Through the post-World War II years, the little station that started in an inaccessible area of Oceana grew with naval aviation. Initially commissioned as Naval Auxiliary Air Station Oceana on Aug. 17, 1943, the need for more runways and training grew so quickly that by 1952, Oceana had become too large to work as a subordinate to other air stations in the area. Capt. Whitmore Butts assumed command in March 1952, and on April 1, 1952, the secretary of the Navy changed the station’s designation to NAS Oceana.
To meet its mission of service to the fleet, which remains the command’s mission, Oceana grew at a slow-but-fruitful pace. On Aug. 24, 1952, ground was broken for the relocation of the air station on the south side of the field where it is today. It was the beginning of the end for old north station. Today all that remains are a couple of Quonset huts.
With the introduction of jets to the Navy’s arsenal, the isolated location of Oceana and its long runways made it well-suited for the servicing of this type of aircraft. Oceana became the center of jet traffic in the Virginia Tidewater area.
Plans for the ultimate development of the master jet base concept were put into full force during 1953, as numerous contracts were awarded for the erection of buildings on the south side. Contracts were awarded for the construction of a hangar, parachute loft, administration building, line shacks, crash and salvage building, magazines, supply facilities, transportation garage, operations building, heating plant, infirmary, galley, high-speed jet refueling pits and an enlisted man’s club.
Naval Air Station Oceana has the longest runways in the Hampton Roads area. Therefore, it is capable of handling emergency traffic during periods of extremely inclement weather. The station has, at various times during the 1950s, been the only field open between Charleston, S.C., and Dover, Del.
Dedication ceremonies were held June 4, 1957, naming the field after Vice Adm. Apollo Soucek. Soucek was noted for setting three world altitude records in the 1930s.
On April 26, 1961, the first squadron of F-4B Phantom IIs landed at Oceana. The event marked the introduction of the F-4B to the East Coast for the purposes of fleet training and operation.
The A-6A Intruder was accepted for the Navy during an Oceana ceremony in February 1963. Attack Squadron (VA) 42 was the first Atlantic Fleet squadron to receive the Intruder. The last Intruder squadron, VA-75, was disestablished in February 1997.
Aircraft from Oceana maintained a continuous involvement in the Vietnam War, beginning the early months of 1965. The Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVA 62) was first to deploy with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 with VA-75 and VA-84 from Oceana.
As Oceana entered the decade of the 1970s, the total plant value was more than $90 million. The annual payroll exceeded $53 million. Oceana’s total Navy community, including family members, numbered approximately 18,000.
In 1972, initial logistic support planning for the introduction of the F-14 Tomcat began. In September 1974, Hangar 404 was completed at a cost of more than $5 million. The two Tomcat squadrons, Fighter Squadron (VF) 14 and VF-32, were the first to occupy hangar spaces. In April 1976, an F-14 Replacement Air Group (RAG) squadron, VF-101, was established to train aviators transitioning into the Tomcat. The F/A-18 Hornets arrived from Cecil Field, Florida, in 1998 and 1999. The last Tomcat squadron, VF-31, transitioned to the F/A-18E Super Hornet in September 2006.
Today, NAS Oceana operates 18 F/A-18 Hornet squadrons, including Fleet Composite Squadron (VFC) 12, a squadron that performs air combat maneuvering training. The Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit Oceana trains highly qualified maintenance technicians for the squadrons. NAS Oceana is also the home of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 56.
As Oceana moves into its 75th year, the base’s annual payroll will be nearly $1 billion. An additional $1 billion of goods and services is provided, making a total economic impact of approximately $2 billion. The station is on 5,916 acres, has 317 aircraft and buildings valued at $823 million in plant replacement value. The total Navy community, including family members, numbers approximately 20,000 people. NAS Oceana is one of the largest employers in Virginia Beach.