|Orlando Army Air Base (1940-1947)
Orlando Air Force Base (1947-1968)
Naval Training Center Orlando (1968-1999)
|Part of Military Air Transport Service (MATS)
Military Airlift Command (MAC)
Tactical Air Command (TAC)
Chief of Naval Education and Training (CNET)
|Located near: Orlando, Florida|
Orlando Air Force Base - 1954
|Controlled by||United States Navy|
|Built by||United States Army Air Corps|
|Battles/wars||World War II
|Occupants||Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics
1306th Air Base Group
Air Rescue Service
4504th Missile Training Wing
Naval Training Center Orlando is a former United States Navy training installation located in Orlando, Florida. It was originally established in 1940 as Orlando Army Air Base, a World War II advanced flight training base for the United States Army Air Corps, later United States Army Air Forces, that was also used earlier in the war for coastal patrols until the turnover of the coastal patrol mission to maritime patrol aircraft of the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard and civilian aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol. Prior to 1940, the airport was used as the Orlando Municipal Airport, and served primarily commercial flights from its construction in 1929 to 1940. When acquired by the Army Air Corps, multiple new landing strips were built to control the demand created by the many aircraft stationed at the base.
Its airfield, the present day Orlando Executive Airport, was returned to the control of the City of Orlando at the end of World War II while the remaining base infrastructure located north of Florida Highway 50 was later used after 1947 as Orlando Air Force Base, a United States Air Force installation conducting ground technical training and ground-launched missile training for a number of USAF specialities, and headquarters facilities for various USAF commands and agencies until the base was transferred to the U.S. Navy in late 1968.
Orlando AFB-cum-NTC Orlando was located just north of Florida Highway 50, directly north of the present day Orlando Executive Airport. Access through the main gate was on Corrine Drive at the intersection with Bennett Drive. An additional gate was located in the northeast corner of the base on Lakemont Avenue and provided access to the cantonment area containing USAF Hospital Orlando (until 1968)-cum-Naval Hospital Orlando (until 1999), as well as access to and from the adjacent city of Winter Park. Orlando AFB was located approximately eight miles north of McCoy Air Force Base (formerly Pinecastle AFB), a second USAF installation that was also located in Orlando.
Orlando AFB was inactivated as a U.S. Air Force installation on 31 December 1967 and jurisdiction transferred to the United States Navy effective 1 Janunary 1968, although the last major USAF unit was not inactivated on the station until June 1970. The last minor USAF organization, the USAF Liaison Office to the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, continued to remain as a tenant activity on the subsequent U.S. Navy installation until its relocation to McCoy AFB in 1971.
On 1 January 1968, the installation was renamed by the Navy as Naval Training Center Orlando, and became the newest of three Naval Training Centers, conducting initial enlisted recruit training (e.g., "boot camp") along with extant facilities NTC Great Lakes, Illinois and NTC San Diego, California. From 1968 until 19 October 1994, NTC Orlando was also the sole location for providing recruit training for female enlisted personnel. In addition to recruit training, NTC Orlando also conducted selected enlisted apprenticeship and technical school training, as well as nuclear power training for both officers and enlisted personnel until late 1999, when it was closed per a 1993 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission decision.
Orlando Municipal Airport opened in 1928 on 65 acres of land north of Lake Underhill. In 1940, with Europe at war, the United States Army Air Corps took over the airport for defense purposes, activating it as the Orlando Army Air Base on 1 September 1940.
A vast construction program was subsequently begun at the airport, extending to the north and west of the original airfield. The first Army Air Corps planes arrived on 5 September 1940 and the base became the Interceptor Command School of the United States Army Air Corps (later United States Army Air Forces). During the next two years, additional land was obtained and multiple auxiliary landing fields were built throughout Central Florida to the north, south and west of the base:
The initial host unit at Orlando AAB was the 26th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron, activated on 7 September 1940. Operationally, once enough construction was completed, the first operational mission assigned to the new base was to conduct reconnaissance over the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, looking for Nazi U-Boats.
Training Command at Maxwell Field, Alabama sent three squadrons of obsolete trainers to Orlando in September 1940, the aircraft capable of over-water reconnaissance in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Florida Atlantic coastline. The Maxwell squadrons operated until mid-1941 when they were relieved from duty and reassigned to Eglin Field, Florida for other duties. Three squadrons of armed B-18 Bolo medium bombers were sent from I Bomber Command at Langley Field, Virginia to replace the unarmed observation aircraft. Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command sent two additional B-18 squadrons from New York and New England to Orlando AAB as well.
The B-18s had been modified for antisubmarine warfare, and flew armed reconnaissance strike patrols from the airfield until January 1942 when the antisubmarine mission was transferred to other airfields.
The major mission of Orlando AAB became a training center for pilots and fighter and bomber groups. Operations through the war years, beginning in November 1942, were centered on what became the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics (AAFSAT) in October 1943. Headquartered at Orlando AAB, AAFSAT's function was to train cadres from newly formed units in combat operations under simulated field conditions as the cores around which new combat groups would be formed.
AAFSAT operated a combat simulation facility in Florida. Units and airfields were established throughout an 8,000-square-mile (21,000 km2) area of central and north central Florida designated a mock "war theater," stretching roughly from Tampa to Titusville and from Starke to Apalachicola in which war games were conducted using numerous military airfields. AAFSAT also had a bombing range at Ocala Army Airfield, a service center at Leesburg Army Airfield, and an air depot at Pinecastle Army Airfield
In addition to its training function, the school also developed as a tactical doctrine development center, assuming the functions formerly assigned to the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS). In this function, it also became known as the Army Air Forces Tactical Center (AAFTAC).
The size and importance of the Orlando base, where pilots tested new aircraft brought notable visitors such as Chief of the Army Air Force General Hap Arnold and entertainer Bob Hope. In October 1943, the name of the school was changed to the Army Air Forces Tactical Center. In 1945 it was changed again to the Army Air Forces Center.
The first unit assigned to AAFSAT was the 50th Fighter Group, which was reassigned from III Interceptor Command in Mississippi in March 1942. Equipped with three squadrons of P-40 Warhawks (Later P-47 Thunderbolts), the 50th engaged in mock combat missions over the AAFSAT range training pilots in combat maneuvers.
The second unit assigned to AAFSAT was the 9th Bombardment Group, reassigned from Sixth Air Force in the Caribbean in October 1942. The 9th was equipped with a mixture of B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, along with B-25 Mitchell and B-26 Marauder medium bombers. the 9th operated its squadrons from the nearby Pinecastle Army Airfield (5th BS, 99th BS) and also from Brooksville Army Airfield (1st BS) which runways could better accommodate the heavy bombers. Its squadrons trained bomber crews in attack missions, also air-to-air defense against fighter attacks.
A third group assigned to AAFSAT was the 415th Bombardment Group (Light), which operated from Alachua Army Airfield, near Gainesville. It flew a mixture of A-24 Dauntless dive bombers, A-36 Apache ground support aircraft and A-20 Havoc attack and light bombers. The three groups comprised the majority of combat aircraft types used by the Army Air Forces.
In addition to the assigned training units at Orlando, training units from throughout the United States sent aircrews and instructors to Orlando for advanced combat training, the knowledge then was taken back to the home units.
In April 1944, the 50th Fighter Group was relieved from training duties, and deployed to Ninth Air Force in England to participate in the planned invasion of France. The 9th Bombardment Group was reassigned to Dalhart Army Airfield, Texas for Second Air Force B-29 Superfortress transition training. It later deployed to the Marianas in the Central Pacific Area where it engaged in the aerial bombardment campaign against the Japanese Home Islands beginning in December 1944. The 415th Bombardment Group also was reassigned to Dalhart AAF and was planned to transition into a B-17 Replacement Training Unit (RTU). Instead, it was inactivated as B-29 training meant the need for B-17 aircrews diminished.
The training mission of the groups was replaced by the 903d Army Air Forces Base Unit on 1 April 1944 with "Section C" taking over the fighter training, and "Section D", the bombardment training. Other sections of the 903d were used for base support services. The various squadrons were designated beginning with "A".
On 1 June 1945, AAFSAT was redesignated as the Army Air Forces School, and the training mission at Orlando AAB continued until the end of the war. On 29 November 1945, the school was relocated to Maxwell Field, Alabama.
Night fighter combat over the skies of England made the USAAF aware of the need for night air defense training and tactics development. The Third Air Force was ordered to develop a training program to produce pilots with night fighting skills in early 1942. An Air Defense Operational Training Unit was established on 26 March. A few days later this was renamed the Interceptor Command School. One of the units assigned to the school was the 50th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), later renamed the 50th Fighter Group (50th FG).
While the 10th and 313th remained as pursuit fighter training squadrons with P-40 Warhawks, the 81st was given the responsibilities of night fighter training operations. In July 1942, the 81st received one B-18 Bolo and a number of modified Douglas A-20 Havocs for night fighter operations, designated P-70s. By the end of September, the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics' (AAFSAT) Night Fighter Department (Dark) was activated and the 81st Fighter Squadron was detached from the 50th FG and placed directly under the Department for training and operations. About 20 pilots were in the first class.
In October 1942, the personnel and equipment of the 81st were reassigned to the newly formed 348th and 349th Night Fighter Squadrons, and returned to operational control of the 50th Fighter Group. The 50th FG remained a training squadron at AAFSAT until early 1944.
The Night Fighter Department's immediate requirement was to train night fighter pilots for two operational squadrons that were destined for Hawaii and one for Panama. However the training program could not initially be carried out due to a lack of training aircraft. The first two classes graduated in December 1942 with only 80% of the planned flight training due to a lack of equipment, all of the pilots would be assigned to the 6th Night Fighter Squadron in Hawaii.
In early January 1943 the 349th NFS was moved to Kissimmee Army Airfield, Florida, where night fighter training would be conducted, leaving Orlando AAB to form and equip the squadrons, although some night fighter training remained at Orlando AAB.
In January 1944, the entire program was moved to Hammer Field, California and placed under IV Fighter Command. The reasons for this was that most programmed P-61 squadrons were planned for operations in the Pacific Theater and CBI, as well as the proximity of Hammer Field to the Northrop manufacturing facility at Hawthorne, California.
Night fighter training, as part of the realm of night fighting, was a pioneering effort during World War II. The units at Orlando AAB and Kissimmee AAF accomplished what they did because of the courage and farsightedness of men in this new field of combat with limited resources and support.
After World War II, the base served as a separation center for airmen returning to civilian life. On 29 November 1945, the Army Air Forces School was relocated to Maxwell Field, Alabama. The headquarters of the Proving Ground Command was also centered at Orlando until it moved to Eglin Army Airfield, Florida on 1 July 1946.
The flying mission at Orlando AAB ended in 1946 as part of the postwar demobilization of the U.S. armed forces. The airfield was returned to the City of Orlando and was re-established as Orlando Municipal Airport, while all sub-bases with the exception Pinecastle (which was retained under military control in a caretaker status) were released to control of the respective local governments for re-use as civilian airports. However, two Air Force Reserve troop carrier squadrons equipped with C-46 Commando aircraft would operate from a military cantonment area on the airport between 1947 and 1957. Meanwhile, the non-flying and administrative support portion of Orlando AAB was retained under military control and 14th Air Force (14 AF) was reactivated at Orlando Army Air Base in 1946.
With the subsequent establishment of an independent United States Air Force in September 1947, the name of the Orlando AAB facility was changed to Orlando Air Force Base. Due to postwar budget reductions, Orlando AFB was closed on 1 October 1949. However, the Air Force continued to retain ownership of the installation, placing Orlando AFB on a standby status, with jurisdiction retained by the Continental Air Command.
The Orlando Municipal Airport re-established commercial air service with Delta, Eastern and National Airlines. Later renamed Herndon Airport, the facility would remain as Orlando's primary commercial airport until airline operations were incrementally re-located to McCoy Air Force Base from 1962 to 1964 under a Joint-Use agreement between the City of Orlando and the U.S. Air Force. Herndon Airport was renamed Orlando Executive Airport and is still used for general aviation. McCoy AFB was closed in 1975 as part of the drawdown after the Vietnam War and became the present day Orlando International Airport.
Orlando Air Force Base was reopened on 1 January 1951 as an aviation engineers training facility as a result of the Korean War. The facility remained under the control of Continental Air Command (ConAC), with elements of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), such as the Air Rescue Service, as the principal tenants. Since Orlando AFB had returned its airfield to the City of Orlando after World War II, Air Force aircraft visiting Orlando AFB used the former airfield, the Orlando Municipal Airport (which was later renamed Herndon Airport), as necessary. On 1 September 1951, the Air Force also reactivated the former Pinecastle Army Airfield, a former auxiliary field approximately eight miles south of Orlando AFB which had been in a caretaker status, renaming it Pinecastle AFB. This latter facility was initially assigned to the Air Training Command and a massive military construction (MILCON) program began to prepare the airfield as a training base for the new B-47 Stratojet medium bomber aircraft. Pinecastle AFB opened for full flight operations in late 1952 and the base was eventually transferred to the control of Strategic Air Command (SAC). Although visiting USAF transport aircraft would continue to use Herndon Airport when visiting Orlando AFB on a periodic basis, most of these transient military aircraft would eventually migrate to Pinecastle AFB, later renamed McCoy AFB in May 1958.
Orlando AFB became the headquarters of the Military Air Transport Service's Air Photographic and Charting Service (APCS) on 5 November 1952 and was joined by the formation of the 1360th Air Base Group on 1 July 1953 to support the Air Photographic and Charting Service. Full jurisdiction of the base was given to MATS on 1 July 1953, while the 1360th Air Base Group provided logistical support and other services to the many Air Force units stationed at Orlando AFB. The 1365th photo Sqd. Training film and Cape Canveral missile launch filming.
Two other MATS units, the Air Rescue Service and the Flight Service, moved their headquarters to Orlando AFB in April 1954 under a joint agreement between MATS and ConAC. Flight Service was later moved when it was integrated with the Airways and Air Communications Service in 1956.
Another MATS unit, the 1380th School Squadron, operating the command's Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, was organized in May 1955 and assigned to APCS, with the first class of NCOs graduating on 3 October 1955. Other units at Orlando AFB in the 1950s were the Orlando Air Procurement District of the Air Materiel Command; the 9186th Air Reserve Training Group; the 1278-2 AACS Detachment; the 3415th Technical Training Group; OSI (IG) USAF, Detachment 70e; area office for the USAF Auditor General, and the USAF-CAP Liaison Office for the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
USAF Hospital Orlando was also established at Orlando AFB, and was the principal military medical installation in the region, providing additional hospital-level care for military personnel and military family members at nearby Naval Air Station Sanford, which contained only a Navy Dispensary, and both Pinecastle AFB-cum-McCoy AFB and Patrick AFB, which were staffed with only USAF Clincs. Additional support was provided to active duty recruiters and active duty personnel supporting various local reserve centers in the region, military retirees and all of their respective eligible family members.
In January 1966, Headquarters MATS at Scott AFB, Illinois was redesignated as the Military Airlift Command (MAC), with the new command assuming responsibility for all units, installations, personnel, aircraft and equipment previously assigned to MATS. This included Orlando AFB, the 1360th Air Base Group as host unit, and all tenant units previously assigned to MATS.
In 1950, Tactical Air Command (TAC) was designated as the Air Force major command (MAJCOM) for tactical nuclear missiles, and was given the responsibility for training new missile crews. The B-61A Matador, an aerodynamic tactical missile, was under development by Air Research and Development Command at Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida. Two TAC missile squadrons, the 1st and 69th Pilotless Bomber Squadrons were attached to ARDC at Patrick AFB beginning in 1951 and 1952. They were then reassigned to the Ninth Air Force in 1954, but remained at Patrick AFB prior to their deployment to West Germany as part of NATO.
On 1 September 1954, the third Matador squadron was formed, the 11th Pilotless Bomber Squadron at Orlando AFB, rather than at Patrick AFB. From Orlando AFB, the squadron trailered its Matador missiles to Cape Canaveral AFS for test firing. By 1956, all the pilotless bomber squadrons were redesignated as tactical missile squadrons (TMS) and another new tactical missile squadron formed at Orlando AFB was the 19th Tactical Missile Squadron on 8 June 1956. Funding shortages and cancellation of its planned deployment site in Europe led to the units inactivation only 17 days later on 25 June 1956, with its personnel reassigned to the 11th TMS. As the re-designated 11th Tactical Missile Squadron, this unit deploying to West Germany on 1 July 1956.
Tactical Air Command established its USAF Tactical Missile School (USAF TMS) under Ninth Air Force (9 AF) at Orlando AFB on 1 July 1959. The school, however, was a formalization of the earlier MGM-1 Matador training being conducted by the 4504th Tactical Missile Wing (Training), and which established by the Ninth Air Force on 18 October 1956.
The 4504th Missile Training Wing alone had 1500 assigned personnel in September 1959. In March 1967, the 4504th Missile Training Wing was inactivated and the missile training facilities were closed. The MGM-13A Matador sections were dismantled and the remaining CGM-13B Mace missiles and school components were transferred to Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, where they were integrated into the Air Training Command's curriculum for missile systems training. Orlando Air Force Base was inactivated by the Military Airlift Command on 31 December 1967 and transferred to the United States Navy effective 1 January 1968.
The USAFSS moved their communications monitoring and reporting detachment from MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida to Orlando AFB during the spring of 1960. The tenant organization's designation was Detachment 3, Air Force Special Communications Center (AFSCC). Their mission was to monitor and provide communications security to U.S. Air Force major commands (MAJCOMs).
Deployed from Maxwell Field, Alabama, equipped with numerous obsolete training aircraft for flying antisubmarine reconnaissance patrols.
Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics
AAF Interceptor Command School Night Fighter Units
Army Air Forces Base Units
Tactical Air Command
Air Force Reserve
With the consolidation of missile training by the Air Training Command (ATC), the Air Force closed Orlando AFB on 31 December 1967, and transferred the facility, including USAF Hospital Orlando, to the United States Navy on 1 January 1968. The installation was redesignated as Naval Training Center Orlando and the primary tenant command, Recruit Training Command Orlando (RTC Orlando), was established on 1 July 1968. NTC Orlando became the third enlisted "boot camp" for the U.S. Navy, augmenting similar facilities at NTC Great Lakes, Illinois and NTC San Diego, California. NTC Orlando also acquired the female enlisted boot camp mission from a previous female-only training facility in Bainbridge, Maryland, and until 1994, was the only naval training center conducting training of both male and female Navy enlisted recruits.
USAF Hospital Orlando was also redesignated as Naval Hospital Orlando (NAVHOSP Orlando), with two additional dispensaries constructed on station for both the main base and in the recruit training area.
Just one year after the establishment of the Naval Training Center, Service Schools Command (SERVSCOLSCOM) Orlando was also established, providing "A" School and "C" School training in several Navy enlisted ratings, to include Electronics Technician (ET), Electrician's Mate (EM), Torpedoman's Mate (TM), Signalman (SM) and Quartermaster (QM). The Naval Training Device Center Orlando, tasked with acquisition and program management of U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps training devices such as flight simulators, was also relocated to NTC Orlando, while the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) was established to provide training of all Navy nuclear power program personnel. Various NNPTC programs trained all enlisted personnel destined for the Submarine Service and selected enlisted engineering personnel slated to be assigned aboard nuclear-powered surface vessels. NNPTC's officer programs consisted of all newly commissioned junior officers tracking to be Submarine Warfare Officers, selected Surface Warfare Officers destined for nuclear-powered surface vessels, as well as senior Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers selected to be executive officers and commanding officers of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
Following the closure of McCoy AFB in 1975 as part of a post-Vietnam force reduction, NTC Orlando also assumed claimancy for those parts of McCoy AFB not transferred to the City of Orlando and the subsequently established Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. This included all military housing and billeting, chapel, medical clinic, base exchange facilities, MWR facilities (officer, NCO and enlisted clubs; bowling alley, golf course, base theater, swimming pool), and a small portion of flight line and hangar facilities that the U.S. Army Reserve maintained as a tenant organization for two Army Reserve aviation units with fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.
In 1988, the Naval Training Systems Center (formerly the Naval Training Device Center) relocated to a new facility approximately 15 miles east in the Central Florida Research Park, adjacent to the University of Central Florida. Simulation and training commands and activities for the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard previously located at NTC Orlando soon followed, while a U.S. Air Force unit dedicated to simulation and training was also established at this new site. NTSC was later renamed the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), a subordinate organization of the Naval Air Systems Command. Today, NAWCTSD is the primary tenant of Naval Support Activity Orlando, an approximately 100 acre military cantonment area that is now considered an independent active duty U.S. Navy installation in the Orlando area.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) originally considered NTC Orlando for closure in mid-1991, but subsequently rejected this choice and directed that the installation remain open; military construction (MILCON) programs in excess of $2 billion were subsequently executed and new construction commenced. Following a change in Presidential administrations in January 1993, another BRAC identified NTC Orlando for closure in July 1993, with all closure activities to be completed no later than the end of Fiscal Year 1999.
More than 652,000 recruits graduated from NTC Orlando before the command was disestablished. Service School Command Orlando officially disestablished in November 1996 and the various schools relocated to other bases, primarily to the Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. The Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, the last major command to remain aboard NTC Orlando, graduated its final class on 17 December 1998. That command then began relocating to Naval Weapons Station Charleston, South Carolina and was in place by June 1999.
The Navy closed the facility in the Fall of 1999 and the property was sold to the City of Orlando, which in turn sold it to a private development company. The site was fully redeveloped and is known today as Baldwin Park, a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) annexed into the city limits of Orlando. Today, the former World War II Army Air Base, Cold War Air Force Base and Cold War/post-Cold War Naval Training Center are all but obliterated by new urban development, with only a handful of former military structures remaining. NAVHOSP Orlando was transferred to the Veteran's Administration as an outpatient clinic and most of SERVSCOLSCOM Orlando's complex was transferred to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, while NAWCTSD continues to operate to this day at the separate Naval Support Activity Orlando installation to the east in the Central Florida Research Park.
With the development of the Baldwin Park community on the site of the former military installation, "Bluejacket Park" was subsequently established by the City of Orlando on NTC Orlando's former parade ground, commemorating the U.S. Army Air Corps, U.S. Army Air Forces, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy presence at the site from 1940 to 1999.