Air Force Bases

Langley Air Force Base, Virginia

Langley Air Force Base, Va., is among the oldest continuously active air bases in the United States. In 1916, the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics, predecessor to NASA, established the need for a joint airfield and proving ground for Army, Navy and NACA aircraft. NACA determined that the site must be near water for over-water flying, be flat and relatively clear for expansion and the landing and take-off of aircraft and near an Army post. The Army appointed a board of officers who searched for a location. The officers sometimes posed as hunters and fishermen to avoid potential land speculation which would arise if the government's interest in purchasing land were revealed. Fifteen locations were scouted before the site near Hampton was selected.

In 1917, the new proving ground was designated Langley Field for one of America's early air pioneers, Samuel Pierpont Langley. Langley had first made tests with his manned heavier-than-air craft, launched from a houseboat catapult, in 1903. His first attempts failed and he died in 1906, shortly before a rebuilt version of his craft soared into the sky.

Several buildings had been constructed on the field by late 1918. Aircraft on the ramp at that time included the JN-4 Curtis Jenny, used by Langley's School of Aerial Photography, and the deHavilland DH-4 bomber, both used during World War 1. Although short-lived, hydrogen-filled dirigibles played an important role in Langley's early history and a portion of the base is still referred to as the LTA (lighter-than-air) area.

In the early 1920s, Langley became the site where the new air power concept was tried and proven. Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell led bombing runs from Langley over captured German warships anchored off the coast of Virginia. These first successful tests set the precedent for the airplane's new role of strategic bombardment.

Throughout the 1930s Langley Field occupied a princlpal position in the Army's efforts to strengthen the offensive and defensive posture of its air arm. The small grassy field became a major airfield of the Army Air Corps, and many of the brick buildings of today were constructed at that time.

At the outbreak of World War ll Langley took on a new mission, to develop special detector equipment used in antisubmarine warfare. Langley units played a vital role in the sinking of enemy submarines off the United States coast during the war.

On May 25, 1946 the headquarters of the newly formed Tactical Air Command were established at Langley. The command's mission was to organize, train, equip and maintain combat-ready forces capable of rapid deployment to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime air defense. The arrival of Tactical Air Command and jet aircraft marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the field, and in January 1948 Langley Field officially became Langley Air Force Base.

Today the host unit at Langley is the 1st Fighter Wing, with the mission of maintaining combat capability for rapid global deployment to conduct air superiority operations. To accomplish this mission, the 1st Fighter Wing flies the F-15 Eagle, which entered Air Force operational service at Langley in January 1976.

On June 1, 1992, Langley became the headquarters of the newly formed Air Combat Command, as Tactical Air Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force's restructuring. Air Combat Command acts as the primary provider of air combat forces in the warfighting commands and as the proponent for Intercontinental ballistic missiles and fighter, bomber, reconnaissance and battle-management aircraft, and command, control, communications and intelligence systems.

Covering 2,900 acres, Langley is home for more than 8,800 military and approximately 2,800 civilian employees

History of the BOMARC Missile at Langley can be found here.

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