Lajes Field – also referred to as Air Base #4 – is a Portuguese military installation run by the Portuguese Air Force. It is a multi use facility that hosts a few units from other countries as well. It is located almost 1000 km from the Portugal capital Lisbon.
The history of this military base started in 1928, when Eduardo Gomes da Silva was looking after a good spot on Terceira Island to build a new military airfield. The Terceira Island was not approved for the construction. Instead, the government decided on a close area, on the Sao Miguel Island. It took the authorities a few years to realize that the site was not the best. In 1934, the base was inactivated and moved on Terceira Island due to the limited expansion possibilities and the harsh weather conditions. Over World War II, the Portuguese forces relied mostly on the Gloster Gladiator and Junkers Ju 52 aircrafts. By 1943, after signing an agreement with a few other countries, the British and American forces were allowed to use this base as well. The agreement was signed on December, 1-st, 1943. With all these, the Americans were severely restricted on this base. They had some major limitations and had to follow the Portuguese regulations. However, using this place as a pit stop, the usual route between Africa and Brazil was cut in half, to almost 40 hours. At the same time, the base was one of the two pit stops for the non rigid ships used for transatlantic crossing in 1944. When World War II ended, Portugal took over the full control of Lajes Field again.
Along with other countries, Portugal became part of NATO, which was formed in 1949. The airfield represented one of the most important contributions to the alliance coming from Portugal. According to this agreement, any of the member states could use it, therefore it became a NATO base. It was intensively used by the United States of America during the Cold War. At the same time, the colonial war from Portugal turned the on site hospital into one of the most crowded and active places in the country. It also played a major role in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The one and only American unit stationed at Lajes Field is the 65-th Air Base Wing. It has a medical group, an operations support squadron, a mission support group with 10 squadrons and a comptroller squadron. The base also hosts the Portuguese Air Force Base Aerea #4, as well as the Azores Air Zone Command. Among the associate tenant units, you can count the 729-th Air Mobility Squadron, the DLA Disposition Services or the AFN Lajes Defense Media Activity.
When relocated to Lajes Field, you may opt for the on site system run by the government or the privatized off site system. The home you can get depends on how long you are about to stay, your rank and family. The off site system is generally affordable and it may provide even better facilities.