Navy Region Southwest Community

Navy Region Southwest
Naval Air Facility El Centro

Naval Air Facility El Centro


Naval Air Facility El Centro provides realistic training to active and reserve aviation units and activities of the Navy’s operating and training forces. Naval Air Facility El Centro plays a key role in aviation initial and refresher training.


The combination of unique climate, vast unobstructed desert terrain, limited non-military air traffic and availability of dedicated gunnery and bomb ranges makes Naval Air Facility El Centro an ideal environment for aerial combat maneuvering, air-to-air gunnery, bombing practice, Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLPs) and low-level helicopter training.


Originally the planned site of the Imperial County airport, the Navy leased the facility for use as a Marine Corps Air Station in 1942.


The formal establishment of the installation took place on July 24, 1943. The installation operated as a Marine Corp Air Station until disestablishment and subsequent re-establishment to the Navy in May 1946. In 1979 the facility was designated Naval Air Facility El Centro. El Centro was critical to the development of parachute recovery not only for jet aircraft but the entire space program as well.

DOD Economic Impact

Naval Air Facility El Centro is an integral part of the Imperial Valley economy and supports 1,398 jobs within the Imperial County region. The $110 million dollar annual impact encompasses $77.1 million in industrial output, $24 million in direct employee compensation and $8.8 million in federal, state and local tax revenues.


NAFEC is proud of its commitment to the environment and environmental restoration. The Imperial Valley, which includes Naval Air Facility El Centro, is home to about 70% of the entire Burrowing Owl population in California.

NAFEC is home to several of these owls and all efforts are made to protect them on the installation. The NAFEC ranges are home to the Flat Tailed Horned Lizard.


Since bombing ranges consist of a relatively small target surrounded by large safety zones which are restricted to traffic and other human activity, they are well suited as conservation areas for sensitive species such as the flat- tailed horned lizard and do not impact the primary mission of ordnance-delivery practice for our war fighters.

Winter Home

As the winter home of the Blue Angels, NAFEC has been the proud host to the inaugural air show for the past 47 years. The Blue Angels spend the first three months of the year honing their skills. These long months of practice are put on display, along with other forms of military and civilian demonstrations, the second Saturday of March every year. The annual air show is the largest single day event in the Imperial Valley.

Detachment Support

Range Capabilities Ranges 2510 and 2512 encompass Targets 68, 95, 101 and 103 and are primarily used for air to ground bombing and strafing. The Parachute Test Range is currently used for small UAV training and parachute operations. The Chocolate Mountain Ranges are live fire weapons ranges.

NATO Allies

(UNITED KINGDOM, Canadian, DANish)

Allied forces have long recognized the cost efficiencies of training at Naval Air Facility El Centro. The availability and close proximity of multiple training ranges, dedicated infrastructure and excellent weather coupled with the desert environment create an unparalleled detachment location.

Why Come To NAFEC

Naval Air Facility El Centro ranges are the primary training ranges for student pilot training.

The airfield boasts an illuminated carrier deck landing area and lack of encroachment allows field carrier landing practice to be conducted using a 600 ft pattern.

360 days of clear weather guarantees almost no training interruption.


Training ranges are close – less than five minutes to bombs on target.

A Competition of Compassion

In the Imperial Valley, home to NAF El Centro, unemployment rates average nearly 30 percent, 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 48 percent of the children are food insecure according to the Imperial Valley Food Bank. These statistics are staggering.

To compound the issue, the IV Food Bank experienced a 500,000 pound shortage in donations from the local food growers this year. Summer is especially cruel to these families as children are out of school and no longer have access to free school breakfasts and lunches. Demand on the food bank increases, resources are scarce, and the outlook may seem bleak for many.

But there is hope.

The Feds Feed Families Food Drive Campaign is that hope for the Imperial Valley and for food banks across the nation.
NAF El Centro issued a challenge to the local federal agencies, asking them to join in the fight against the local hunger problem.

The El Centro Sector Border Patrol and its 1200 agents enthusiastically answered that call initiating the inaugural valley wide food gathering challenge. To sweeten the pot, “Team Green” as they were known put up their highly coveted Ultimate Food Gathering Belt as the grand prize in the competition.

Spearheading the event for NAFEC was the facility’s Chaplain, LT Jared Smith. Partnering with the station’s public affairs department, Smith set lofty but achievable goals for the men and women at the Pearl of the Desert. The goal was for the two contestants to raise 50,000 pounds of food and thus offset the food bank’s deficit by ten percent.

As the “Global Force for Good” came out of their corner, they hit Border Patrol with a 20,000 pound donation. But our federal friends did not go down. During the five weeks of competition they fought back, raising 29,335 pounds in total. However, the 700 men and women of the Pearl of the Desert were unstoppable. They continued to pummel the “Green Machine” with their tenacity and knocking out the opponent with a grand total of 53,503 pounds of food.

Per capita, NAF El Centro raised 76.43 pounds of food per person with Border Patrol raising 24.46 pounds per person. Collectively the combined weight of both, 82,838 pounds, exceeded the goal of replacing ten percent of the food bank’s deficit.


Plans are already in the works for a rematch next year. Border Patrol and NAFEC are working to have more agencies join in the contest of compassion.

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