Jump to content

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

Coordinates: 32°52′04″N 117°08′30″W / 32.86778°N 117.14167°W / 32.86778; -117.14167
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
Mitscher Field
San Diego, California in the United States
An aerial view of MCAS Miramar during 2008
MCAS Miramar is located in the United States
MCAS Miramar
MCAS Miramar
Location in the United States
Coordinates32°52′04″N 117°08′30″W / 32.86778°N 117.14167°W / 32.86778; -117.14167
TypeMarine Corps Air Station
Site information
OwnerDepartment of Defense
OperatorUS Marine Corps
Controlled by3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Websitewww.miramar.marines.mil Edit this at Wikidata
Site history
Built1917 (1917) (as Camp Kearny)
In use1917 – 1920
1929 – present
Garrison information
Colonel Thomas M. Bedell
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: NKX, ICAO: KNKX, FAA LID: NKX, WMO: 722930
Elevation145.3 metres (477 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
6L/24R 3,657.6 metres (12,000 ft) concrete
6R/24L 2,438.7 metres (8,001 ft) porous European mix
Helicopter strip (LHD) 304.8 metres (1,000 ft) 
Number Length and surface
1 30 metres (98 ft) 
2 30 metres (98 ft) 
3 30 metres (98 ft) 
4 38 metres (125 ft) 
5 38 metres (125 ft) 
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar) (IATA: NKX, ICAO: KNKX, FAA LID: NKX), formerly Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Miramar and Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, is a United States Marine Corps installation that is home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which is the aviation element of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. It is located in Miramar, San Diego, California, about 14 miles (23 km) north of downtown San Diego.

The airfield has been named Mitscher Field since 1955, after Admiral M.A. Mitscher, who was the commander of Task Force 58 during World War II.[2] The air station is the former location of Pacific Fleet fighter and Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft (F-4 Phantom II, F-14 Tomcat, E-2 Hawkeye) and is best known as the former location of the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (NFWS), its TOPGUN training program and the movie of the same name. In 1996, NFWS was relocated to Naval Air Station Fallon in western Nevada, 60 miles east of Reno, and merged into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC). During the heyday of TOPGUN at NAS Miramar, the station was nicknamed "Fightertown USA".[3][4]


Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar

The base contains 23,116 acres (93.55 km2). It is bisected by Kearny Villa Road and Interstate 15. The area east of Kearny Villa Road, called "East Miramar", is undeveloped and is used for military training. [citation needed] Miramar is recognized as the world's largest Master Jet Air Station.


Kumeyaay Native Americans were the first inhabitants in the vicinity of the base. Spain claimed the San Diego area in 1542 and colonized it beginning in 1769. In 1846, the crown issued a land grant that included the area of the current base to Don Santiago Argüello. After the American Civil War, the land was divided and sold to people such as Edward Scripps, a newspaper publisher from the eastern United States, who developed a ranch on the site. It was Scripps who named the area Miramar, meaning "view of the sea".[5] The land was predominantly used for grazing and farming into the early 20th century.


During World War I, the U.S. Army acquired 12,721 acres (5,148 ha) of land in the Miramar Ranch area, on a mesa north of San Diego.[6] Camp Kearny was opened on 18 January 1917 and was named after Stephen W. Kearny, who was commander of the Army of the West during the Mexican–American War. The base was primarily used to train infantrymen on their way to the battlefields of Europe. During World War I, an airstrip was never built on the property, although Army and U.S. Navy aircraft from Naval Air Station North Island did land on the parade deck. Following the Armistice, the base was used to demobilize servicemen and was closed on 20 October 1920.[7] More than 1,200 buildings were demolished when the camp closed.

Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis airplane was built in nearby San Diego. Lindbergh used the abandoned Camp Kearny parade field to practice landings and take-offs before making his historic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

During the 1930s, the Navy briefly used the air base for helium dirigibles. In 1932, a mooring mast and hangar were built at the camp for the dirigibles, but when the program was abandoned, the base was quiet again.

World War II[edit]

By the time World War II began, Miramar was already undergoing a "precautionary" renovation. Camp Holcomb (later renamed Camp Elliott) was built on part of old Camp Kearny, to be used for U.S Marine Corps artillery and machine gun training. Camp Elliott became home to Fleet Marine Force Training Center, West Coast, and the 2nd Marine Division, charged with defending the California coast. Runways were constructed in 1940, and the 1st Marine Air Wing arrived on 21 December of that year. The Navy commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Camp Kearny in February 1943, specifically to train crews for the Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer,[8] which was built less than 10 miles (16 km) away in San Diego. A month later, the Marines established Marine Corps Air Depot Camp Kearny, later renamed Marine Corps Air Depot Miramar, to avoid confusion with the Navy facility.

The big Privateers proved too heavy for the asphalt concrete runway the Army had installed in 1936 and the longer runways built in 1940, so the Navy added two concrete runways in 1943.

During the 1940s, both the Navy and the Marine Corps occupied Miramar. East Miramar (Camp Elliott) was used to train Marine artillery and armored personnel, while Navy and Marine Corps pilots trained on the western side. The bases were combined and designated Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in 1946.[9][10]

Naval Air Station[edit]

NAS Miramar in 1954

In 1947, the Marines moved to MCAS El Toro in Orange County, California, and Miramar was redesignated as NAAS Miramar (Naval Auxiliary Air Station Miramar). It became NAS Miramar (Naval Air Station Miramar) on 1 March 1952. In 1954, the Navy offered NAS Miramar to San Diego for $1 and the city considered using the base to relocate its airport.[11] But it was deemed at the time to be too far away from most residents and the offer was declined.

Only the western half of Miramar's facilities were put to use; the old east station began to deteriorate, with many buildings sold as scrap. Miramar found new life as a Navy Master Jet Station in the 1950s. The eastern half, former Camp Elliot, was used by the United States Air Force for Project Orion[12] (having been transferred temporarily),[13] and later by NASA;[14] it was the site of several launches.[15] The base really came into its own during the Vietnam War. The Navy needed a school to train pilots in dog-fighting and in fleet air defense. In 1969, the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School was established organizationally as part of VF-121, which was then the F-4 Phantom Fleet Replacement Aviation Maintenance Personnel (FRAMP), which trained the maintainers who joined the fleet as qualified "Phantom Phixeres".

In October 1972, Miramar welcomed the F-14 Tomcat and fighter squadron VF-124, a former Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) tasked with the mission to train new Tomcat crews. Formerly, VF-124 had been training pilots in the F-8 Crusader. That task was handed over to Light Photographic Squadron 63 (VFP-63) that then became "Crusader College" The first two operational Tomcat squadrons, VF-1 known as the "Wolfpack" and VF-2 known as the "Bounty Hunters," trained here before deploying aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 1974.

NAS Miramar was also the west coast E-2 squadrons home. VAW-110 the west coast fleet replacement squadron and fleet squadrons VAW-112, VAW-113, VAW-114 (disestablished 1995), VAW-116 and VAW-117. With the change to MCAS Miramar, the training squadron was disestablished and moved to NAS Norfolk, Virginia. The fleet squadrons were moved to NAS Point Mugu, California.

1990s–Present: Marine Corps Air Station[edit]

F/A-18 Hornet on the flight line at MCAS Miramar

In 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission recommended that MCAS El Toro and MCAS Tustin be closed down and that NAS Miramar be transferred to the Marine Corps. BRAC also recommended that all Navy Pacific Fleet F-14 aircraft and squadrons (with the exception of those assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5 in Japan) and Pacific Fleet F-14 training be consolidated with the Atlantic Fleet and be relocated to NAS Oceana, Virginia. BRAC recommended that Pacific Fleet E-2C training be consolidated with Atlantic Fleet E-2C training at NAS Norfolk, that all Pacific Fleet E-2C aircraft and squadrons (with the exception of those assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5 in Japan) be relocated to NAS Point Mugu, and that the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and Navy Reserve adversary squadron VFC-13 be relocated to NAS Fallon, Nevada.

In 1999, MCAS El Toro and MCAS Tustin were closed and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing returned to Miramar when it officially became Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.[16] On 1 October 1997, Colonel Thomas A. Caughlan became the first Marine commanding officer of MCAS Miramar since World War II. Caughlan was also the last commanding officer of MCAS Tustin.[17]

In 2005, the BRAC Commission directed instructor pilots and support personnel from Miramar to Eglin AFB in Florida, sufficient to stand up the Marine Corps' portion of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program (JSF) Training Site.[18] This will lead to an eventual phasing out of fighter pilot training at Miramar by 2015 as the F/A-18 Hornets are retired.

In 2006, the San Diego County Proposition A proposed obtaining 3000 acres (12 km2) at MCAS Miramar to develop a commercial airport.[19] The proposition was defeated 62 percent opposed to 38 percent in favor.[20]


Numerous noise complaints have been lodged against MCAS Miramar (and its predecessor, NAS Miramar) going back for decades funded partly by real estate developers[21] (Pardee Construction Co). MCAS Miramar is located near the center of the City of San Diego. It is surrounded on three sides by residential areas including Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, University City, Clairemont, and Tierrasanta. MCAS Miramar has a web site and phone number that people can call to register complaints about noise. To lessen the noise impact to the community, MCAS Miramar has made adjustments to their operations over the years, including the use of hush-houses, limitations on engine run-ups, and modification to flight plans. In spite of efforts, noise complaints remain an issue in 2019.[22][23][24][25][26]

Based units[edit]

Flying and notable non-flying units based at MCAS Miramar:[27][28]


There have been a number of aviation accidents:

  • On 4 December 1959, an F3H Demon with Navy pilot ENS Albert Joe Hickman crashed into the adjoining community of Clairemont Mesa. The pilot stayed with the aircraft to avoid hitting a school. The city named an elementary school in Mira Mesa after him.[30]
  • On 12 August 1968, a U.S. Navy Vought F-8 Crusader (F-8C) fighter jet of VF-124 crashed while returning to (then) NAS Miramar, from nighttime Sidewinder missile training with three other F-8 Crusader fighters. The pilot, LT (JG) Roman S. Ohnemus, 25, did not eject, and died in the crash. The incident occurred in the dark, early morning hours in remote, brush-covered terrain off what is now Canyon Hills Park and Spitfire Way in Mira Mesa(somewhat level except for narrow valleys), north of (then) NAS Miramar, and Miramar Road, west of U.S. Highway 395 (now Interstate 15), and south of Black Mountain. A small brush fire was started by the crash. Live missiles presented a dangerous crash site to the first-arriving state forestry firefighters, who were woken by the crash. They were from the nearby fire station located at Carroll Canyon and then Highway 395 (between 1 and 2 miles) Miramar California Division of Forestry (now CalFire) fire station.[31][citation needed]
  • On 22 December 1969, an F-8J Crusader of VF-194 crashed into a hangar at NAS Miramar, after the pilot ejected. 14 died and 30 were injured.[32] Pilot Lt. C. M. Riddell ejected safely. Five other fighters, including two F-4 Phantoms, were damaged in the repair facility fire that ensued. Helicopters and military and civilian ambulances were used to transport the injured to Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego.[33][34]
  • On 27 March 1978, an F-14 Tomcat from VF-1 crashed into I-15[35] just short of the runway and was stopped on the northbound lanes by a concrete divider. One aviator in the Tomcat was killed.
  • On 7 November 1978, an A-4 Skyhawk used by the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, crashed and the pilot was killed.[36]
  • On 11 March 1985, an F-8 Crusader crashed into a parking lot of a nearby industrial park. The pilot ejected safely.[37]
  • On 3 December 1985, U.S. Navy Capt Henry M. Kleeman was killed when his F/A-18 Hornet skidded 5000 feet and flipped on a wet runway.[38]
  • On 21 March 1987 an F-14 Tomcat crashed just south of Poway Road, into the canyons of what is now the Mercy Road area, approximately 4 miles from the base. Both crewmembers ejected safely.
  • On 26 June 1987, an A-3 Skywarrior from VQ-1 was practicing night Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) - The aircraft impacted the ground after turning downwind subsequent to take off. Three crewmembers were killed.[39]
  • On 11 March 2004, a UC-35 crashed on east Miramar at the approach end of the runway. Four Marines were killed.[40]
  • In November 2006, an F/A-18D Hornet from VMFAT-101 crashed on the eastern perimeter of the base, with the pilot ejecting safely.[41]
  • On 8 December 2008, four people were killed, two homes were destroyed and three homes were damaged when an F/A-18D Hornet crashed about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the base.[42] The plane was returning from training exercises with the USS Abraham Lincoln, which was off the coast of San Diego. The pilot was attempting to steer the aircraft to an unpopulated area when he lost all engine, electrical and hydraulic power. He ejected safely.[42]
  • On 24 August 2023, an F/A-18 Hornet crashed east of the base close to the I-15. The sole pilot aboard died after ejecting from the aircraft.[43][44]

Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar[edit]

Miramar National Cemetery[edit]

On 30 January 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs dedicated a new National Cemetery at the northwest corner of MCAS Miramar.[45] The cemetery is an extension of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and when complete will accommodate approximately 235,000 deceased veterans and spouses.[46]


The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps at MCAS Miramar in 2014

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.


  1. ^ "Airport Diagram – Miramar MCAS (Joe Foss Field) (KNKX)" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. 18 June 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  2. ^ Lance Cpl. O'Quin, Christopher (16 October 2008). "Famed Navy Admiral's legacy lives on flight line". 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  3. ^ Perry, Tony (1 June 1996). "San Diego bids farewell to Top Guns". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. (Los Angeles Times). p. 3A.
  4. ^ Fordahl, Matthew (28 May 1996). "'Top Gun' flight school is leaving San Diego". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. p. C7.
  5. ^ Fetzer, Leland, San Diego County Place Names A to Z, page 93, Sunbelt Publications, Inc, 2005, ISBN 978-0-932653-73-4
  6. ^ "Historic California Posts: Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar". www.militarymuseum.org.
  7. ^ Shettle, M L Jr. (2001). United States Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II. Bowersville, Georgia: Schaertel Publishing Company. p. 103. ISBN 0-9643388-2-3.
  8. ^ United States Naval Aviation 1910–1995 (PDF). Naval Historical Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  9. ^ La Tourette, Robert, LT USN (June 1968). "The San Diego Naval Complex". United States Naval Institute Proceedings. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Linder, Bruce (2001). San Diego's Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 126. ISBN 1-55750-531-4.
  11. ^ Shettle, M L Jr. (2001). United States Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II. Bowersville, Georgia: Schaertel Publishing Company. p. 105. ISBN 0-9643388-2-3.
  12. ^ "Camp Elliot". Camp La Jolla Military Park. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  13. ^ "Overview of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar". MilitaryHOMEFRONT. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  14. ^ "2.0 MCAS MIRAMAR LAND USE" (PDF). MCAS Miramar, California. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  15. ^ "Atlas ICBM Missile". amp La Jolla Military Park. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  16. ^ Shettle, M L Jr. (2001). United States Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II. Bowersville, Georgia: Schaertel Publishing Company. ISBN 0-9643388-2-3.
  17. ^ "Miramar's first Marine commander since WWII retires". Marine Corps News. United States Marine Corps.
  18. ^ "May 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Report" (PDF). DefenseLink.mil.
  19. ^ Proposition A: Commercial airport at MCAS Miramar – San Diego County, CA SmartVoter.org
  20. ^ Ristine, Jeff (11 December 2006). "Vigorous 'no' for Miramar airport – Every city in county rejected proposition". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007.
  21. ^ Perry, Tony (8 September 1996). "Helo…goodbye". www.latimes.com.
  22. ^ "MCAS Miramar Today: Community Relations". No on Prop A. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  23. ^ "MCAS Miramar Noise Complaint hotline". MCAS Miramar. Archived from the original on 13 March 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  24. ^ "Marines reprimand two fighter pilots for flight mistakes, amid Miramar neighbor noise complaints" https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/military/sd-me-miramar-complaints-20180127-story.html
  25. ^ "Neighbors concerned with F-35 coming to MCAS Miramar https://www.10news.com/news/local-news/neighbors-concerned-with-f-35-coming-to-mcas-miramar"
  26. ^ "Jet noise disturbs some Carmel Valley residents" https://www.delmartimes.net/sd-cm-nc-jetnoise-20180911-story.html
  27. ^ Kaminski, Tom (2019). "Aircraft of the US Marine Corps". US Navy & Marine Corps Air Power Yearbook 2019. Key Publishing. pp. 88–99.
  28. ^ "About MCAS Miramar". Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. US Marine Corps. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Air Force Security Forces Center". Air Force Installation & Mission Support Center. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  30. ^ "Hickman the Hero". Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  31. ^ This information is from a firefighter on the crash scene, Greg Bishop, and the pilot of one of the other aircraft on this training mission[original research?]
  32. ^ Miramar Naval Air Station, CA Jet Fighter Crashes Into Hangar, Dec 1969 | GenDisasters ... Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods. .gendisasters.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-24.
  33. ^ Redlands, California: Redlands Daily Facts, Thursday, 22 December 1969, page one.
  34. ^ This Is A Work In Progress And I Archived 2012-10-02 at the Wayback Machine. Ejection-history.org.uk. Retrieved on 2014-05-24.
  35. ^ In 1982, I-15 was relocated eastward, and the road where the crash occurred became an extension of Kearny Villa Road. See Cooper, Casey (1 February 2008). "Unmarked Freeways: Kearny Villa Road". Historical Highways of Central and Southern California.
  36. ^ "Welcome blueangels-usn.org - Hostmonster.com". Archived from the original on 14 June 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  37. ^ This Is A Work In Progress And I Archived 2012-10-11 at the Wayback Machine. Ejection-history.org.uk. Retrieved on 2014-05-24.
  38. ^ Reza, H.G. (4 December 1985). "Navy Pilot Dies After Jet Flips at Miramar". www.latimes.com. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  39. ^ [1] Archived 2016-01-31 at the Wayback Machine. http://www.a3skywarrior.com/personnel/memorials/a-3-accidents-by-buno.html . Retrieved on 2015-11-26.
  40. ^ Walker, Mark (30 October 2009). "MILITARY: Other recent crashes involving local military aircraft". North County Times. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  41. ^ Times, North County (30 November 2006). "F-18 crashes today east of Miramar". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on 8 February 2024. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  42. ^ a b "Records sought on jet type involved in crash". NBC News. Associated Press. 9 December 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  43. ^ "Pilot killed after F-18 military jet crashes north of San Diego". NBC News. 26 August 2023. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  44. ^ "Pilot aboard F-18 military jet that crashed near San Diego has died: Official". ABC News. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  45. ^ 32°52′21″N 117°11′04″W / 32.87250°N 117.18444°W / 32.87250; -117.18444; U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Miramar National Cemetery
  46. ^ Moss, Andrea (30 January 2010). "MIRAMAR: Veterans, officials dedicate new national cemetery at Marine Corps air base". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on 6 September 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2015.


Further reading[edit]

  • Stewart, Noah; Anteon Corporation (January 2004). Historic Overview (PDF) (Report). United States Marine Corps. MCAS Miramar Environmental Management.

External links[edit]