Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland
Naval Air Station Patuxent River (known as "Pax River") stretches across approximately 12 miles of shoreline at the mouth of the Patuxent River in St. Mary's county, overlooking the picturesque Chesapeake Bay, 65 miles southeast of Washington, D.C. and 75 miles south of Baltimore. NAS Patuxent River covers more than 13,800 acres, including the Bloodsworth Island Range and the Webster Field Annex, which is located about 15 miles south of the station. Patuxent River is located outside of Lexington Park in southern Maryland.
Patuxent River is home to the Naval Air Systems Command and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division headquarters. NAVAIR's Aircraft Division at Patuxent River (including the Webster Field Annex) is the Navy's full spectrum acquisition, research, development, test, evaluation and engineering and fleet support activity for manned and unmanned aircraft, engines, avionics, aircraft support systems and ship/shore/air operations. With more than 165,000 air operations annually, activities at Patuxent River fly 140 different aircraft over 780 restricted and 5,000 controlled square miles. Capabilities range from concepts analysis and procurement to flight testing and support equipment. NAS Patuxent River is under the command of Naval District Washington (NDW). NDW is one of ten regions reporting to Commander, Navy Installations. Headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard, NDW is the regional provider of common operating support to twenty Navy installations, including Naval Air Station Patuxent River. NDW is also known as the Quarterdeck of the Navy.
Lincoln Military Housing has entered into a Public Private Venture (PPV) with the Navy and manages all military family housing units that are part of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River complex. There are 771 housing units for officer and enlisted families.
n 1937, the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics sought to consolidate aviation test programs, previously being conducted at several stations, including Dahlgren and Norfolk, Virginia, the Washington Navy Yard, and Naval Air Station Anacostia in Washington, D.C., and the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cedar Point was selected due to its remote location on the coastline, well removed from air traffic congestion, with ample space for weapons testing.
The onset of American involvement in World War II spurred establishment of the new air station. Rear Admiral John Towers, Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics, requested approval and authorization to begin construction on 22 December 1941. Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, gave approval on 7 January 1942 and construction began on 4 April 1942. Residents had about a month, until 1 March 1942, to relocate as the federal government purchased all the land at a cost of $712,287 for 6,412 acres (26 km²).
A lack of transportation in Saint Mary's County led the Navy to revitalize a Pennsylvania Railroad branchline from Brandywine, to Mechanicsville, Maryland and build an extension south from Mechanicsville to the air station in 1944. Known as the U.S. Government Railroad, the rail line was steam-powered and operated south of Brandywine for exclusive official use until 1954, when it ceased operation. A highway extension to the new air station was required by the project-250,000 tons of material were transported by either truck or water routes during a year of construction.
Employing some 7,000 at its peak of construction, the area had very Gold Rush "boom town" feel as local residents were joined by workers from all over the country, eager to get on the high-paying jobs on station.
The Marines take charge on 20 October 1942, U.S. Marines first arrived and took over security. More than 2,200 workers were arrested during a ten month period as the Marines conducted finger-printing and background checks. During construction, housing needs far outstripped supply and barracks were built for workers on the station and, later, several housing areas were erected off station for workers and their families in Lexington Park, formerly Jarboesville, and named in honor of the CV-2, the Navy's third commissioned aircraft carrier, lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea on 8 May 1942.
The station was formally commissioned "U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland" on April 1, 1943. The unofficial name had been Cedar Point or the Naval Air Station at Cedar Point, but officials were concerned about possible confusion with the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, so the new facility was named for the adjacent river.
Since the end of the Cold War, the Navy's Base Realignment and Closure measures have migrated research and testing facilities for both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft to NAS Patuxent River from decommissioned bases. The complex now hosts over 17,000 people, including active-duty service members, civil-service employees, defense contractor employees, and military dependents. NAS Patuxent River is home to the Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters, the Air Test Wing Atlantic, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Commands.
The facility has one of the biggest airfields on the East Coast with a 2-1/2 mile long main runway. In addition to Navy Commands that research, test and develop naval air equipment, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIRSYSCOM) headquarters moved to NAS Patuxent in 1996. Other building occupants include the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, New Housing Welcome Center, the Propulsion System Evaluation Facility (PSEF), and two huge buildings called the North Engineering and South Engineering site.