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Morón Air Base, Spain

Morón Air Base located 35 miles southeast of the city of Seville is named after a nearby town of Morón de la Frontera. The military base has been used jointly by Spanish and US Air Forces since 1953. In accordance with the March 2014 agreement between the two countries, 850 US troops were deployed at Morón Air Base and if necessary this number could be increased to 1,110. The agreement expires in April 2015. Washington wanted permission to increase this number to 3,000 troops. In January 2015 the United States asked Spain to grant permanent status for the deployment of US troops at the joint-use Morón Air Base in Spanish Andalusia for responding to crises in Africa.

On May 29, 2015 the Spanish government approved an accord to permanently host a U.S. military force that would mainly deal with crises in Africa. The agreement will allow the U.S. to station up to 3,000 military personnel and 40 aircraft at the Moron air base, located near the city of Seville in southern Spain. About 800 U.S. troops already were stationed at the base as a result of a 1988 U.S.-Spanish defense accord.

Morón Air Base is located in southern Spain approximately 75 miles northeast of Rota Naval Station. Negotiations for bases in Spain were conducted between June 1951 and September 1953 under the direction of a Joint United States Military Group, commanded by Major General A. W. Kissner. The negotiations were concluded with the establishment of the Spanish-American air bases, including Morón Air Base, via a 10 year agreement between the US and Spanish Governments. The negotiations were formalized with the signature of Ambassador Dunn of the United States on 26 September 1953.

In 1957 Sixteenth Air Force was realigned under the Strategic Air Command. Main operating bases in Spain were used for SAC B-47 rotational alert aircraft until April 1965. 16th AF also operated SAC bases in Morocco from 1958 through 1963. In 1966, a year after SAC withdrew its B-47 alert force from Spain, 16th AF was reassigned to US Air Forces in Europe.

Construction of Morón Air Base, under the field direction of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, continued for three years. On 1 June 1957, the 3973rd Air Base Group at Morón Air Base was formally activated as part of Sixteenth Air Force assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

On 13 May 1958, the first flight of B-47s were assigned to Morón Air Base to conduct Reflex operations, and 6 weeks later the first rotational fighter squadron, F-100s from George AFB, CA, arrived for temporary duty to conduct air defense alert. Of note, Major Chuck Yeager (Retired Brig General, USAF) was assigned to Moron with the fighter unit.

In April 1960, Morón Air Base was officially placed under the command of Colonel Henry C. Godman. Brown-Raymond-Walsh were the contract representatives and responsible for the base from the initial date of construction until this ceremony. Morón continued to operate primarily as a "Reflex" base until 29 April 1962, when the first Chrome Dome KC-135 aircraft arrived. Two days later, the first fueling sortie was generated. On 3 April 1963 the last B-47 aircraft departed Morón. On 26 September 1963 the US Spanish bilateral agreement was extended for five additional years.

On 15 April 1966, the mission of Sixteenth Air Force and Morón Air Base transferred from SAC to United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE). The mission changed to communications support, "fair weather" flying operations of Temporary Duty (TDY) RF-4 and RF-101 reconnaissance units and the support of air rescue operations provided by the 67 ARRS.

In 1969, the USAFE Programming Plan 4406-09 (REDCOSTE) directed a mission change for Morón Air Base to that of a Standby Dispersal Base (SDB). The host unit, the 7473rd Combat Support Group, became the 7473rd Combat Support Squadron (CSS) with a reduction of military personnel to approximately 400 members. In addition, TDY flying activities were curtailed and replaced by occasional exercise flying. Phase-down activities were complete in early 1971.

In November 1971, Morón Air Base was re-designated to a "modified caretaker status." Torrejon Air Base was designated as the Primary Support Base (PSB) with support services to start in April 1972. Military personnel were reduced to a staff of approximately 100 members of the 7473 CSS. All flying activity was halted except for occasional exercises. Civil Engineering, Supply, and Transportation functions were contracted under the Spain Base Maintenance Contract (SBMC), which became operational in July 1972.

In February 1976, congressional action known as the "Nunn Amendment" identified reductions and realignments, and contracting of most military authorizations at Morón Air Base. Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) approval followed in April 1976, and USAFE was directed to implement these reductions. The 7473 CSS was deactivated on 31 May 1976, and OL-A, 401 TFW was established on 1 June 1976. Further reorganization took place when OL-A, 401 TFW was deactivated on 31 July 1976, and Detachment 2, 401 TFW was established on 1 August 1976. USAFE/XP letter dated 16 August 1976, Subject: Program Guidance Letter Morón Air Base Standby Deployment Base (SDB), implemented reduction actions and expansion of the Base Maintenance Contract (BMC) to include Civil Engineering, Services, Transportation, Supply, Housing Supply, Fuels, AGE Maintenance, Fire Protection and Administration. In September 1976, the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Spain and the United States became effective and reconfirmed the standby status of Morón Air Base. By September 1977, all phase down actions were completed and the base military, civilian, contractor and tenant population stabilized at 400, consisting of more than 300 contractor personnel and approximately 30 Det 2, 401 TFW personnel.

On 19 March 1979, HQ USAFE directed, through the BMC Executive Committee, that a 25 percent reduction in the contractor work force be considered, resulting in a modification to the BMC known as "MOD 89." Contractor manning was reduced to about 220 personnel by the beginning of 1980. Det 2 personnel authorizations fell to 20 during the same period. The new contract specified further reductions in conjunction with increased contractor productivity. The first round of reductions was completed in December 1980, and contractor authorized personnel dropped to 198 while Det 2 authorized manpower was reduced to 14. The second round of reductions in April 1982, decreased contract manning to 178 assigned personnel. The standby mission of the base continued, although standards of facility maintenance were reduced in conjunction with the shrinking work force. During calendar years 1982 and 1983, there were minor work scope increases to the BMC which resulted in a slight increase of contracting manning. Det 2, 401 TFW also gained two additional authorizations.

The 14 May 1983 US Spanish bilateral Agreement of Friendship, Defense and Cooperation authorized the United States to station up to 15 tanker aircraft at Morón Air Base. A manpower change request was developed to increase blue-suit manning, based on the tanker task force and the increased War Reserve Materiel (WRM) requirements. The Morón Air Base work force, including all military, civilian, contractor and tenant personnel, was approximately 300 personnel.

In 1983, Morón Air Base began hosting multiple exercises and has since developed into a major peacetime staging base. During FY 86, Morón Air Base hosted over 4,000 TDY personnel from all services and had active flying missions for over 180 days of the year.

In 1984, Morón became a NASA Space Shuttle Transoceonic Abort Landing Site. Since that time, Morón and NASA have developed a lasting partnership in service to Shuttle ventures. In March 1984, Morón Air Base was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site for the space shuttle program. Special navigation and landing aids are in place, and personnel are highly trained to recover landing of the orbiter vehicle. Major enhancements were completed in 1986, and included the permanent installation of a Microwave Landing System. Morón Air Base is the only TAL site in the world situated to support high, mid, and low inclination launches. For this reason, Morón Air Base activates for almost all space shuttle launches.

Planning for each Space Shuttle mission includes provisions for an unscheduled landing at contingency landing sites in the US and overseas. The Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) is one mode of unscheduled landing. The orbiter would have to make an unscheduled landing if one or more of its three main engines failed during ascent into orbit, or if a failure of a major orbiter system, such as the cooling or cabin pressurization systems, precluded satisfactory continuation of the mission. A TAL would be made at one of four designated sites, two in Africa and two in Spain: Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco; Yundum International Airport, Banjul, The Gambia; Moron Air Base, Spain; and Zaragoza Air Base, Spain. Each TAL site is covered by a separate international agreement, but all four are considered augmented because they have Shuttle-specific landing aids and NASA and Defense Department personnel available during a launch. Space Shuttles are launched eastward over the Atlantic Ocean from KSC for insertion into equatorial orbits. In a TAL abort, the orbiter continues on a ballistic trajectory across the Atlantic to land at a predetermined runway. The four sites NASA has designated for TALs have been chosen in part because they are near the nominal ascent ground track of the orbiter, which would allow the most efficient use of main engine propellant.

In August 1990, SAC deployed 22 KC-135 and KC-10 tankers to support Operation DESERT SHIELD. In January 1991, SAC changed Morón Air Base from refueling to bomber operations for DESERT STORM. The 801st Bomb Wing (Provisional) at Morón Air Base consisted of 24 B-52s, 3 KC-135s and over 2,800 personnel. This was the largest deployed bomber wing during the war. The 801st was under the command of Colonel Ronald C. Marcotte, now a Lieutenant General in command of Air Mobility Command in Scott AFB, Illinois.

The 1994 military reductions in Europe resulted in Morón Air Base picking up a regional responsibility for providing support to designated USAF units in Spain, Italy, and Greece with the draw-down of USAFE units at Torrejon AB, Spain, San Vito AS, Italy and Iraklion AS, Greece. Along with the increased responsibility came a new unit designation. The 712th Air Base Flight became the 496th Air Base Squadron on 1 July 1994, under the newly formed 616th Regional Support Group located at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

In NATO terms, Morón Air Base remained a standby base, but a 14 Dec 95, HQ USAFE/XP message re-designated Morón Air Base as a limited base. This designation recognizes that Morón Air Base is "austerely manned" and "has no permanently assigned operational tactical forces," but does have "facilities for communications, air traffic control navigational aids, maintenance, base supply, billeting, recreation, messing, transportation, and operational support."

In 1996, the base was the staging area for more than 30 contingency missions, including relief operations in Africa and more than a dozen fighter refueling operations. In 1997, Morón welcomed the addition of a 15 person AFSPACECOM Space Surveillance Unit - detached from the 18 SPSS at Edwards AFB, California. The unit operates and electro-optical telescope under the direction of USSPACECOM in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In February, 1999 Morón became the home of the 92nd AEW - tasked with providing fuel to OPERATION ALLIED FORCE. In addition to serving as the HQ 92nd AEW (serving units in France, Crete, Sicily and Spain), Morón hosted 37 tankers (KC-135 and KC-10) and 800 personnel. The 92nd AEW became the largest Tanker Wing since the Vietnam War, while Morón held the distinction of being the largest tanker base during the Kosovo war. The 92nd AEW was commanded by Col Vern M. Findley -- now a Brigadier General in command of the 437th Airlift Wing in Charleston AFB, South Carolina. On 12 Oct 1999 more than 60 people and four KC-135Rs deployed to provide the backbone of support to the initial air expeditionary force.

Since January 2000, Morón's mission has matured to make the base a critical link in supporting the rotation of Aerospace Expeditionary Forces (AEF) -- deployed in EUCOM and CENTCOM Areas of Responsibilities. Tanker Task Forces (KC-135 and KC-10), Fighter Units from the Air Force and Marine Corps, and airlifters (C-141, C-17 and C-5s) use Morón as a staging base for AEF operations. The base also frequently welcomes rotating US Army personnel. Morón staffing swells during these operations with temporary duty personnel (known as Expeditionary Combat Support) supplementing the contract, civilian and active-duty personnel. In the past, the temporary duty slots were filled by active-duty personnel. However now the slots are almost entirely with Air Reserve Component personnel, making Morón one of the largest users of ARC personnel in Europe. In conjunction with efforts and guidance from 31 FW, 16th AF, HQ USAFE and HQ AMC, Morón has forged a lasting partnership with the Air Reserve Command, located at Warner-Robins AFB, Georgia.

Moron ­ a Spanish air base for F-18 fighters and P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft - was once one of three bases the US used in Spain and home to about 2,000 active-duty people and their families. The Defense Department closed Torrejon and Zaragoza Air Bases, and trimmed Moron to little more than a handful of people keeping an eye on the runway and buildings in case the Air Force needed to return to the Iberian peninsula someday. For a few years, NASA was the base's most consistent customer after it designated Moron as an abort landing site for the space shuttle in case it has to make an emergency landing following liftoff.

Moron's massive flight line, in-ground aircraft refueling system and a prime location on the Iberian peninsula close to the Mediterranean and the Middle East were enticing factors for planners looking for a staging location to move people and equipment across the Atlantic. Factor in shrinking air support capacity in Europe, and Moron becomes a vital link in any operation moving east from the United States.

With Operation Desert Storm, the people began returning to Moron. Waves of aircraft and hundreds of people routinely drop in at the base to set up temporary operations, fill billeting space and use the massive runway and underground aircraft refueling system to move air operations into the region. More than 3,000 people were temporarily based at Moron during the Persian Gulf War. In 1996, the base was the staging area for more than 30 contingency missions, including relief operations in Africa and more than a dozen fighter refueling operations.

Air Mobility Command set up a mobility task force at the base to ferry people and aircraft to the Middle East in response to Saddam Hussein's expulsion of U.N. inspectors from Iraq. Moron's permanent party is there primarily to run the base and keep facilities in good operating condition. Most operations passing through the base average less than 500 people and fewer than 20 aircraft. Moron has billeting space to comfortably house about 1,000 people, and the ramp can hold more than 20 C-5 Galaxy aircraft, or up to 69 KC-135 refueling aircraft. A staff of about 320 civilian contractors helps keep things running. Most are Spanish locals, but a few retired Air Force people who didn't want to leave Spain are also working full time at the base.

An assignment at Moron is normally a 15-month remote tour. Some, however, elect to bring family and spend two or more years at the base. Many have "homesteaded" at the base because they like the Spanish lifestyle, the small Moron military community and the improved quality of life the deployments have brought. The base completed a $1.3 million housing renovation, including installing central air conditioning for the hot desert summers and upgrading kitchens. The base also has a library that supports the local Department of Defense dependents school, a small fitness center, a swimming pool, a dining facility where the students and families can eat and a Navy Exchange Service Nexmart. Most people make monthly shopping pilgrimages to Rota Naval Air Station about two hours north of Moron.

The US Air Forces in Europe has said the base will remain open as it is. The most significant increase in manning at the base occurred in July when Air Force Space Command established Detachment 4 of the 18th Space Surveillance Squadron at the base, bringing in about 14 more bluesuiters.

Base facilities include a convenience store (food and some hardware/clothing), two-days-per-week banking, bookstore, gym, pool, bowling alley, tennis courts, library, and ceramics shop. There is a medical aid station staffed by two military technicians, but personnel must travel to Rota Naval Station to obtain medical diagnosis/treatment. (It is a 1.5 to 2 hour drive by good toll road to the U.S. Navy Station, Rota)

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Page last modified: 10-06-2015 21:27:23 ZULU