Miramar Marine Corps Air Station
On 01 October 1997, NAS Miramar, California, officially became Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, as part of the DoD Realignment Program.
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is a 24,000-acre installation located in the northern suburbs of San Diego and is one of the largest military bases in the area. The station averages 250 aircraft aboard on any given day, with up to 200,000 flight operations per year. During Base Realignment and Closure hearings in 1993, MCAS El Toro was selected for closure, and the Marine flight operations were recommended for transfer to NAS Miramar. Marine Corps Air Stations El Toro and Tustin were closed, and their assets moved to Miramar by the end of 1999. Miramar is home for eight F/A-18C & F/A-18D Hornet jet squadrons, four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter squadrons, four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter squadrons, one KC-130 transport and refueling squadron, and nine station support aircraft for a total of about 257 aircraft. When the move was completed, 12,200 Marines, Sailors and civilians called Miramar home.
The 1993 and 1995 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission decided to realign NAS Miramar to MCAS Miramar. This transition will officially occur on 1 October 1997, although several transitions have already been made over the past two years to facilitate the realignment and relocation process. As a Master Jet Air Station, F- 14 Tomcat squadrons under the Commander, Fighter Wing Pacific were stationed here and trained to carry out their missions. Advanced training was also provided at the Navy Fighter Weapons School ("TOPGUN") for experienced fighter aircrews. NAS Miramar is also home to four E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning squadrons, which provide operational support for aircraft carriers.
The BRAC decision consequently affected the operations of NAS Miramar, as the realignment requires the relocation of personnel, aircraft, and equipment at MCAS Tustin and MCAS El Toro in Orange County, California to NAS Miramar. MCAS Miramar supports the aviation units of the Fleet Marine Force, including the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. MCAS Miramar will eventually support nine helicopter squadrons and nine fixed-wing squadrons.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Marine Corps Air Station Miramar by relocating to Eglin AFB, FL, a sufficient number of instructor pilots and operations support personnel to stand up the Marine Corps' portion of the Joint Strike Fighter Initial Joint Training Site, hereby established at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. This recommendation would establishe Eglin Air Force Base, FL as an Initial Joint Training Site that would teach entry-level aviators and maintenance technicians how to safely operate and maintain the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) (F-35) aircraft. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 82 jobs (43 direct jobs and 39 indirect jobs) over 2006-2011 in the San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA, Metropolitan Statistical Area (less than 0.1 percent).
NAS Miramar is divided into four land use sectors: Main Station, South/West Miramar, East Miramar, and Sycamore Canyon. These sectors are further divided into "improved," "semi-improved," and "unimproved" acreage. Improved acreage (1,363 acres) is land on which intensive development has taken place and grounds maintenance is performed. These areas include residential, commercial, industrial, recreational, and construction sites. Semi-improved lands (6,931 acres) include agricultural outlease lands, the flight line, ammunition storage areas, fuelbreaks, fire roads, and drainage ways. Unimproved areas (14,891 acres) are considered resource management areas which contain environmental and Air Installation Compatible Use Zone constraints. Of the total land holdings, approximately 17,000 acres are unimproved or semi- improved and consist of native vegetation The native vegetation on NAS Miramar is classified into 32 different vegetation types such as riparian woodland, oak woodland, perennial grasslands, coastal sage scrub, mixed chaparral, chemise chaparral, and freshwater marsh.
MCAS Miramar shares some of the environmental concerns that face MCB Camp Pendleton. The installation lies primarily on a plateau, but backs to the foothills of a number of mountains. The nearby valleys offer habitat to endangered species, and the Marine Corps is underwriting extensive field research regarding habitat retention and nesting success in a high noise environment.
Highest on the list of local issues faced by MCAS Miramar is aircraft noise. Introduction of the HH-53 heavy lift helicopter at the base has significantly complicated the noise situation (fighter activity at Miramar had long been a matter of community concern, but development of least-impact departure and arrival routes has defused the worst of this concern). Anticipated traffic pattern congestion issues do not appear to have materialized, however, the HH-53, whose working areas, especially MCB Camp Pendleton, are increasingly surrounded and impacted by nearby community development, has brought an unprecedented level of noise complaints. MCAS Miramar and COMCABWEST managers have evaluated a variety of alternative ground tracks to satisfy operational requirements while minimizing noise impacts.
The MARCH Coalition Fund is a nonprofit corporation organized in 1995 by San Diego County residents to stop the planned relocation of at least 112 USMC helicopters to Miramar Air Station. This homeowners group near Miramar has complained for years about helicopter noise. The Marines have changed flight patterns and training hours, but the controversy continued. The homeowners group has called for the Marines to move the helicopters from Miramar, possibly to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County.
On 23 February 1999 the Department of Defense and the group of local plaintiffs announced a cooperative settlement of the lawsuit which questioned the Government's environmental studies in connection with the realignment to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar. As part of the settlement, the Marine Corps agreed on a process to further study impacts to air quality and seek new ways to mitigate noise and safety impacts from military aircraft overflights without interfering with training and operations. The Federal Government also agreed to reimburse plaintiffs for litigation costs associated with the suit. The Federal District Court retained jurisdiction for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the terms and conditions of the agreement. The Marine Corps agreed to conduct a comprehensive air quality analysis and support an integrated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control study of the San Diego airspace affected by MCAS Miramar operations. Several adjustments to helicopter flight patterns were made. For example, the number of helicopter "Box Pattern" operations to the north of the base are being reduced to the necessary minimum. Weather and air traffic permitting, helicopter departures and most arrivals to and from the coast will be via the existing fixed-wing Seawolf corridor. The Marine Corps also assessed the possibility of moving its helicopter flights further offshore and establishing an Eastern corridor over less populated areas.
On 30 June 2000 the Marine Corps completed the study that explored the feasibility of an eastern helicopter route. The study was required as part of the Feb. 23, 1999 litigation settlement-agreement. The settlement-agreement directed the study be conducted, "... for the purpose of determining the feasibility of creating an eastern helicopter route, using as criteria air traffic and safety implications and operational impacts ... ." The Commander, Marine Corps Air Bases Western Area, after consultation with Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Facilities), determined that an additional route is not currently feasible.
The Marine Corps continued current noise mitigation measures to minimize effects on neighbors. These measures include the prioritization of flights over-water, and when flying the I-15 route is necessary due to mission or weather, the highest possible Visual Flight Rule [VFR] altitudes are maintained. The number of I-15 helicopter flight operations during May and June 2000 averaged less than 2 per day. While this number may fluctuate depending on weather and mission requirements, helicopter flight operations on the I-15 are being kept to a minimum.
Local airspace issues at San Diego are inextricably tied to the future of the region's primary civil airport, Lindbergh Field. This single (9,000 foot) runway airport, surrounded by high terrain and dense urban development, is considered by some vocal partisans to be a constraint on future growth and community development. Miramar is clearly a target for some of these local activists, who have predicted that the base will be closed under a future BRAC round, and turned over to the city for use as its civil airport. Not surprisingly, an almost equally vocal contingent, located nearer to MCAS Miramar and aware that a civil airport could generate traffic levels far in excess of those experienced there today, are insistent that the community look elsewhere to solve this problem.
The Marine Corps is evaluating all Department of Defense West Coast installations within the operational radius of the MV-22 to develop reasonable site alternatives for the Osprey. To date, five installations have been identified as potential basing sites for the Osprey. These sites are Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Naval Air Facility El Centro and Edwards Air Force Base. Other site alternatives may be considered if they are appropriate to the screening criteria.
The public scoping phase of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process covering the the MV-22 Osprey, which allows residents to voice their concerns about proposed basing options, officially concluded 01 December 2001. The West Coast Osprey basing decisions have not been predetermined. The Record of Decision, which is expected in May 2003, will be based on operational requirements, environmental factors and community concerns. The Department of the Navy proposes to replace all West Coast 3d and 4th Marine Aircraft Wing CH-46E aircraft; and replace the West Coast 4th Marine Aircraft Wing CH-53E squadron. The primary mission of the MV-22 in the Third and Fourth Marine Aircraft Wings will be to support Fleet Marine Force training and operations at MCB Camp Pendleton; accordingly, alternatives to be considered in the EIS are all aviation facilities within the operational radius of the MV-22 from MCB Camp Pendleton.
As a result of a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) 1995 decision, NAS Miramar transferred ownership to MCAS Miramar. As part of this action, three Carrier Air Wings, CVW-11, CVW-14 & CVW-2, relocated to NAS Lemoore. The new administration building, located on Skytrain, houses all of the Carrier Air Wings aboard NAS Lemoore.
The procurement of the F/A-18E/F "SuperHornet" strike-fighter allows the Navy to modernize its fleet. In July 1998, the Navy approved the Environmental Impact Statement and officially selected NAS Lemoore as the West Coast homeport for the Super Hornet. NAS Lemoore, with its dual offset runways, separate administrative and operations areas, and access to West Coast training ranges, is virtually free from encroachment. For these reasons, it is the most advantageous location for the F/A-18E/F.
The proposed action added 92 additional aircraft to NAS Lemoore. One new Fleet Replacement Squadron and four new fleet squadrons will be based there. Additional staffing will be required at Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), Naval Air Maintenance Training (NAMTRA), and Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific (SFWSP). The projected increase to base loading is approximately 1,900 active duty and 3,000 family members.
Facility expansion and construction will be required for FY98 through FY03 to accommodate the additional aircraft and personnel. Hangar 4 will be rehabilitated to house the additional fleet squadrons. The AIMD Airframes and Engine Maintenance shops will be modified. A new AIMD Aviation Armament Shop will be built. NAMTRA and Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific will expand. A new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters will be built.
Recent DoD working groups and conferences have begun to question community acceptance strategies for some new weapons systems. In particular, the Joint Strike Fighter may face a variety of challenges in several potential beddown locations. The aircraft generates an extraordinary amount of thrust from its single engine, and according to preliminary analyses, does so at some cost in noise and air quality. Preliminary analysis of the San Diego area has revealed air quality limitations that may preclude unrestricted operation of the STOVL (Short Takeoff, Vertical Landing) version of the aircraft that will be procured by the USMC. The highest thrust settings for the aircraft's F-119 engine will occur during transition to and from vertical flight. Noise and emissions, especially of oxides of Nitrogen (NOx), may exceed those encountered in any equivalent engine.
More than 150 years ago, MCAS Miramar was part of an enormous ranchero owned by Don Santiago Anguello, the former Mexican Army commandante of San Diego's presidio. In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico and eventually annexed the territories of California and New Mexico.
When Edward Scripps arrived in 1890, he described San Diego as a dilapidated boomtown. Scripps was a wealthy newspaper publisher who sought to escape the pressures of life on the East Coast. He is credited with naming the mesa Miramar, which loosely translated from Spanish means "an area from which there is a view of the sea from every vantage point."
Scripps established a ranch on 2,000 acres in the Miramar area. The land was later purchased by the Jessop family, a prominent group of San Diego jewelers. In the vicinity, a post office, general store and one-room schoolhouse served the Miramar settlement of cowboys and ranchers. Still, this dusty crossroad was a far cry from a military base.
Miramar's military roots started in 1917, when the Army purchased the Miramar area and established Camp Kearny. Construction costs totaled $1.25 million, but few permanent structures were built. Most of Camp Kearny's soldiers lived in tents, as more than 65,000 men trooped through the camp on their way to World War I battlegrounds. After the war, the camp was used as a demobilization center, and in 1920, it ceased to function as a military base and languished for 12 years.
The Navy's occupation of the area began in earnest in 1932, when the largest aircraft in the world came to Camp Kearny. A mooring mast was built at the camp for the dirigibles USS Akron and USS Macon. Both aircraft crashed as sea, and within only a few years, Camp Kearny was quiet once again.
The Navy retained control of the area for several years but did not actively employ its services. When World War II began in Europe, the U.S. military began a precautionary buildup. Runways were constructed at the camp in 1940 and were put to heavy use when America entered the war in 1941.
During the 1940s, both the Navy and the Marine Corps occupied Miramar. After World War II, all military facilities were combined and the base was redesignated Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This lasted just 13 months, however, when the Marines moved to El Toro in 1947. Miramar was then redesignated a Naval Auxiliary Air Station. Only half of Miramar's facilities were put to use, and the station literally began to deteriorate. Many buildings were sold as scrap during this period.
Throughout its already illustrious history, Miramar had prepared and supported carrier groups and squadrons during World War II and the Korean War, but it was during the Vietnam War that Miramar met its greatest challenge - to train fighter air crews in air combat maneuvering and fleet air defense. This mission was accomplished through the creation of Top Gun, a graduated-level training school for fighter air crews. The school garnered fame throughout the military for its success. The movie "Top Gun" starring Tom Cruise, with portions of the movie filmed aboard the air station, brought worldwide fame to "Fightertown, USA."
In 1993, a Base Realignment and Closure committee decision recommended that Naval Air Station Miramar be redesignated as a Marine Corps Air Station. The realignment involved relocating all Navy's F-14 Tomcat and E-2 Hawkeye squadrons. Top Gun and the last F-14 squadron left the air station in 1996 to make way for Marines from MCAS El Toro and Marine Corps Air Facility Tustin.
The first Marine squadrons, support units and their F/A-18 Hornets began making the move from MCAS El Toro in August 1994. On Oct. 1, 1997, Miramar once again became a Marine Corps Air Station as the Marines landed back home after a 50-year absence. The final chapter in the transition process was etched July 2, 1999, with the closing ceremony for MCAS El Toro and MCAF Tustin. This historic event marked an end to a 52-year presence in Orange County and signified the final step in a move that spanned nearly five years.
With the move complete, all of Miramar's fixed-wing F/A-18 and KC-130 Hercules squadrons, as well as its CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, are in place. Additionally, the support commands Marine Wing Support Group 37 and Marine Air Control Group 38 have been established. These achievements, combined with the near completion of approximately $400 million in construction, means that MCAS Miramar has taken its long-awaited, rightful place as the home of the Marine Corps' West Coast air power.
A chain of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121 aircraft filled the sky over San Diego as the last active duty FA-18D Hornets left Miramar February 7, 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
An October 5, 2004 story reported that Congress had approved and funded a $7.1 million contract to R.A. Construction Inc. for a Miramar construction project that would improve training and mission accomplishment for two squadrons. Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, would claim Building 6028, a refueling vehicle maintenance shop, and MWSS-473, Marine Aircraft Group 46, 4th MAW, would take possession of their new equipment shop, Building 6026, once construction completed as scheduled for Nov. 4, 2004. The squadrons requested these two buildings more than five years prior. The refueling vehicle maintenance shop was being built to accommodate MWSS-373's new aviation refueling-capable trucks with the new refueling vehicle maintenance shop incorporating the safety features of a refueling tank trailer repair shop with the bridge crane and heavy truck lift required for complete engine overhauls and components' replacement. As a reserve squadron, MWSS-473 was required to conduct job training for reservists during weekend commitments but the only classroom the shop had for this kind of instruction was a five-by-ten-foot open space in front of a white board mounted to storage bins. The squadron would borrow another squadron's washing station and vehicle lift capabilities, and use an unpaved lot to store their vehicles. The new building is scheduled to have a classroom "with a state-of-the-art built-in projector, seating for 35 Marines, a "smart board," and video capabilities.
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