NEVADA MILITARY BASE GREW OUT OF WWII | NevadaAppeal.com

NEVADA MILITARY BASE GREW OUT OF WWII

Naval Air Station Fallon
This photo shows the layout of the naval auxiliary airfield at Fallon in the 1940s.
U.S. NAVAL ARCHIVES |

Naval Air Station Fallon traces its origins to 1942, when the Civil Aviation Administration and the Army Air Corps began construction of four airfields in the Nevada desert. As part of the Western Defense Program, initiated to repel an expected Japanese attack on the west coast, runways and lighting systems were built in Winnemucca, Minden, Lovelock and Fallon.

As the war in the Pacific developed, the Navy recognized a need to train its pilots in a realistic environment using all the tactics and weapons currently being developed. Fallon was the Navy’s choice. In 1943, the Navy assumed control of the two 5,200 foot runways. Construction soon began on barracks, hangars, air traffic control facilities and target ranges. On June 10, 1944, Naval Auxiliary Air Station Fallon was commissioned.

Training operations reached a peak in the summer of 1945 when an average of 21,000 take-offs and landings were recorded and more than 12,000 flight hours logged at the station. Ironically, just as construction of the initial airfield project was completed and the training program was going full gear, the Japanese surrendered and brought an untimely end to N.A.A.S. Fallon.

Eight months after the completion of a new 24-unit housing project, five months after a new gym was built and only three months following the opening of a new Commissary, N.A.A.S. Fallon was placed in a “reduced operation status.” One month later, on Feb. 1, 1946, the facility was further reduced to a “maintenance status.”

On June 1, 1946 it was in a “caretaker status” and the official designation of Naval Auxiliary Air Station removed.

For the next five years, the Bureau of Indian Services used the facility. Buildings once used by pilots to prepare to meet the challenge from the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier disappeared. The swimming pool, once the scene of Sailors attempting to escape the Nevada summer heat, became a home for pigs.

The Korean conflict brought new life to the small desert installation. Once again, the Navy found reason to train pilots in the new sophisticated jet aircraft. In 1951, Fallon became an Auxiliary Landing Field for N.A.S. Alameda Calif. On Oct. 1, 1953, N.A.A.S. Fallon was reestablished by order of the Secretary of the Navy. The present day bombing ranges, Bravo 16, 17 and 19, were also created that year.

Over the next 30 years the Fallon air station grew to become one of the premier training sites for Navy and Marine Corps pilots and ground crews. New hangars, ramps, housing and other facilities sprang up to give the installation new and greater capabilities.

The airfield became known as Van Voorhis Field in 1958, named after Lt. Cmdr. Bruce A. Van Voorhis, a Fallon native who received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for service in the South Pacific during World War II.

The airfield’s most sophisticated range, the electronic warfare range, was established in 1967.

On Jan. 1, 1972, the Navy recognized Fallon’s importance to naval aviation by upgrading the base to a major aviation command, and thus, Naval Air Station Fallon was commissioned.

During the 1980s the air station experienced dramatic growth, as a state-of-the-art air traffic control facility and new hangars were constructed. In response to challenges faced by deployed air wings in conducting contingency strike operations from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea into Lebanon, the Navy constructed a new training center.

In 1984, the Naval Strike Warfare Center was established to be the primary authority for integrated strike warfare tactical development and training. It quickly became the “graduate level” training evolution that air wings go through during their inter-deployment training cycle: after completing the four week training course in Fallon, an air wing was ready for combat anywhere in the world.

In 1985, Fallon received a new tool to aid in its aircrews training: the Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System or TACTS. This system provides squadrons, carrier air wings and students from the Naval Strike Warfare Center with visual, graphic displays of their missions eliminating guess work. Strike Fighter Squadron 127, the “Desert Bogeys” aggressors moved to N.A.S. Fallon in 1987, becoming the air station’s only permanently based squadron.

During the 1990s the base continued to expand its role as the pinnacle of Naval Aviation tactical training. A new hangar, ramp and academic building were built in 1995 to accommodate the arrival of Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School (Top Dome) from San Diego to Fallon in early 1996.

In July 1996, The Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC, later NAWDC) was commissioned, combining the functions of TOPGUN, the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School and the Naval Strike Warfare Center into one command under a two-star admiral. The training center has continued to instruct all aspects of tactical integrated air warfare, including air wing training detachments, TOPGUN classes, E-2 Hawkeye mission commander courses, as well as developing advancements in tactics and procedures.

Known as the “Fighting Saints,” Fighter Composite Squadron Thirteen (VFC-13), replaced VFA-127 as the adversary squadron at Fallon, taking over the duties of the disestablishing Desert Bogeys in flying F-5 Tiger IIs that same year.

NAS Fallon moved into the 21st century with a continued commitment to Naval aviation. From formulation of the Navy’s first “Encroachment Action Plan” to the holding of the first Operational Assurance Forum, NAS Fallon has been in the forefront of preserving the existing training areas while planning to meet future requirements. These long range visions together with the current combination of the base’s facilities, the air space available for training over Northern Nevada and the unsurpassed air-to-ground and electronic warfare ranges make NAS Fallon integral to keeping America’s Naval Forces trained and ready.