Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana was commissioned August 17, 1943. The area now known as Oceana was then a swampy wasteland. Today, it is a complex with more than seven miles of runways and the latest equipment to serve military air traffic. Oceana is manned by over 14,600 military personnel, 2,000 civilians and is home to 19 fighter/attack squadrons flying the Navy's most advanced aircraft. In the years since World War II, it has taken its place on the list of essential installations and is rightly considered a "Master Jet Base."
In November 1940, the U.S. Government purchased 328.95 acres that was to become NAS Oceana and constructed a small airfield with 32 officers and 172 enlisted men assigned. At that time, it was located in an almost inaccessible area--too far from Norfolk for civilian usage, but close enough to the Atlantic Ocean for the Navy's purposes. Nevertheless, constructing asphalt runways began on December 31, 1940 and completed in November 1941.
From its inception, the little base, an auxiliary field to Norfolk's military complex, began growing. In 1943, at the height of World War II, the wartime Congress approved plans for expanding the station to accommodate up to 160 officers and 800 enlisted men. Construction began on new, longer runways and personnel facilities and the station was changed to Naval Auxiliary Air Station.
The Naval Auxiliary Air Station Oceana, Virginia was commissioned in August 1943, with Lieutenant Jesse A. Fairley as Officer-in-Charge. The station was under the command of Naval Air Center, Hampton Roads, Virginia.
By 1945 the airfield was booming with activity and the small size of its facilities was creating problems. An historical report stated "the numbers of aircraft and officers aboard have more than tripled during the past year, while the number of enlisted men have more than doubled, and a major building program inaugurated in May, 1944 is approaching completion."
Through the postwar years, the little station that started in the inaccessible area of swampland grew with Naval Aviation. By 1952, the Naval Auxiliary Air Station had become too large to work as a subordinate to other stations in the area. On April 1, 1952, the Secretary of the Navy changed the station's designation to Naval Air Station.
The Chief of Naval Operations approved the designation of NAS Oceana as an all-weather air station on February 16, 1954. With the introduction of jets to the Navy's arsenal, the isolated location and long runways made Oceana well suited for servicing these type aircraft. Thus the Oceana base became the center of naval jet traffic in the Tidewater area.
On June 4, 1957, the airfield was named Soucek Field in honor of Vice Admiral Apollo Soucek, Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics from 1953 until just prior to his death in 1955. The Navy's Blue Angels, flying F11-F Tigers were the featured attraction at the dedication ceremonies.
Scanning the lists of aircraft flown by squadrons reveals a near-complete history of Naval Aviation since the early forties. Included are the PB4Y Privateer, SB2C Helldiver, F6F Hellcat, TBF Avenger and F4U Corsair. Oceana provided service to the fighting aircraft carriers of World War II. With the introduction of high performance aircraft such as the A-4 Skyhawk, the F-4 Phantom II and the A-6 Intruder, Oceana became home of the world's most advanced naval aircraft.
The tempo of operations at Oceana has increased in recent years. In 1974, F-14 Tomcats, were assigned to Oceana. In 1976 a F-14 Replacement Air Group (RAG) squadron, Fighter Squadron One-Hundred-One, was established to train aviators transitioning into the Tomcat. The F/A-18 Hornets arrived from Cecil Field, Fla., in 1998 and 1999.
Today, NAS Oceana operates 18 F/A -18 Hornet squadrons including Fleet Composite Squadron Twelve (VFC-12), a squadron that performs air combat maneuvering training. Oceana's Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Units train highly qualified maintenance technicians for the squadrons. NAS Oceana is also the home of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Five Six (VR-56).
The station is located on 5,916 acres, has 250 total aircraft and buildings valued at more than $800 million in plant replacement value. The total Navy community, including spouses, numbers approximately 20,000 people. NAS Oceana is the largest employer in Virginia Beach.