Naval Air Station Lemoore is proud to announce that it is turning 61 years old.
The base was commissioned on Saturday, July 8, 1961, in front of a crowd of thousands of thrilled personnel, residents and distinguished guests. When it was first built, the base was the U.S. Navy’s largest and most modern Master Jet Base in the nation and cost $100 million – with inflation, that’s nearly $1 billion today. It was the first base designed solely for light attack fighter jets – in 1961 that meant the A4D Skyhawk. Nowadays, you’ll see F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the Navy’s most advanced aircraft, the F-35C Lightning II, soaring in the skies above. The base’s main function – to train fighter jet pilots and crew – remains the same today as it did in 1961. And it is still the U.S. Navy’s premier Master Jet Base.
When the site was chosen in the mid-1950s, the remote location in the San Joaquin Valley served several strategic purposes. The location was close enough to the Navy’s seaport facilities for logistical support, but far enough from major population centers to allow for unencumbered operations and possible future expansion. The remote location also provided flexibility in use and infrastructure to accommodate rapidly advancing jet technology. The adjacent lands were sparsely populated and were primarily used for agricultural production, thus minimizing potential land-use incompatibilities.
Construction of the Operations Side of Naval Air Station Lemoore. Hangar 1 nears completion, as Hangar 2’s construction begins in earnest.
When commissioned in 1961, the base covered 28 square miles and employed more than 5,000 people with salaries that totaled more than $30 million annually ($280 million in 2022). Today, the base hasn’t grown much in land size, but it has more than doubled its workforce, with roughly 11,800 jobs boasting an annual payroll of $478 million.
The base’s economic impact on the San Joaquin Valley cannot be understated. In fiscal year 2019, the base generated $947 million in total economic benefit to its local region of influence, which includes Kings, Tulare and Fresno counties. The base is truly a partner with its neighbors.
Currently, NAS Lemoore is just as busy as ever. On average, more than 210,000 flight operations are flown annually. And more than 3,700 students are trained each year.
The base will mark the occasion with a celebration on July 1 at 1 p.m. on base. Technically, 2022 marks the base’s 61st birthday, but COVID restrictions forced a year’s delay.