report by: Harry Morrow & Thierry Letellier
Naval Air Station Oceana or NAS Oceana is a military airport located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is a United States Navy Master Jet Base. The base was named as Apollo Soucek Field, after Lieutenant (later Admiral) Apollo Soucek, a Navy Test Pilot who set the global altitude record in 1930 by flying a Curtiss “Hawk” biplane to an altitude of 43,166 feet.In 1940, the U.S. Navy acquired the land that would eventually become Naval Air Station Oceana. In the 1950s NAS Oceana was expanded to Master Jet Base-status to serve that purpose. NAS Oceana has grown to become one of the largest and most advanced air stations in the world, comprising 6,820 acres (including Dam Neck Annex). Obstruction clearances and flight easements total an additional 3,680 acres (14.9 km2).
In the 1960s, NAS Oceana became the home to all East Coast based F-4 Phantom II squadrons. After the F-14 Tomcat arrived on the scene in 1976, VF-101 transitioned to Tomcat operations and Phantom training operations shifted to newly established Fighter Squadron 171 (VF-171) to handle Atlantic Fleet training for the F-4 Phantom until it was retired from service in 1984.The last F-14 was retired on 22 September 2006. At one time, in addition to fighter aircraft, all of the Atlantic Fleet’s A-6 Intruder medium attack squadrons were also home-based at NAS Oceana. NAS Oceana’s primary today’s mission is to train and deploy the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet strike fighter squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers stationed at NAS Oceana fly approximately 219,000 training operations each year. Home to seventeen strike fighter squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18 Super Hornets, the base is the sole East Coast Master Jet Base and home to all the east coast strike-fighter (VFA) units.
This year the NAS Oceana Air Show was pleased to present the United States Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team along with a host of thrilling military and civilian performances. The static display area covered a large portion of the west ramp apron. The southern part of this apron was dedicated to the flying display. Except all the local F/A-18 ; US Navy types included a NAS Corpus Christi based T-6B Texan II, a shark mouthed T-34C Turbo Mentor, VAW-120 E-2C Hawkeye and HSC-9 MH-60S Seahawk plus an E-6B from CSCW-1 at Tinker AFB. The USAF sent a B-52H from 5th BW in Minot AFB and an F-15C from 159th FW / 122 FS LA ANG at NAS JRB New-Orleans. The US ARMY sent a soleCH-47 Chinook.
With the show being hosted by one of the largest active bases in the US Navy, it was not a surprise to see a significant number of military assets forming the majority of the flying display. The NAS Oceana Airshow are always known as a ‘Hornetfest’ and 2017 was fully respected this tradition. A single US Air Force item denied the Navy a monopoly. Flown by Maj John ‘Rain’ Waters, the USAF F-16 Solo Demonstration Team; part of the 20th Fighter Wing based at Shaw AFB, South Carolina displays an F-16CJ “Wild Weasel” used by the unit in the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) role.
VFA-106 ‘Gladiators’ are the only unit at the base to operate both types of F/A-18C ‘Legacy’ Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet in their role as a fleet replacement squadron. Bringing an operational context to the show, the capabilities of the Super Hornet in particular were shown with an Air Power Demonstration led by VFA-105 “Gunslingers”. VFA-105 made a demonstration of the various ground attack profiles that are typically flown during ground targeting procedures.
VFC-12 celebrated a unique event during NAS Oceana Airshow 2017 ; an airborne change of command. The outgoing and incoming Commanders of VFC-12 took centre stage. With Commander Lopes handing the baton to Commander Hood. A trio of VFC-12 “Fighting Omars ” F/A-18C provided an outstanding aerial demonstration of their Agressor rules into the modern combat tactics.
During the Saturday’s display a single EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft from VAQ-209 “Star Warriors” at Naval Air Facility Washington D.C. together with a pair of Strike Fighter Squadron 204 F/A-18A+ from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, took the air to take part of this day VFC-12 change of Command ceremony. To Close the show was the US Navy’s very own flight demonstration squadron, the world-renowned Blue Angels.
With an exceptional flying display lineup, including an excellent representation of based Hornets, and the impeccable Blue Angels alongside a well presented static display, the NAS Oceana Airshow 2017 fully respected it’s outstanding reputation. Globalairpower would like to thanks all the NAS Oceana personnal for their unique support during the media-day held on Friday before the show.