Naval Air Station Key West (NAS Key West) is one of many Naval Air Stations located throughout the United States. NAS Key West is notable for its rich history, supreme flying weather, and excellent location for marine pursuits.
The United States Navy established its presence in Key West in 1832. This was to subvert piracy in the area. Famous pirates, including Blackbeard and Captain William Kidd, were drawn to Key West because of the wealthy shipping merchants based in the warm waters there.
The base grew during the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars. During the Spanish-American war, the United States Atlantic Fleet was stationed at Key West.
World War I saw another expansion of the base at Key West. Key West was established as a U.S. Naval submarine base during this war. Its mission was to supply oil to the U.S. fleet, and to prevent German ships from reaching oil supplies in Mexico.
1917 was a big year for NAS Key West. In July, ground was broken for the Trumbo Point Annex, which would become the site for the Marine Corrison Facility. In September of the same year, the first Naval flight departed from Key West. By December, the Naval Air Base Key West was commissioned with LT Parker as first commanding officer.
In 1918, Key West saw its first class of student aviators arrive for seaplane training. Many students would follow. NAS Key West’s ready access to open sea lanes, ideal flying conditions made it the perfect year-round training facility.
At the conclusion of World War I, NAS Key West rapidly lost activity. The base remained inactive until 1939. The buildings that had once adorned the island were destroyed or dismantled and relocated.
In 1940, the base was designated as a Naval Air Station. It was used as an operating and training base for fleet aircraft Squadrons. This fleet came in handy as the U.S. entered World War II.
NAS Key West again expanded to support a wide variety of sea crafts and aircrafts that were used in the war effort. World War II came to a close, but this time Key West remained active as a training facility.
The next big event for NAS Key West was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reconnaissance and operational flights originated from Key West. The crisis solidified the base’s title “Gibraltar of the Gulf,” a term coined a hundred years earlier. The Cuban Missile Crisis also established the Truman Annex, Trumbo Point, Meacham Field, and Boca Chica as significant places in military history.
During the 1960s and 1970s, NAS Key West was the site for much helicopter training and airborne anitsubmarine warfare instruction. The location and climate of Key West made it a superb location for these kinds of exercises. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Fighter Squadron 45 was also based at NAS Key West.
Despite its success, NAS Key West was downgraded in 2001 and redesignated as Naval Air Facility Key West (NAF Key West). The change didn’t last long, however, since in 2003, it was upgraded and restored to its previous status as Naval Air Station Key West (NAS Key West).
NAS Key West is still a major location for naval training, especially antisubmarine air support. Key West also supports anti drug smuggling efforts, engineering research and development, surveillance radar, weather forecasting, and marine research.
Key West is home to 1,650 active duty Navy members, 2,508 family members, 35 Navy Reserves, and 1,312 civilians.
An RV park is located at Sigsbee Park. Most of the family housing is also located at Sigsbee Park, a manmade island annex. The remainder of family housing is situated at Trumbo Point.
Single service member housing can be found at Trumbo Point and Truman Annex. Also at Trumbo Point are the Combined Bachelor Quarters, notable since it has FLY NAVY printed on the building.
NAS Key West accommodates the Navy’s air units and houses many tenant commands as well.
Among the tenant commands are the JIATF, Naval Air Warfare Center, CARIBROC, Fighter Squadron One Zero One, Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography, and Marine Corrison Facility.
The Joint Interagency Task Force – East (JIATF-East) bases its drug smuggling efforts in Key West.
The Naval Air Warfare Center Detachment Key West provides engineering support and access to open sea environments for the testing and evaluation of prototypes, antisubmarine tactics, and navigation.
Caribbean Regional Operating Center (CARIBROC) is also based in Key West. CARIBROC specializes radar advisories, navigational assistance, as well as tracking and correlation of air traffic in an effort to protect the Atlantic command.
Fighter Squadron One Zero One (VF-101) trains pilots and radar intercept officers. VF-101 also enlists maintenance personnel for the supersonic F-14A and A-Plus Tomcat Fighters.
The Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment is an office staffed 24 hours a day, with forecasting services available 7 days a week.
The Marine Corrison Facility stands at the Trumbo Point Annex. This facility includes a laboratory for natural seawater exposure testing and marine-related materials evaluation. This lab has established an unprecedented database of these findings.
NAS Key West is located on the Boca Chica Key. The base is 4 miles east of the central business district of Key West, Florida. The Key West area also is home to several annexes, among them Truman Annex, Trumbo Point, Sigsbee Park Annex, Peary Court, and Naval Branch Health Clinic Key West.
On the east and southeast borders lies the Atlantic Ocean. To the north and west is the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Straits flow past on the south of the Key.
The Boca Chica Key is at the western end of a 125 mile chain of keys. It is an island city 4 miles long by 2 miles wide. Boca Chica sits 160 miles south of Miami, and 90 miles north of Cuba.
NAS Key West was established to control piracy in the 19th century. It has since become a place of military training and intelligence. Its location and climate make it ideal for year-round training and research.