NAS Kingsville Defines its Mission
As Naval Aviation moved forward to its 8th decade, there was no reason to doubt that its strong record of achievement would endure. Aircraft, integrated with the Fleet, would continue to provide the United States with the strongest naval power in the world.
Naval Aviation’s involvement in international events – major highlights of the 1980s – began with Iran and the continuing hostage crisis, 1979 –1981. Libyan operations in 1981, 1986 and 1989 demonstrated Naval Aviation’s air-to-air and strike capabilities. In 1983, a carrier and amphibious task force took part in Operation Urgent Fury and the re-establishment of democracy in the Caribbean island of Grenada.
Operations in and around Lebanon kept Naval Aviation occupied during the mid-1980's. Responding to hijacking and terrorism in the Mediterranean basin was an ongoing requirement for most of the 1980s. The other hot spot for Naval Aviation was the Persian Gulf and the Iran-Iraq war.
Naval Aviation was involved in numerous periods of short-lived combat operations in the Persian Gulf area. The escorting of re-flagged oil tankers and the monitoring of the Iran-Iraq war kept Naval Aviation on the line from the mid-1980's. As the decade ended, a new crisis appeared when Iraq invaded Kuwait and the United Nations imposed an economic blockade on Iraq to force its withdrawal from Kuwait.
During the decade, Naval Aviation witnessed resurgence in its strength and capabilities. There was an increase in its building programs and new technology research. Many of Naval Aviation’s aircraft for the 1990's and the 21st century were introduced in the 1980's. They included the F/A-18 Hornet, the SH-60B LAMPS MK III Seahawk and its derivatives, the MH-53E, and the AV-8B Harrier II. A new aircraft concept was introduced with the rollout of the V-22 Osprey, a fixed-wing, tilt-rotor aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing and horizontal flight (VTOL).
Throughout the 1980's, NAS Kingsville’s population was about 2,200 military, civilian and contract employees. Training Air Wing TWO consisted of three training squadrons: VT-23 provided basic jet flight instruction in the T-2C Buckeye, and once students completed basic jet training they moved on to either VT-21 or VT-22 for advanced training flying the TA-4J Skyhawk.
The combining of both basic and advanced flight training at one air station was known as the “single base concept,” which the Naval Air Training Command initiated in the 1980's. The format saved the Navy manhours and funding that were previously devoted to student transfers between various Naval Air Training Command installations.
For NAS Kingsville, the 1980's were a decade of significant milestones for each of the three training squadrons, and a period of major facility growth and development at the air station’s main complex, and at Navy Auxiliary Landing Field Orange Grove.
The decade was special for Naval Aviation. In 1986, it celebrated its 75th anniversary. Throughout the year, many of the advances in the development of Naval Aviation were lauded, as were the men and women who contributed to its growth. Naval Aviation’s continued involvement in international events was emphasized, and its need to maintain its readiness and capabilities was reaffirmed.
NAS Kingsville 1980s Timeline
July 30, 1981: Contractors begin repair of all taxiway and runway lights.
Feb. 25, 1985: Astronaut and Marine COL Charles F. Borlan is guest speaker for NAS Kingsville's Black History Month celebration.
April 26, 1985: Two student aviators from VT-22 were killed after a mid-air collision during routine training flight. Wreckage was discovered about one mile northwest of the air station.
June 7, 1985: NALF Orange Grove closes for $5.1 million refurbishment project. Work included rebuilding 75 percent of the two 8,000 x 200-foot runways and the installation of new runway lights. The project was completed in 180 days.
Oct. 21, 1985: Construction begins on new 5,000-square-foot Family Service Center building. The $393,000 project takes six months to complete.
June 28, 1986: NAS Kingsville holds special dedication ceremony to formally name the airfield in honor of retired Navy VADM Alva D. Bernhard. Nearly 8,000 people attended the ceremony. VADM Bernhard was the Commanding Officer of NAS Corpus Christi in the early 1940's and was instrumental in selecting Kingsville as the site for a new auxiliary air station.
Oct. 15, 1986: Work begins on new $1.1 million Navy Exchange building. New facility covers 16,000 square feet and contains a beauty and barber shop, an outdoor sales area, indoor sales area, warehouse, and administrative offices. The facility would open Nov. 1, 1987.
Oct. 1, 1987: NAS Enlisted Galley begins “item pricing,” for meals. The concept was initiated throughout the Navy as a means of curtailing expenses and fine-tuning food service.
March 16, 1988: The T-45 Goshawk was revealed during roll-out ceremony at the McDonnell-Douglas facility in Long Beach, Calif. A number of NAS Kingsville officials were on hand for the ceremony. The T-45 Goshawk was expected to be integrated into the advanced flight training program in the early 90's, replacing the T-2 Buckeye and TA-4 Skyhawk.
Oct. 18, 1988: New Strike Instructor Training School opens on board the air station. School trains A-4 instructor pilots in the Total System (TS) approach for A-4 flight instruction.
Jan. 26, 1989: Astronaut Charles Bolden, of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, is the guest speaker at the 25th annual installation banquet of the Boys and Girls Club in Kingsville.
Feb. 1, 1989: Ford Aerospace, Inc., takes control of the simulator flight training program. Ford was awarded the bid for the contract over Burnside-Ott, which had held the contract since 1981.
April 26, 1989: For the second straight year, Training Air Wing TWO is awarded the Chief of Naval Air Operations' annual safety awards for both Intermediate and Advanced strike training squadrons. VT-23 and VT-21 were the recipients.
Nov. 26, 1989: TA-4 Skyhawk static display erected at Kleberg Park in Kingsville. The TA-4 was given to the city as a goodwill gesture and to help promote tourism.