Through the years, aviation began to play an increasing role in Marine Corps tactics, creating a need for modern facilities. To meet this need, the auxiliary landing field was re-designated a Marine Corps Air Facility (MCAF) on September 1, 1978 serving as home to Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39). Since 1978, the Group expanded to a strength of four tactical helicopter squadrons, one helicopter training squadron, one observation squadron, and an aviation logistics squadron. This increase in aircraft and personnel established once again the need for improved facilities.
On March 13, 1985, MCAF Pendleton was re-designated as Marine Corps Air Station effective April 1, 1985. Today, the Air Station supports over 180 helicopters assigned to MAG-39, Marine Aircraft Group 46 Detachment A, and a wide variety of other Marine Corps units and visiting aircraft from other branches of the Armed Forces. The closure of MCAS Tustin and MCAS El Toro were a result of Base Realignment and Closure legislation which saw MCAS Camp Pendleton expand its facilities again to support three additional helicopter squadrons. The first medium lift helicopter squadron joined MAG-39 in January 1999, and the final one came in June of that same year.