report by: Danny Bonny
Williams Air Force Base (Williams AFB) is in Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona, approximately 30 miles southeast of Phoenix and just east of Chandler. Williams AFB, constructed in 1941, operated primarily as a flight training school from 1942 until the base closed on September 30, 1993.The former Williams Air Force Base played a strategic role in America’s aviation history. Over a span of 52 years, more than 26,500 men and women earned their wings at Williams. Gearing up for the combat pilot demands of World War II, the Army Air Corps broke ground in Southeast Mesa, Ariz. for its Advanced Flying School on July 16, 1941. In February 1942, the growing military base’s name was changed to Williams Field to honor Charles Linton Williams, an Arizona-born pilot. The facility was redesignated as Williams Air Force Base (WAFB) in January 1948.
WAFB was the U.S. Air Force’s foremost pilot training facility, graduating more student pilots and instructors than any other base in the country and supplying 25 percent of the Air Force’s pilots annually. WAFB provided training for a variety of fighter and bomber aircraft including the AT-9, AT-17, P-38, AT-6, B-17, B-24, P-51, P-47, F-86, F-100, T-33, T-37 and T-38.WAFB was closed in 1993 and was transferred to the Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA). AFBCA assumed responsibilities for the restoration and reuse of the base and worked with the Restoration Advisory Board.On February 17, 1995, the Air Force signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Disposal and Reuse of Williams AFB. The decision in this ROD is to dispose of the aviation-related portion of Williams AFB in a manner that will enable the development of a regional airport with the capacity for expanding commercial and industrial development.
The Department of Defense is retaining 10.74 acres for the U.S. Army Reserves, and 8 acres of the U.S. Air Force for continued military use. Amongst many other users of Mesa Gateway is the US Marine Corps. In fact during the w-e it is common to see Aircraft from USMC arriving and operate many sorties from this field. The AV-8B Harrier II is the U.S. military’s only short takeoff, vertical landing jet aircraft in current inventory. Originally flown in the late 1960s, the Harrier has undergone a series of improvements that have increased safety, range and lethality. The AV-8B is a key component of the Marine Corps’ “all STOVL force” concept, allowing Marines to be supported in austere conditions in expeditionary environments.
22,000 pounds of thrust enable the Harrier II to hover like a helicopter, and then blast forward like a jet at near-supersonic speeds. Like every aircraft in the Marine fleet, this aircraft is used for multiple missions, which include attacking and destroying surface and air targets, escorting helicopters, engaging in air-to-air defense, providing reconnaissance and applying offensive and defensive support with its arsenal of missiles, bombs and an onboard 25mm cannon. Offering the versatility to conduct almost any mission, the Harrier II provides the ideal blend of firepower and mobility to effectively counter enemies engaged by our ground forces.
The AV-8B V/STOL strike aircraft was designed to replace the AV-8A and the A-4M light attack aircraft. The Marine Corps requirement for a V/STOL light attack force has been well documented since the late 1950s. Combining tactical mobility, responsiveness, reduced operating cost and basing flexibility, both afloat and ashore, V/STOL aircraft are particularly well suited to the special combat and expeditionary requirements of the Marine Corps. The AV-8BII+ features the APG-65 radar common to the F/A-18, as well as all previous systems and features common to the AV-8BII. The AV-8B will soon be replaced by the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
Primary Function: Close air support/intermediate range intercept/attack mission.
Contractor: McDonnell Douglas Aircraft (Airframe Prime), Rolls Royce (Engine Prime)
Date Deployed: First Flight: 25 May 1968; Operational Capability: July 1971.
TAV-8B/AV-8B Day Attack (DA): One Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-406 turbofan engine with approximately 20,280 pounds of thrust.
AV-8B Night Attack (NA)/AV-8B Radar: One Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-408A turbofan engine with approximately 22,200 pounds of thrust
Length: 46 ft. 4 in. (14.12 m)
Height: 11 ft. 8 in. (3.55 m)
Wingspan: 30 ft. 4 in. (9.25 m)
Many thanks to Danny for this original report.