Yuma Marine Corps Air Station
Yuma International Airport
MCAS Yuma is the busiest air station in the Marine Corps and the third busiest in the Naval service. It is also one of the largest single contributors to the economy of Yuma County. Its primary mission is to support aerial weapons training for the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet Marine Forces and Navy, and to serve as a base of operations for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, and Third MAW units, to include Marine Aircraft Group-13. Yuma International Airport (YUM) is a commercial service airport at a shared-use airfield with Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma. YUM is owned by the County of Yuma, and operated by the Yuma County Airport Authority, Inc. (YCAA).
One of the Marine Corps' premier aviation training bases, with access to 2.8 million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges, and superb flying weather, MCAS Yuma supports 80 percent of the Corps' air-to-ground aviation training. Each year, the air station hosts numerous units and aircraft from U.S. and NATO forces.
The ideal weather and location along the Colorado River, make Yuma and the surrounding area an oasis in the southwestern Sonoran Desert with a bounty of superb recreational opportunities and water sports. Seasonal hunting and fishing abound in the fish and game rich Yuma area. Nestled in five square miles just southeast of Yuma, the air station is home to a number of tenant units including Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1, Marine Aircraft Group-13, Marine Wing Support Squadron-371, Marine Fighter Training Squadron-401, Marine Air Control Squadron-1 and Combat Service Support Detachment-16.
This relatively isolated air station has access to an exceptional variety of airspace and ranges. Sorties from Yuma can easily reach the Twentynine Palms complex (approximately 100 air miles), and in fact must circumnavigate another USMC Complex, the Chocolate Mountain/El Centro area, en route. MCAS Yuma has recently been designated the scheduling agency for Restricted Area R-2301W in southern Arizona. This area has long been used by the Marine Corps; however its scheduling had been retained by the Air Force, which schedules several large areas adjacent to and east of R-2301W. Responsibility for R-2301 may be considered a mixed blessing. While the area offers superb training, its location adjacent to and in some areas overlying the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge has lead to prolonged disagreements between the DoD and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Chocolate Mountains range area (R-2507) offers excellent air to surface weapons training to USMC and other DoD aircrews. In addition, other capabilities include air to air gunnery and air combat maneuvering. The airspace has been revised to add additional capability, while an innovative "shelf" along the complex's north side has enhanced civil traffic accessibility to and from San Diego.
As the scheduling authority for the Yuma Training Range Complex, MCAS Yuma provides fleet squadrons access to 10,000 square miles of special-use airspace designated for military aviation training and almost 2,000 square miles of underlying land reserved as aerial bombing and gunnery ranges. Collectively, this complex is the largest tactical aviation training range utilized by the Marine Corps. Each year, approximately 50 aviation units deploy here to train on Yuma's 2.8 million-acre range complex. These deployments, ranging from a few days to weeks, bring 13,000 personnel and 1,000 aircraft to Yuma annually. In addition, MCAS is the only joint-use air station in the Marine Corps. Through an agreement between the Marine Corps and Yuma County, MCAS provides all air traffic control, crash crew services, security, and maintains the runways and taxiways for both MCAS and Yuma International Airport.
In 1928 Col. Benjamin F. Fly persuaded the federal government to lease 640 acres, covered with cactus, brush and desert wildlife, from Yuma County. Three weeks later, a 20-year lease with an option for an additional 20 years at $1 per year, was signed. Fly Field became a reality. Aviation was in its infancy, and Fly Field became the center of attention in Yuma. During the summer of 1928, it was used as a stopover point for 25 planes in a New York to Los Angeles air race. It was used sporadically by private aircraft until 1941 when the U.S. government, through the Civil Aeronautics Administration, authorized an expenditure for permanent runways.
When the United States entered World War II, an air base was erected with the astounding speed which characterized the war effort and by early 1943, Yuma Army Air Base began graduating classes of pilots. The base became one of the busiest flying schools in the nation, training pilots of AT-6 single engine trainers, T-17 multi-engine trainers and B-17 Flying Fortresses.
At the end of the war, all flight activity here ceased and the area was partially reclaimed by the desert. During the period of inactivity, it was controlled successively by the War Assets Administration, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Reclamation, which used it as a headquarters for its irrigation projects.
On July 7, 1951, the Air Force reactivated the base, and the 4750th Air Base Squadron resumed training as part of the Western Air Defense Forces. The airfield was named Yuma Air Base, but was renamed Vincent Air Force Base in 1956 in memory of Brig. Gen. Clinton D. Vincent, a pioneer of bombing techniques, who died in 1955.
In 1956, the land was divided into two areas. A joint-use patent granted to Yuma County the area that is now the civil portion of Yuma International Airport. The remainder, including all runways, and taxiways, continued under military control. The joint- use aspect of the airport continues to be its most distinctive feature today.
The facility was signed over to the Navy Jan. 1, 1959, and nine days later, Col. L.K. Davis became the first commanding officer of the newly designated Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station. On July 20, 1962, the designation was changed to Marine Corps Air Station.
In December 1965, the Yuma County Airport Authority (YCAA) was established to administer Yuma International Airport.
From 1969 until 1987, the air station served primarily as a training base for pilots assigned to Marine Corps Crew Readiness Training Group-10 flying the F-4 Phantom, A-4 Skyhawk and AV-8A Harrier. Since then, the main runway has been extended to 13,300 feet (enough concrete for 37 miles of two-lane highway) and the Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System, has been added. The system is designed to provide realistic air-to-air combat training with electronically simulated weapons firing for all Navy and Marine squadrons.
In 1987, Marine Aircraft Group-13, with Marine Attack Squadrons 211, 214, 311 and 513 replaced MCCRTG-10 as the major tenant command aboard the station. The move also brought Marine Wing Support Squadron-371 to Yuma, joining Marine Air Control Squadron-7 and 2nd Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion. Throughout the fall of 1990, virtually every Marine Corps fixed wing squadron that participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm underwent pre-deployment training on Yuma's ranges. On September 1, 1994, subsequent to the deactivation of 2d LAAM Bn., 1st LAAM Bn. was reactivated, consisting of H&S Battery and three firing batteries. 1st LAAM Bn. then merged with MACS-7 on July 11, 1997 resulting in the redisignation of MACS-7 as MACS-7 (Reinforced).
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