The Navy’s West Coast Master Jet Base
Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore is the Navy’s newest and largest Master Jet Base. Its mission is to support the Navy’s Pacific Fleet fighter-attack capability. Equipped with facilities to handle the most modern aircraft and associated weapons systems, NAS Lemoore fulfills a critical role in the nation’s defense and has a major impact on the local economy.
As the home of the Pacific Strike Fighter Wing, NAS Lemoore hosts fifteen aircraft squadrons and all four of the West Coast Carrier Air Wings. The F/A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter is the primary aircraft supported at NASL. Currently there are a total of 283 Hornets and Super Hornets. NAS Lemoore safely conducts over 210,000 aircraft operations annually, making it one of the busiest airfields in the Navy.
When the site for NAS Lemoore was chosen in the mid-1950s, the remote location in the central valley of California served several strategic purposes. The location was close enough to the Navy’s seaport facilities for logistical support, but far enough from major population centers to allow for most operations and possible expansion. Today, the remote location still provides for flexibility in use and infrastructure for operations and possible expansion to accommodate rapidly advancing jet technology.
Commissioned in 1961, NAS Lemoore consists of three developed areas: Operations, Administration and Housing. The Operations area includes the airfield, with two offset parallel 13,500-foot long runways, weapons handling and storage facilities, fuels, aviation storage, aircraft using maintenance and overhaul shops. The Administration and Housing areas contain building and ground maintenance shops, training schools, a hospital and medical/dental clinics, administrative offices, bachelor quarters, family homes. Community support facilities include two public schools, a youth center and a child development center. Annually, the installation employs or locally generates over 13,500 jobs and contributes approximately $982 million to the local and regional economy.
The Air Station accommodates a resident population of approximately 6,123 military personnel, 4,100 dependents, 1,477 Department of Defense civilians & contractors and provides services to over 8,100 retired military veterans
and their families. Additionally, it provides for 1,640 single family residence and apartment style units for up to 2,000 bachelor military personnel. Considering the 11,770 personnel working or living on the base, NAS Lemoore is considered the fourth largest “city” in Kings County.
Nestled in the heart of California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley, the station encompasses almost 30,000 acres. Some 18,000 acres are owned outright by the Navy and 12,000 more are used under agricultural lease contract making for the largest agricultural lease program in the Navy.
Based on its remote yet strategic location, Naval Air Station Lemoore is a nationally critical asset with unique capabilities that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
NAS Lemoore SAR Swimmers Qualify
By Melinda Larson
A local lake provides Naval Air Station Lemoore’s Search and Rescue (SAR) team a premiere aquatic platform to qualify its rescue swimmers in direct deployment rescue methods at the land-locked Navy base. Most SAR commands conduct the training and certifications in the open ocean.
“We are unique because we only have nearby lakes available for training,” said Lt. Tim Lacy, the team’s SAR officer.
The SAR unit works with the California State Park’s Millerton Lake rangers to conduct the day and night training.
“We like to conduct the jumps in the summer months because the water temperature is tolerable, around 80 degrees,” said Lacy of the lake that’s located about 50 miles northeast of the installation.
A lake setting is conducive to the complex training, according to the team’s SAR standardization petty officer.
“There’s no sea state on lakes, and lakes tend to have depth,” noted Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Sean Sondergaard. “Millerton is more than 300-feet deep versus a depth of about 18-feet that I experienced while training in Willoughby Bay near Norfolk.”
To accomplish both day and night jumps the SAR team arrives at the lake in the early evening. The swimmers take turns being designated as a survivor. Once over the “survivor’s” location, a swimmer is deployed. The helicopter descends to approximately 10-feet off the water while forward air speed is slowed to approximately 10 knots. Once the proper airspeed, altitude and position over the water is established, the rescuer is given a signal to deploy by the crew chief and the swimmer pushes himself out of the aircraft and into the water below.
“The goal is to get a rescuer to a survivor’s side as smooth and safe as possible,” Lacy added. “A rescue boat with a qualified rescue swimmer onboard monitors the entire qualification process.”
Five of NAS Lemoore’s seven SAR rescue swimmers are now qualified in direct deployment rescue methods.
The SAR team at NAS Lemoore was established in October 2012. Currently there are three Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk helicopters in the unit that will provide search and rescue capabilities to support the open water training requirements of the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Fleet’s 15 strike fighter squadrons based at the air station.