at NAS Cecil Field, 1956.

1940s[edit]

The base got its start in June 1941, and operations were accelerated just 11 days after the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

VF and VSB units of Advanced Carrier Group, Atlantic arrived at Cecil Field in late 1942 to commence replacement pilot combat training.

Cecil Field was commissioned as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in February 1943.

In March 1943, the fighter training unit moved to nearby Naval Auxiliary Air Station Lee Field in Green Cove Springs, and NAAS Cecil Field became the principal war-at-sea and dive-bombing training center for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. From 1943 until the war ended, NAAS Cecil Field was a pilot's last stop before assignment to combat in either the Atlantic Fleet or Pacific Fleet. It operated at full capacity during the war years and after the war.

1950s[edit]

Two F8U-1s of VF-62 over NAS Cecil Field, 1962.

Disestablished at the end of World War II, it was then re-established and disestablished until finally redesignated as a Naval Air Station on 30 June 1952. The station was rejuvenated as an operating base for fleet aircraft units which ushered in the "jet age" for the Jacksonville area.

In the mid-1950s, NAS Cecil Field's growth was given further impetus when the station was selected to serve as one of four naval air stations to be designated as Master Jet Bases specifically used for the operation of carrier-based jet aircraft. In 1951 the land area of NAS Cecil Field was increased to 4,600 acres (19 km²) and additional new buildings and facilities were constructed. Naval Air Station Cecil Field occupied 19,664 acres (79.6 km²), and was projected to be Navy's largest master jet base.

Aircraft assigned (1960 - 1999)[edit]

Commands[edit]

Numerous commands operated from NAS Cecil Field over its lifetime. During the 1980s and 1990s, in addition to the station leadership of NAS Cecil Field, the principal tenant commands were:

F/A-18 Hornets from CVW-17 returning to NAS Cecil Field, 1994.

It was RF-8 Crusaders from VFP-62 out of NAS Cecil Field who detected the presence of missiles and monitored the Soviet buildup during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Squadrons from NAS Cecil Field were aboard every Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. During this period, 13 NAS Cecil Field pilots were listed as POW or MIA. The POW/MIA memorial located behind the base chapel has become the chosen site for many retiring officers and enlisted personnel to hold their retirement ceremonies. The first Atlantic Fleet Squadrons to fly the A-7 Corsair II, the F/A-18 Hornet, the S-3A and S-3B Viking, and the ES-3A Shadow were all based at NAS Cecil Field.

NAS Cecil Field squadrons again made history during the Gulf War, marking the final combat deployment for the A-7E Corsair II and the first combat operations for the S-3B Viking.

The first weather observations were recorded at NAS Cecil Field in May 1949, with the first meteorological equipment installed in December of the same year. In those days, weather observing and forecasting services were provided by the Meteorology Division of the Air Operations Department. The "weather guessers" of Cecil Field first became a detachment, as Naval Weather Service Environmental Detachment (NWSED), Cecil Field when, in an effort to centralize control of support from the Navy's shore-based meteorological units, the CNO established the Office of the Naval Weather Service on 29 December 1965. In September 1979, almost 14 years later, the name changed to Naval Oceanography Command Detachment (NOCD), Cecil Field.

Base Realignment and Closure[edit]

Naval Air Station Cecil Field was identified for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) and approved by the U.S. Congress and President Bill Clinton in July 1993. Upon this notice by the BRAC, the city of Jacksonville initiated the development of a reuse plan to guide transition of base property and facilities to other uses that support local goals for economic and community development. There have been efforts to see the base returned as a Naval Air Station (NAS), but these have failed due to political and economic forces.

Current Military Operations[edit]

A continuing military presence at what is now Cecil Airport and Cecil Commerce Center remains with Army Aviation Support Facility #1 (AASF #1) of the Florida Army National Guard (FLARNG), which relocated its flight operations from nearby Craig Airport in late 1999. The FLARNG operates CH-47 Chinook, UH-60 Blackhawk, UH-72 Lakota and C-12 Huron aircraft from AASF #1 at Cecil Field. Also located at Cecil Field is Coast Guard Air Facility Jacksonville, which supports the U.S. Coast Guard's Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) and its MH-65C Dolphin helicopters.[5] The airfield is also extensively used for practice approaches and touch-and-go landings by military aircraft based at NAS Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and Jacksonville Air National Guard Base at Jacksonville International Airport, as well as itinerant military aircraft, especially those undergoing modification or repair work at former military aircraft maintenance facilities at Cecil Field now operated by The Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman.

References[edit]

  1. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for VQQ (Form 5010 PDF), retrieved 2007-03-15
  2. ^ http://www.tailhook.org/SFWingsFA09.html
  3. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/navy/seaconwinglant.htm
  4. ^ http://www.vikingassociation.com/squadrons-and-wings.php
  5. ^ GlobalSecurity.org - Naval Air Station Cecil Field. Retrieved 25 February 2007.

External links[edit]