The Department of the Navy issued a record of decision (ROD) for the basing of 10 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike-fighter squadrons and one fleet replacement squadron on the east coast of the United States.
The ROD details the plan to home base eight F/A-18E/F fleet squadrons and one fleet replacement squadron (120 aircraft) at Naval Air Station Oceana (NAS), Va., two F/A-18E/F fleet squadrons (24 aircraft) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (MCAS), N.C., and construct an outlying field (OLF) in Washington County, N.C.
The need to construct and operate an OLF to support Super Hornet training, especially field carrier landing practice, was a key factor in the Navy’s environmental analysis. Existing facilities do not have the capacity to meet Atlantic Fleet requirements when the Navy and Marine Corps are ordered to simultaneously surge-deploy multiple aircraft carriers and their associated air wings, which was the case during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Navy considered sites in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
The Washington County OLF site was recommended because it best fits the screening criteria the Navy used in considering candidate sites. These criteria included a low-population density and a lack of airspace conflicts and obstructions (such as tall towers), as well as, avoidance of extensive wetland complexes, public interest areas and ecologically sensitive areas. With its central location between MCAS Cherry Point and NAS Oceana, an OLF located in Washington County provides the greatest potential as a valuable training asset for current and future years.
The final environmental impact statement for the home basing of the F/A-18 E/F aircraft on the east coast was published in the Federal Register and made public on July 18, 2003. The review period ended on Aug.18.