Laughlin Air Force Base
|Laughlin Air Force Base|
|Part of Air Education and Training Command (AETC)|
|Located in Del Rio, Texas|
T-6A Texan II, 84th Flying Training Squadron, Laughlin AFB
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
|Garrison||47th Flying Training Wing|
|Elevation AMSL||1,082 ft / 329.8 m|
Laughlin Air Force Base (IATA: DLF, ICAO: KDLF, FAA LID: DLF) is a facility of the United States Air Force located in Del Rio, Texas. As a census-designated place, it had a population of 1,648 at the 2015 census.
Laughlin AFB, the largest pilot training base in the US Air Force, is home to the 47th Flying Training Wing of the Air Education and Training Command. On weekdays, the airfield sees more takeoffs and landings than any other airport in the country.
Laughlin AFB was originally named Laughlin Army Air Field on March 3, 1943, after Jack T. Laughlin, a B-17E Flying Fortress pilot. He was trained as a pilot and was actually co-pilot of B-17E, Tail number 41-2476. The day of his first bombing mission, he was bumped by the Group Commander Major Stanley K. Robinson (Robinson was co-pilot next to Capt Walter W. Sparks pilot). Major Robinson brought along his own combat experienced navigator, Lt Richard Cease. Laughlin had no assigned position on the plane for the mission. He became Del Rio's first World War II casualty when the plane he was flying in (most likely as a waist gunner for the mission) was lost at sea, having succumbed to damage received over the Makassar Strait on 29 (or 28) January 1942. The damage occurred during two bombing runs against Japanese warships and transports in the Makassar Strait off the coast of Balikpapan, Borneo. The field became simply Laughlin Field on November 11, 1943 and later an Army Air Force Auxiliary Field. During World War II, Laughlin's primary mission was the training of B-26 pilots and aircrews. It was closed in October 1945.
Laughlin Air Force Base reopened on May 1, 1952. In October 1952, ATC transferred the base to Crew Training Air Force (CREWTAF) and activated the 3645th Flying Training Wing (Fighter), as a combat crew replacement training facility for pilots headed for Korea. Training provided new pilots with basic bombing and gunnery combat skills in the F-80 Shooting Star, F-84 Thunderjet, and T-33 jet aircraft, but within a short time crews used only the T-33. In Sept. 1955, Laughlin came under the control of the Flying Training Air Force and switched missions with Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. Laughlin undertook single-engine pilot training, still using the T-33.
The Air Force transferred jurisdiction of the base to the Strategic Air Command on April 1, 1957 and the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (Light) moved there from Turner Air Force Base, Georgia. Following graduation of the last class in March 1957, ATC inactivated the 3645th FTW. The 4080th Wing provided high-altitude reconnaissance and air sampling using the Lockheed U-2A and the RB-57D Canberra. The 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was redesignated the 4080th Strategic Wing on June 15, 1960, and the RB-57 mission was phased out.
Laughlin U-2s were among the first to provide photographic evidence of Soviet missile installations in Cuba in 1962 when 4080th U-2 pilot Major Steve Heyser flew his U-2C over Cuba after taking off from Edwards AFB, California. Heyser landed at McCoy AFB, Florida, following the mission, with McCoy becoming a U-2 operating location for the duration of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The film from Major Heyser's mission was developed, analyzed and the photos were shown to the United Nations Security Council on October 22, 1962, proving to the world, that offensive missiles were on the island of Cuba.
Another 4080th pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., perished when his U-2 was hit by shrapnel from a Soviet-made SA-2 on October 22, 1962 while overflying Cuba from McCoy AFB. While U-2 did not suffer a direct hit, Anderson was struck by fragments from the proximity fused warhead's explosion which penetrated and compromised his pressure suit (at altitude, unconsciousness and death came very quickly). His body was returned to the U.S. following the crisis, still clad in its pressure suit. Major Anderson posthumously became the first recipient of the Air Force Cross, the Air Force's second highest decoration for valor. Laughlin's primary operations training complex, Anderson Hall, is named in his honor.
In 1961, Headquarters US Air Force notified Laughlin officials their mission would expand to again include an Air Training Command undergraduate pilot training program. Plans called to transfer in about half the student load from Laredo Air Force Base, Texas. ATC reactivated the 3645th Pilot Training Wing (later redesignated 3646th Pilot Training Wing) at Laughlin in October 1961 to prepare for the phase-in of students and T-37 and T-33 trainers. The 4080th SW continued at Laughlin as a tenant organization until 1963.
Lake Amistad provides year-round, water-based recreation opportunities, including boating, fishing, swimming, scuba diving and water-skiing, as well as other recreational opportunities for picnicking, camping, and hunting. The area is rich in archeology and prehistoric rock art, and contains a wide variety of plant and animal life. Del Rio is home to the George Paul Memorial Bullriding, which is the oldest stand-alone bull riding event in the world. It is also home to the Paul Poag Theatre, and the oldest bonded winery in Texas, the Val Verde Winery, in the heart of Del Rio. Along the San Felipe Creek there are numerous recreational areas including playgrounds, running trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, a water park and the San Felipe Golf Course. Swimming and tubing are also very popular on the creek. Within a short drive from Del Rio is the world-class Caverns of Sonora, a National Natural Landmark. Additional recreational activities exist across the border in Ciudad Acuña, however current DoD policy does not allow travel across the border for military personnel.
The residential area of the base is a census-designated place (CDP), with a population of 1,569 at the 2010 census. According to the United States Census Bureau, the base has a total area of 5.9 square miles (15.3 km2), all of it land.
As of the census of 2014, there were 2,225 people, 651 households, and 570 families residing on the base. The population density was 377.6 people per square mile (145.9/km2). There were 664 housing units at an average density of 112.7/sq mi (43.5/km2). The racial makeup of the base was 78.4% European American, 10.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 2.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.5% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.3% of the population.
There were 651 households out of which 56.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 82.8% were married couples living together, 3.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 12.3% were non-families. 6.6% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.00 and the average family size was 3.18.
On the base the population was spread out with 30.6% under the age of 18, 23.6% from 18 to 24, 42.7% from 25 to 44, 2.5% from 45 to 64, and 0.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 130.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 136.4 males.
The median income for a household on the base was $38,625, and the median income for a family was $38,625. Males had a median income of $26,938 versus $19,643 for females. The per capita income for the base was $15,121. About 3.1% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.8% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.
Laughlin AFB is served by the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District.
Park University offers onsite and online classes on base. Their office is located at the Education Center and is open to military and civilian personnel.
- Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
- Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
- "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Laughlin AFB CDP, Texas". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Laughlin AFB, Texas" (Archive). U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved on August 13, 2015.
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