Military Review

Florida landfills (part of 9)


In the southwestern part of Florida, there is a marine base aviation Naval Air Station Key West. A naval base was established in the area to counter piracy in 1823. It was significantly expanded in 1846 during the Mexican-American War. During the American-Spanish War of 1898, the entire American Atlantic fleet was based here. During the First World War, seaplanes and airships were based at Key West. They were supposed to oppose the German submarines off the coast of Florida. Before the surrender of Germany, more than 500 naval pilots and aviation specialists were trained at the base.

The first Coast Guard aircraft deployed at Key West was the float biplane Curtiss N-9, arrived 22 September 1917 of the year. Two-seater aircraft with a hp 150 water-cooled engine. developed a maximum speed of 126 km / h.

Curtiss N-9 at the coastal parking lot at Key West

Patrol "Curtiss" were attracted to search for German submarines, surfaced to charge the batteries. At first glance it may seem that a fragile biplane armed with a single machine gun did not pose a particular threat to enemy submarines, but at the disposal of the observer there were several light bombs. Due to the low speed of the aircraft on tests, manually dropped bombs could be put in a circle with a diameter of 5 meters. In the case of an attack from a surfaced submarine, even these small-caliber bombs posed a real danger to her.

In the interwar period, the naval aviation station "Key West" continued to remain a training center for the training of pilots, observer pilots and technicians. 15 December 1940, the base has become one of the main training points for naval aviation, and large-scale construction of runways and technical hangars began here.

A snapshot of Key West, taken in 40's

By 1943, the main capital facilities of the air base took on the current look. Capital hangars and three concrete lanes were built in Key West: one with a length of 3048 m and two along the 2134 m.

Satellite image of Google Earth: a modern view of Key West

Flight and technical personnel were trained at the base for hydroaviation, coastal and deck-based aircraft. In 1943, coastal anti-submarine Douglas B-18 Bolo and Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina hydroplanes tracked down German submarines off the coast of Florida.

Florida landfills (part of 9)

PBY-5A seaplane on patrol

After the end of the war, the base continued to be used for training naval aviation personnel. In 1946, the 1 th test squadron of the “Operational and Combat Test Center of Naval Aviation” was formed here. This unit was engaged in evaluating the effectiveness of anti-submarine weapons: acoustic buoys, helicopter-mounted hydrophones and anti-submarine torpedoes.

In the middle of 1962, the 671-I radar squadron serving the AN / FPS-37 radar and the AN / FPS-6 radio altimeter was deployed to Key West. After the start of the “Caribbean Crisis”, the air base became the leading edge of the Cold War. It was based here on the P-2 Neptune patrol aircraft and the P-5 Marlin hydroplanes participating in the blockade of Cuba.

P-2 Neptune flies over Soviet cargo ship to Cuba

Calculations radars deployed here were on duty in a state of high alert. They were assigned the task of detecting rocket launches and takeoff of Il-28 bomber from the “Island of Freedom”. To protect against front-line cruise missiles, the FKR-1 and bombers in the vicinity of the airbase deployed batteries of the Nike-Hercules and Hawk systems.

As you know, in 70-s almost all the positions of the air defense system in the continental part of the United States were dismantled. But in Florida, they persisted until the last moment, despite the fact that Soviet missiles were withdrawn from Cuba. Moreover, in the second half of the 60's, in Key West, the existing AN / FPS-67 circular radars and the AN / FPS-90 altimeters were upgraded and added. The Americans seriously feared the Soviet long-range Tu-95 bombers, which could use the Cuban runways as jump airfields. Operation of the AN / FPS-67 and AN / FPS-90 radars was completed in the 1988 year.

ARSR-4 radar

Now the airspace in this area is controlled by the ARSR-4 automated stationary three-coordinate radar with a range of detection of high-altitude targets 450 km.

In 1973, the headquarters of the 1 of the attack and reconnaissance wing settled at Key West. The aircraft wing was armed with reconnaissance aircraft: RA-5C Vigilante, TA-3B Skywarrior and TA-4F / J Skyhawk.

RA-5C Vigilante at the Key West Memorial Complex

Separately, I want to stay on the plane RA-5C. To begin with, the Vigilant 60 was a unique machine. This large, heavy, and very high-tech for its time twin-engine, deck-based aircraft had outstanding flight data. During its creation, many technical solutions were used that were not previously used in other aircraft. To control the A-5 used electrical systems. For the first time in American aircraft, bucket-shaped adjustable air intakes were used. The Vigilant became the first carrier-based aircraft, which had an internal bomb bay, a wing without ailerons (instead of them interceptors and a differentially deflected stabilizer) and all-or-round vertical empennage.

For its size and mass, the A-5 had unexpectedly good maneuverability and could make supersonic throws when air defense was broken through. The aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 28 550 kg had a combat range without PTB 1580 km. With the breakthrough of air defense in supersonic flight mode, the radius was 1260 km. At an altitude of 12000 meters, the aircraft developed the speed of 2124 km / h, on the ground - 1296 km / h. The widget flying at supersonic speeds in 60s was not vulnerable to interceptor fighters.

RA-5C in flight over the Florida coast

But, as is often the case, the price for high performance was a very complex and expensive service. A-5 was originally designed to deliver nuclear weapons, but the admirals of the US Navy in the context of the war in Indochina required a universal, simple and, if possible, inexpensive deck bomber. In addition, a fairly large "widget" took up too much space on the aircraft carrier. It was possible to place two Skyhawks on the same square.

As a result, the US Navy command preferred the Grumman A-6 Intruder as a deck bomber, and the existing Vigillents were converted into scouts. In this role, the plane was not bad. Also the fleet far fewer scouts were required than striking machines, and high operating costs did not play a decisive role. The low vulnerability of Vigilant from air defense systems in the target area was largely guaranteed by a high supersonic flight speed. Eight out of ten RA-5C reconnaissance squadrons participated in 32 combat campaigns of aircraft carriers. According to American data, 17 aircraft were lost from the effects of anti-aircraft guns and air defense systems in Vietnam, another Vigillent was shot down by an MiG-21 interceptor.

After the end of hostilities in Indochina, the decommissioning of RA-5C began. In peacetime, the maintenance of expensive and complex aircraft has become too burdensome. At the end of 70's, the Vigilantes from the decks of aircraft carriers for the most part migrated to coastal airfields, and in 1980, the last reconnaissance aircraft RA-5C was finally taken out of service.

In the middle of the 70-x from the naval base "Norfolk" in the "Key West" moved 33-I training squadron of electronic warfare. In Florida, the equipment and personnel of the EW squadron experienced new jamming equipment and imitated various radio electronic threats during the naval and naval aviation exercises. Some cars along with the insignia of the US Navy carried red stars.


The 33 Squadron had: 4 ERA-3B Skywarrior, 4 EA-4F Skyhawk, one copy of EF-4B and EF-4J Phantom II and one NC-121K Warning Star. In the SEC squadron were collected unique to the US Navy aircraft. So, in the ERA-3B Skywarrior version, the entire 8 aircraft were converted. All Skyhawks, modified for the production of radio-electronic interference, as well as the naval "Phantoms" of a similar purpose, were based in Key West. Until 1982, VAQ-33 operated the last piston giant Warning Star.


In 1978, in the 33 Squadron, four EA-6A Electric Intruder appeared, transmitted by the Marine Corps. These machines, like the ERA-3B, were the last used in the US Navy aviation until the liquidation of the October 1 squadron of the 1993 of October.


After the decommissioning of the NC-121K squadron received two aircraft EP-3J. These machines, re-equipped from anti-submarine P-3A Orion, were used in exercises to jam the ship’s radar and imitate the work of the radio-technical systems of the Soviet bombers. Until the moment of disbandment, 33-I EW squadron toured extensively in the US Navy aviation bases. Several times a year, electronic warfare aircraft participated in large-scale exercises held on the Eastern and West coasts of the United States, in Europe and Asia.

Due to favorable climatic conditions and a large number of sunny days a year, Key West has become the permanent home base for fighter-based fighters. In 70-80, the “Phantoms” of the 101 and 171 fighter squadrons were deployed here. In 1984, the F-4 Phantom II in Key West replaced the F-14 Tomcat, which were operated in Florida until 2005.

F-14W over the Florida coast

In 1999, the first F / A-18С / D Hornet 106 th strike fighter squadron settled in Key West. In 2005, the 106 Squadron received the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet. The main function of the 106 Squadron in the past was the training and training of pilots, retraining from other types of carrier-based aircraft. At the moment, on the "Hornet" and "Superhorntes", based in "Key West", new types of aviation weapons are being developed. In addition, the 106 squadron fighters, if necessary, are involved in air defense missions and interception of light aircraft, on which smugglers are trying to deliver cocaine to the United States.

Unique even by the standards of the United States aviation unit is the 45-I Fighter Squadron. After a collision in Vietnam with Soviet-made fighter aircraft, the admirals of the naval forces were surprised to find that most of the fighter pilots were not prepared to conduct close, maneuverable air combat. At the first stage, the main "sparring partner" of American aircraft in Vietnam was the subsonic MiG-17F. This seemingly hopelessly outdated fighter turned out to be an unexpectedly strong adversary. Powerful cannon armament and good horizontal maneuverability of the MiG-17F made it very dangerous at low and medium altitudes.

For training in close air combat, the US Navy has chosen specially modified Douglas A-4E / F Skyhawk as a conditional enemy. On the Skyhawks prepared for use as a mock enemy, they dismantled the built-in armament, bomb racks and armor protection and installed Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408 forced engines. At the same time, the Skyhawks of the 45th Fighter Squadron carried red stars and tactical numbers adopted by the USSR Air Force for greater realism.

A-4E from 45 Squadron at Key West Memorial Complex

Pilots of the highest qualification flew on the converted Skyhawks, and in a relatively short time they brought up the level of training of deck fighters pilots. This directly affected the results of real air contractions and losses in Vietnam. Naval pilots who flew the Phantoms showed better performance in aerial combat than pilots of the US Air Force.

Although most of the A-4 attack aircraft were decommissioned at the end of the 80's, these planes flew into Key West until the middle of the 90's. Along with the Skyhacks, the 45 Squadron used modified F-5E / F Freedom Fighter fighter jets, and, which is uncharacteristic for the US Navy, F-16N Fighting Falcon, which were lightweight F-16A.

In 1996, the 45 Squadron was disbanded due to the end of the Cold War and to save budget funds. However, it soon became clear that this decision was hasty. Through the 10 years, in November 2006, in Key West, a new 111 th Fighter Squadron was formed. As in the case of the 45 Squadron, the main purpose of the 111 th "reserve" was the training of pilots of the US Navy in close combat. Since most of the American Freedom Fighters had exhausted their resources by the end of the 90, and for training they needed an airplane unfamiliar to the naval pilots, it was decided to purchase second-hand X-NUMX F-32E / F in Switzerland.

Google Earth satellite image: F / A-18 С / D, F / A-18E / F and F-5N / F fighters parked at Key West base

The F-5N Fighter Modernization Program was launched in 2000 year. An upgraded version of the F-5N was assembled at Northrop Grumman from the out-of-life F-5E and delivered Swiss aircraft. This model is distinguished by dismantled weapons and systems necessary for its use, a reinforced airframe design and special digital equipment fixing flight parameters and the process of conducting an air combat training. The satellite navigation system and a multifunctional color display were introduced into the F-5N avionics, which made it possible to significantly improve the navigation capabilities and the situational awareness of the pilot. "Aggressors" received red stars and color, not typical for American fighters.

F-5N from the 111 squadron

The conversion of the entire batch took about 2 years. The first flight of the upgraded F-5N made in March 2003. After the decision was made to establish a squadron at Key West, the naval command financed an additional supply of 12 aircraft.

In September, 2005, the leadership of the Navy decided to retrofit a new 111 squadron of aggressors with double cars. For this, the second phase of the F-5F Sparks modernization program was launched. Currently, 111 Squadron at Key West has an 18 single and double F-5N / F airbase.

In the summer of 1994, the Key West airbase became the main springboard in preparing the military operation in Haiti. In the direction of Haiti, P-3C Orion and E-3A Sentry flew reconnaissance missions. From here, the airplanes of the “psychological operations” EC-130E Commando Solo were working, from which propaganda of propaganda bodies and radio programs was broadcast. And after the landing of the US military contingent "Key West" was used by military transport C-130H Hercules.

However, the "Key West" airbase, located close to the Caribbean island states, has been the basis for the preparation of special operations and "ideological sabotage" since the 60-s. It was from here that the first “flying television and radio stations” of the EU-121S Coronet Solo acted against Cuba.

Google Earth satellite image: B-1В bombers, KS-135 tanker and F / A-18 fighters at Key West airbase

At the airbase there is a school for training sea saboteurs, the intelligence center "South" and the regional headquarters of the coast guard. The Key West airstrip is regularly used by P-3C, P-8A, E-2C and E-2D aircraft patrolling the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean as part of a program to combat drug smuggling. In addition, the airbase serves as an intermediate point for flights of American combat aircraft to the Middle East.

To be continued ...

Based on:
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Articles from this series:
Florida landfills (part of 1)
Florida landfills (part of 2)
Florida landfills (part of 3)
Florida landfills (part of 4)
Florida landfills (part of 5)
Florida landfills (part of 6)
Florida landfills (part of 7)
Florida landfills (part of 8)

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  1. Amurets
    Amurets 13 September 2017 07: 19
    A naval base was established in the area to counter piracy in 1823. It was significantly expanded in 1846 during the Mexican-American War.

    Sergei! Thank. Surprised today by boot time. What you started with piracy was a problem from the time of Spanish rule and, in my opinion, has not yet been resolved. Smugglers still use Florida's mangroves to deliver drugs.
    In general, I liked the article. Interesting.
  2. Alex_59
    Alex_59 13 September 2017 11: 09
    And at the bottom right there on this Key West is the Destroyed HAWK Missle Site. smile
  3. NIKNN
    NIKNN 13 September 2017 18: 46
    Thank you Sergey, for the most interesting information (I always read it with pleasure), but let me doubt a little (there isn’t your information),
    In 1898, the entire American Atlantic fleet was based here. During the First World War seaplanes and airships were based at Key West. They were supposed to oppose the German submarines off the coast of Florida
    . How could one fear German submarines in America in 1898? Or is it like now "Russia with cardboard tanks can conquer all" (tears of the foreign press) .. lol
    1. Amurets
      Amurets 14 September 2017 00: 39
      Quote: NIKNN
      . How could one fear German submarines in America in 1898?

      Most likely, the idea was incorrectly formulated, because German submarines in the WWII represented a serious threat to the United States. Quotations taken from Herbert Wilson's book “Battleships in Battle”
      On July 9, 1916, the German submarine Deutschland arrived in Baltimore from Bremen, from where it sailed on June 14 *; she was declared a merchant ship and brought mail and 200 tons of dyes; in return, she loaded nickel and rubber. Its surface displacement was 1500 tons, underwater - 1870 tons, sailing radius with an economical course - 13 miles; the highest speed above the water - 100 knots.
      She safely returned to Germany and in October - November 1916 made another flight. Another boat of the same kind, the Bremen, disappeared into the sea, probably encountering a British mine. The Deutschland voyage has historical significance since it was the first voyage made by an unarmed submarine. It is possible that it was undertaken as a reminder to Wilson that Germany has "long arms." A little later, on October 7, the U 53 submarine (Rose) arrived in Newport (USA). It was a boat of the usual German type with a surface speed of 17 knots. It covered a distance of 7 miles, without renewing the supply of fuel and lubricant, although the nominal cruising range of this type was only 750 miles. "
      "The German decision - to sink all the ships met from February 1, 1917 - did not make significant changes in the actions of German submarines; a few weeks before the announcement of this decision, they destroyed every ship that they could approach without any risk to themselves *. Its significance consisted mainly of the fact that it was an open challenge and intimidation towards the neutral and, above all, to the United States.The German government was deeply convinced that, thanks to the merciless submarine war, it would quickly win the war **. the headquarters, in a note dated February 12, 1916, stated that “an unlimited submarine warfare will force the enemy to conclude peace with Germany no later than 6 months later.” At the end of 1916, the German headquarters expressed the view that a merciless submarine warfare had been launched since the beginning of 1917 The city will ensure peace in May and no later than July 1917. After weighing the chances for and against intervention in the US war, the German naval general the tab considered it possible to ignore the danger of this intervention, as he was sure that the Allies would not have enough tonnage to transport significant forces across the ocean, even if the United States created a large army, and that the war would end before it could be created. "
      1. NIKNN
        NIKNN 14 September 2017 01: 01
        Quote: Amurets
        Most likely, the idea is incorrectly formulated,

        Probably .., just hooked ..., not worth attention, the nature of this, thanks for the clarification ... hi
        1. Amurets
          Amurets 14 September 2017 01: 49
          Quote: NIKNN
          I guess ... it’s just hooked ... it’s not worth attention, such a nature,

          Good nature, get to the truth. Because you seem to start with the obvious, and you find yourself the devil knows where. Moreover, Sergey already noted in the article that aviation became the most effective means of combating submarines. Especially after 1943, when escort carriers carried to combat submarines began to be included in convoys. And here is one of the episodes on the Federation Council from the book of P. Tsupko. "Over the expanses of the northern seas"
          "But Usenko did not turn the Pe-3 heading toward the coast, but continued to fly to the north-west, explained gloomily:
          - Let's see one last time. Maybe at least some kind of galosh. It's a shame to return without anything ...
          "Galoshes" pilots nicknamed the enemy submarines. From the air, if you look closely at the water column, you can see them in an underwater position. The pilots of the 95th even managed to attack them. Therefore, now all Pe-3 crews took with them two anti-submarine submarine bombs.
          Fighters rounded the front ships of the escort, flew the required distance forward, then lengthened it. In vain! How Konstantin did not want to obey the need! Slowly, very slowly, he threw the car into a U-turn, his eyes searching around. And suddenly Lopatin cried out:
          - There is! Yes, Kostya! She, the boat! To the left of the breaker course from the periscope, see? "
          1. NIKNN
            NIKNN 14 September 2017 10: 17
            Thank. I did not know that Pe-3 were used as anti-submarine ... it is surprising that there were no torpedo bombers in the series of "pawns" ... request
            1. Amurets
              Amurets 14 September 2017 11: 41
              Quote: NIKNN
              it is surprising that in the series of "pawns" there were no torpedo bombers ...

              In principle, the Pe-2 Pawn was originally a VI-100 fighter, and therefore it had a small payload. Destructive roots affected. Still, the torpedo 45-36AN weighed more than 900kg.
              1. NIKNN
                NIKNN 14 September 2017 11: 46
                Quote: Amurets
                Pe-2 pawn is a VI-100 fighter

                Yes, I am aware, and most likely the question is not "..weighed more than 900kg ...), but the complexity of the alteration (in wartime) of bomb bombs or other pendants, and the war at sea was not so effective or necessary in order to orient the industry towards it ... it was enough IL-4 and IL-2T with torpedoes ...
                1. The comment was deleted.
    2. zyablik.olga
      zyablik.olga 14 September 2017 05: 26
      Quote: NIKNN
      898 of the year was based here the entire American Atlantic fleet. In years The First World seaplanes and dirigibles were based in Key West. They had to counteract the German submarines off the coast of Florida

      Well, I do not know, I understand everything. requestIt is said the same "during the First World War." When when it began and ended everyone knows.
      1. NIKNN
        NIKNN 14 September 2017 10: 19
        Quote: zyablik.olga
        Well, I do not know, I understand everything.

        love The fact is that in those years the range of the submarine, well, did not at all allow (even in the surface position) to reach the shores of America ..., the crew simply would not have enough products ... wink
        1. zyablik.olga
          zyablik.olga 14 September 2017 12: 32
          Quote: NIKNN
          The fact is that in those years the range of the submarine, well, did not at all allow (even in the surface position) to reach the shores of America ..., the crew simply would not have enough products ...

          Thanks for a flower. Maybe you're right. But as far as I remember, the death of “Lusitania” made a great impression on the Americans and they were preparing to repel the underwater threat in all ways.
          1. NIKNN
            NIKNN 14 September 2017 12: 47
            Quote: zyablik.olga
            thanks for a flower

            For you With such support as Sergey as much as you like love however, on May 7, 1915 in the Celtic Sea, 19 km from the coast of Ireland, Lusitania was sunk and yet it was Europe and it was impossible to swim to America without using submarine transports, which then did not exist in dreams ..., well and still times as a sign of respect .. love
          2. NIKNN
            NIKNN 14 September 2017 13: 32
            Here the explanation is simple. The proving ground was used for the specific purpose of the proving grounds. This explains the presence of anti-submarine weapons there, + to all, they provided the allies with methods and means of counteracting submarines ... could not resist again love sorry if that ... feel
  4. Decabrev
    Decabrev 14 September 2017 23: 28
    Wonderful series of articles!