Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove
|NAS JRB Willow Grove|
NAS Willow Grove in the 1940s
|Airport type||Military: Naval Air Station|
|Owner||United States Navy|
|Operator||Captain: David Ortiz|
|Location||Horsham Twp, Pennsylvania|
|Elevation AMSL||335 ft / 109 m|
Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove or NASJRB Willow Grove (IATA: NXX, ICAO: KNXX, FAA LID: NXX) was a Naval Air Station owned by the U.S. Navy and located in Horsham Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States four miles (6 km) northwest of the central business district of Willow Grove, which is north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The installation was transferred to the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and the name changed to the Horsham Air Guard Station after the U.S. Navy departed in 2011.
Flight activity began in 1926 when Harold Frederick Pitcairn constructed a hangar and a grass airstrip in Horsham, Pennsylvania. The airfield was named after the nearest town Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. At the time, Horsham was a rural township with little significance. From 1926 to 1942 Pitcairn used the airfield for design, construction and testing of a number of aircraft, including the Mailwing which was used by the United States Postal Service.
After the start of World War II, the United States purchased the property, under threat of eminent domain and launched a classified anti-submarine warfare program at the base. Following WWII and into the Cold War, it became an operational and training base for aviation activities of the Reserve components of the United States Armed Forces such as United States Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, United States Army Reserve and Pennsylvania National Guard. As part of its joint recruitment efforts, the base was an annual host to one of the largest air shows on the East Coast until 2006.
Horsham Air Guard Station was home to the following:
- 111th Fighter Wing (111 FW), Pennsylvania Air National Guard, which operated the A-10 Thunderbolt II. It lost its aircraft to other ANG Squadrons and active duty components under BRAC. As of 2013, the Wing, now renamed the 111th Attack Wing, was slated to acquire ground control stations to remotely fly the MQ-9 Reaper and became operational in 2016.
- 201st RED HORSE Squadron, Detachment 1 (201 RHS), Pennsylvania Air National Guard
- 270th Engineering Installation Squadron (270 EIS), Pennsylvania Air National Guard
- The Liberty Bell Squadron of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps
- Group 3 Headquarters of Pennsylvania Wing Civil Air Patrol.
The base was home to the following military aviation units:
- Marine Aircraft Group 49 headquarters and HMH-772 of the Marine Air Reserve's 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, the latter operating the CH-53E Super Stallion. Both MAG-49 and HMH-772 relocated to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in 2011. Also Reserve Marine Attack Squadron VMA-131 flying McDonnell Douglas A4 aircraft from 1972 until their deactivation in 1998. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMA-131
- Patrol Squadrons 64 (VP-64) and 66 (VP-66) of the United States Naval Reserve operating the P-3 Orion. Vp-64 was later re-designated VR-64 and traded in its P-3 Orions for the C-130T Hercules
- Fleet Logistic Squadrons 52 (VR-52) and 64 (VR-64) of the Naval Air Reserve, operating the C-9 Skytrain II and C-130T Hercules, respectively. Both VR-52 and VR-64 relocated to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in March 2011.
- 913th Airlift Wing (913 AW) of the Air Force Reserve Command. The 913 AW was inactivated by BRAC action on 30 September 2007.
Base Realignment and Closure
On May 28, 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure commission recommended that the base be closed as part of the 2005 BRAC round, that the tenant Air Force Reserve Command airlift wing be inactivated and that Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve flying units relocate to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey as tenant units.
On September 30, 2007, the Air Force Reserve Command disestablished the 913th Airlift Wing at the collocated Willow Grove ARS, and redistributed its C-130 Hercules aircraft to other active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve units.
On February 29, 2008, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released a report detailing a plan for a joint interagency installation (JII), with a mission of national defense, homeland security and emergency preparedness. On November 13, 2009, Pennsylvania dropped the plan for the JII based on the gradual removal of the 111th Fighter Wing. Since then it is planned that a portion of the base will be used for the National Guard and other Reserve Component military personnel. 
On September 15, 2011, the base was closed. The Pennsylvania Air National Guard took custody, and the facility was to be designated Willow Grove Air National Guard Base, or Horsham Air Guard Station per source. A handful of National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers remained, and the Air Force maintained administrative offices on the property. The surplus land with the runways was turned over to Horsham Township for redevelopment. Horsham and other adjoining townships in Montgomery and Bucks Counties were debating the nature of this redevelopment. In September 2015 the Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority worked on an "economic development conveyance" (EDC) application to acquire the base. An EDC transfer is one way for the Navy to dispose of federal surplus property.
- NAS JRB Willow Grove, official web site
- FAA Airport Master Record for NXX ( PDF), effective 2007-12-20
- "streets.gif." Horsham Township, Pennsylvania. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
- Jeremy Roebuck, Willow Grove sees final departures Philly.com, March 31, 2011
- "Air Force Selects Horsham's 111th Fighter Wing for New High-Tech Mission". PR Newswire. March 19, 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- Pa Pulls Out of Plan to Operate Willow-Grove Airfield kyw1060.com Archived November 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Welcome to VP-64. Home of the Condors!
- Willow Grove site a gift, and a burden, for Horsham Philly.com, 21 February 2011
- Gary Weckselblatt (September 16, 2015). "HLRA inches closer to negotiations for Navy base". Intelligencer (PA). Retrieved 20 September 2015.
(9) Harold F. Pitcairn By Carl F. Gunther, Legacy of Wings ( The Harold F. Pitcairn Story) by Frank Kingston Smith
- Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove
- Joint Interagency Installation Implementation Plan for Willow Grove/Horsham
- Horsham Township Land Reuse Authority
- (PDF), effective July 20, 2017
- Resources for this U.S. military airport: