Patrick Air Force Base

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Patrick Air Force Base
Air Force Space Command.png
Part of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)
Located in: Brevard County, Florida
Titan IVB Centaur launching ELINTspy satellite.jpg
A Titan IV B rocket takes off from Cape Canaveral AFS on 9 September 2003.
Patrick AFB is located in Florida
Patrick AFB
Patrick AFB
Location of Patrick AFB, Florida
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Type Air Force Base
Site information
Controlled by 1940-1947 (Transferred to U.S. Air Force on September 1, 1948[1])
 United States Air Force
Site history
Built Commissioned October 01, 1940[2]
In use 1940-1947
Battles/wars WW II, Cold War, Enduring Freedom
Garrison information
Brig Gen Wayne R. Monteith[3]
World War II:
Commander Waldo Tullsen
Commander Adolphus W. Groton[4]
Garrison 45th Space Wing.png 45th Space Wing
Occupants US Navy: Naval Aviation
(PBM Mariner, PBY Catalina)
US Air Force: 45th Space Wing,
920th Rescue Wing, AFTAC
Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 8 ft / 2 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
2/20 9,023 2,750 Asphalt/Concrete
11/29 4,000 1,219 Asphalt
45th Space Wing.png
Air Force Technical Applications Center.png
Air Force Reserve Command.png
920th Rescue Wing.jpg
NASA logo.svg
Seal of the United States Department of State.svg

Patrick Air Force Base (IATA: COFICAO: KCOFFAA LID: COF) is a United States Air Force installation located between Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach, in Brevard County, Florida, in the United States. It was named in honor of Major General Mason Patrick, USAAC. An Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) base, it is home to the 45th Space Wing (45 SW). In addition to its "host wing" responsibilities at Patrick AFB, the 45 SW controls and operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and the Eastern Range. It was originally opened and operated from 1940 and 1947 as Naval Air Station Banana River, a U.S. Navy airfield. It was then deactivated as a naval installation in 1947 and placed in a caretaker status, until it was transferred to the Air Force in late 1948 and turned into Patrick AFB.

Additional tenant activities at Patrick AFB include the 920th Rescue Wing, the Air Force Technical Applications Center and the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI). Total employment is 10,400. There are 13,099 military, dependents, civilian employees and contractors on base.[6]

The base is a census-designated place (CDP) and had a resident population of 1,222 at the 2010 census.[7]

Current operations

The host wing for Patrick AFB is the 45th Space Wing (45 SW), whose officers and airmen manage all launches of unmanned rockets at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) 12 miles to the north. These rockets include satellites for the US military, to include the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Security Agency (NSA), as well as scientific payload launches in support of NASA, weather satellite launches in support of NOAA, payloads in support of international customers such as the European Space Agency, and commercial payloads for various corporate communications entities. Units and individuals from the 45 SW have deployed abroad during wartime, most notably during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom[8]

The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) is a tenant command headquartered at Patrick AFB. Previously an activity of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AFISRA), AFTAC is now a subordinate unit of 25th Air Force (25 AF) and the Air Combat Command (ACC). AFTAC is the sole Department of Defense agency operating and maintaining a global network of nuclear event detection sensors.

The 920th Rescue Wing (920 RQW), part of Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC), is another tenant command headquartered at Patrick AFB and is the installation's only military flying unit.[9] An Air Combat Command (ACC)-gained combat search and rescue (CSAR) organization, the 920 RQW is the only rescue wing in the Air Force Reserve, operating the HC-130P/N "King" variant of the C-130 Hercules and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, ready for worldwide deployment. In addition to its CSAR mission, the wing also participates in civilian rescue operations, ranging from rescue support for NASA manned spaceflight operations, to augmentative support to U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) operations, to Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) in the wake of major disasters.[10] Most notable is the 920th's role in manned spaceflight support to NASA, providing Eastern Range monitoring and having provided search and rescue support for space shuttle launches originating from Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Additional operations have included searching the Caribbean for downed aircraft, as well as retrieving critically ill sailors and passengers from ships hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic, often at night and/or in bad weather. Because the USAF HH-60 can refuel in flight from the USAF HC-130, MC-130, or USMC KC-130, it possesses a much greater range and mission radius versus similar military helicopters lacking such capability.[11] The 920 RQW is a full participant in the Air Force's Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force (AETF) operating concept. Under this concept, the bulk of the wing deployed to Iraq in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Subsequent AETF deployments have included Djibouti and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.[12]

Adjacent to the 920 RQW's facilities is the NASA Flight Operations Facility, which provides support for NASA's permanently based UH-1H helicopters supporting KSC and transient NASA fixed-wing aircraft such as the T-38 Talon.

The U.S. State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Air Wing helps foreign countries combat drugs and narcotics criminals. The Bureau operates a fleet of aircraft, primarily former USAF and USMC OV-10 and former USAF C-27 aircraft at Patrick AFB to help detect and interdict the drug trade in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Afghanistan.


Naval use in World War II

Authorized by the Naval Expansion Act of 1938, Naval Air Station Banana River was commissioned on October 1, 1940 as a subordinate base of the Naval Air Operational Training Command at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. The Navy bought 1,900 acres (770 ha) of scrub land south of Cocoa Beach.[13]

With the advent of war with Japan and Germany in December 1941, the Navy began anti-submarine patrols along the Florida coast using PBY Catalina and PBM Mariner seaplanes based at this facility. PBMs returned to training duty in March 1942 when replaced on patrol by OS2U Kingfisher seaplanes. Landing strips were constructed in 1943, thereby allowing for concurrent operation of shore based aircraft. Officers of the Free French Naval Air Service also trained in PBMs at NAS Banana River at this time.[14] Various military related activities took place at NAS Banana River, including maritime patrol aviation operations against German U-Boats, air search and rescue operations, patrol bomber bombardier training, seaplane pilot training, and communications research. Other activities included a blimp squadron detachment, an Aviation Navigation Training School, and an experimental training unit termed Project Baker, a confidential program that developed and tested instrument landing equipment.[15] NAS Banana River hosted and a major aircraft repair and maintenance facility. Later in the war, a small detachment of German POWs from Camp Blanding worked at NAS Banana River on cleanup details. At its peak, the base complement included 278 aircraft, 587 civilian employees, and over 2800 officers and enlisted personnel.[14]

Aerial view of NAS Banana River in the mid-1940s
NAS Banana River patch

Flight 19 probe

Three months after World War II, on December 5, 1945, NAS Banana River had an ancillary role in the disappearance of Flight 19, a formation of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, which had departed NAS Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a routine over-water training mission. When the flight failed to return to home station, a search and rescue operation was undertaken by multiple air and naval units. After sunset on December 5, two PBM Mariner seaplanes from NAS Banana River, originally scheduled for their own training flights were diverted to perform square pattern searches in the area west of 29°N 79°W/29, -79. One of these aircraft, a PBM-5, Bureau Number (BuNo) 59225, took off at 19:27 Eastern Time from NAS Banana River, called in a routine radio message at 19:30 Eastern Time, and was never heard from again.[16]

At 19:50 Eastern Time, the tanker SS Gaines Mills reported seeing a mid-air explosion, then flames leaping 100 feet (30 m) high and burning on the sea for 10 minutes. The position was 28°35′N 80°15′W / 28.59, -80.25. Captain Shonna Stanley of the SS Gaines Mills reported searching for survivors through a pool of oil, but found none. The escort carrier USS Solomons reported losing radar contact with an aircraft at the same position and time. No wreckage of PBM-5 BuNo 59225 was ever found.[17]

During investigation by a board of inquiry regarding the entire Flight 19 incident, attention was given to the loss of the NAS Banana River-based PBM. Several witnesses from both NAS Banana River and other PBM Mariner operating locations were questioned concerning occurrences of aviation gasoline (AvGas) fumes collecting in the bilges of PBM series aircraft and associated no smoking regulations, which were reportedly well posted and rigidly enforced aboard all PBMs. Although the board's report is not a verbatim record and no accusations were made, there seems to be enough inference present to cause one to suspect that the board was aware of the PBM's nickname as "the flying gas tank." As such, it is possible that the PBM-5 was destroyed by an explosion resulting from either (a) an aircrewman violating the no smoking regulations in the aircraft or (b) a stray electrical spark in the lower aircraft hull that may have ignited AvGas fumes in the bilges.[16]


PBM-3Cs of Patrol Squadron 201 (VP-201) at NAS Banana River, late 1942

NAS Banana River closed in September 1947 after a gradual deactivation and was placed in a caretaker status.[18] In September 1948 the facility was transferred to the U.S. Air Force.[19] Several of NAS Banana River's original structures, including runway segments, certain hangars, support buildings, seaplane parking areas and seaplane ramps into the Banana River remain part of modern-day Patrick Air Force Base.[citation needed]

United States Air Force use

NAS Banana River was transferred to the United States Air Force on September 1, 1948 and renamed the Joint Long Range Proving Ground on June 10, 1949.[1] The installation was renamed Patrick Air Force Base in August 1950.[citation needed]

From 1966 to 1975, the Space Coast was the second most visited spot by VIPs, after Washington, DC, a result of the Space Program. A protocol officer was assigned to Patrick to coordinate these visits, about 3 weekly consisting of 10 to 150 people.[20]

In 1971, the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) was established at Patrick AFB.

Five of the victims of the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 were home stationed at Patrick AFB as part of the 71st Rescue Squadron (71 RQS). The 71 RQS subsequently relocated to Moody AFB, Georgia in 1997.[21]

The 9/11 attacks prompted the Air Force to close the heavily used 4-lane State Road A1A, which ran immediately in front of the AFTAC Headquarters building. A1A was later reopened to two-lane traffic with car inspections, followed by two-lane traffic without inspections until a barrier was constructed in front of the building and the building reinforced with steel and concrete with the windows sealed.[22]

In February 2005, the Patrick AFB Officers Club was destroyed by an accidental fire.[23]

In 2010, the Air Force announced its intention to replace the existing AFTAC building front State Road A1A with a new facility that would cost in the range from $100 to $200 million. At the time of this announcement, this constituted the largest single military construction (MILCON) project in the United States for the Air Force. Completed in 2014, the new facility is a 276,000 square feet (25,600 m2) multistory command and control building with a 38,000 square feet (3,500 m2) radiochemistry laboratory, 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2) central utility plant and a 600 space 180,000 square feet (17,000 m2) parking garage located approximately a .25 miles (0.40 km) west of the original AFTAC headquarters building.[22]

US Navy Boeing E-6 Mercury aircraft, part of Operation Looking Glass, were sometimes seen at Patrick AFB during the 2010-11 time frame and were often mistaken by onlookers for the previously retired VC-137 Presidential aircraft (i.e., Air Force One), which looks similar.[24]

Operational history

On May 17, 1950, the base was renamed the "Long Range Proving Ground Base" but three months later was renamed "Patrick Air Force Base", in honor of Major General Mason Patrick.[25]

On May 3, 1951, the Long Range Proving Ground Division was assigned to the newly created Air Research and Development Command (ARDC). The next month the division was redesignated the Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC).[25]

Cost comparison studies done in the early 1950s pointed out the desirability of letting contractors operate the station. The first range contract was signed with Pan American World Services on December 31, 1953. The Air Force Missile Test Center began transferring property and equipment to Pan American World Services at the end of that year. Pan American operated under contract to the Air Force for the next 34 years (until early October 1988). In 1988, the old range contract was divided into the Range Technical Services (RTS) and the Launch Base Services (LBS) contracts. The RTS contract was awarded to Computer Sciences Raytheon (CSR) in June 1988, and the LBS contract was awarded to Pan American World Services (later known as Johnson Controls) in August 1988.

Rocket and missile display in front of the Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick AFB, Florida, c. 1970. These static displays have since been relocated to the Air Force Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral AFS.

The Eastern Range supported a variety of missile and manned and unmanned space programs in the 1960s, making it a regular focus of media attention. In the 1960s, a test range office at Patrick AFB with a missile backdrop was used to film scenes for the TV sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie, which was set in nearby Cocoa Beach (no cast was present).[26] But by the mid-1970s, the demise of the Apollo manned space program and the end of land-based ballistic missile development at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station signaled a downturn in fortunes, and on February 1, 1977, the "Air Force Eastern Test Range" organization was inactivated and its functions transferred to Detachment 1 of the Space and Missile Test Center (SAMTEC) until the activation of the Eastern Space and Missile Center in 1979 on October 1, 1979. In 1990, ESMC was transferred from the inactivating Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) to the newly established Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). On November 12, 1991 ESMC was inactivated and the 45th Space Wing (45 SW) assumed its remaining functions.[27]

Aerospace Defense Command use

In 1961, Patrick AFB began hosting a joint Federal Aviation Administration/Air Defense Command joint-use radar site featuring an AN/FPS-66 general surveillance radar set for air defense of the Patrick AFB/Cape Canaveral area. Designated site "Z-211" (FAA J-05), the 645th Radar Squadron was reactivated on 28 June 1962[28] to operate the radar, feeding data to Semi Automatic Ground Environment Data Center DC-09 at Gunter AFB, Alabama.

Aerospace Defense Command (ADC) operated the radar until 25 April 1976 when it was replaced by a detachment of the 20th Air Defense Squadron (OLA-A). The USAF radar was removed around 1988. After its closure by the Air Force, the facility was turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The former ADC site was replaced by a new site near Melbourne, Florida, as part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS), designated by NORAD as Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) Ground Equipment Facility "J-5", with a new ARSR-4 radar.[29]

Major commands assigned

  • Air Proving Ground Command, October 1, 1949
  • Air Research and Development Command, May 14, 1951
Redesignated: Air Force Systems Command, April 1, 1961

Major units assigned

HC-130s of the 920th Rescue Wing (920 RQW) at their home station of Patrick AFB
An HH-60G of the 920 RQW's 301 RQS prepares to aerial refuel from an HC-130P of the 920 RQW's 39 RQS
  • 2770th Standby Squadron, November 20, 1948 - October 1, 1949
  • Joint Long Range Proving Ground, 11 May 1949
Redesignated: Florida Missile Test Range, 30 June 1951
Redesignated: Atlantic Missile Range, 1 July 1958
Redesignated: Air Force Eastern Test Range, 1 July 1964
Redesignated: Eastern Range, 12 November 1991-Present
  • Advance HQ, Joint Long Range Proving Ground, October 1, 1949 - August 15, 1950
Redesignated, 4820th Air Base Squadron, August 15, 1950 - September 4, 1951
  • Air Force Eastern Test Range, October 1, 1949 - February 1, 1977
Det. 1 Space and Missile Test Center (SAMTEC), February 1, 1977 - October 1, 1979
Eastern Space & Missile Center (ESMC), October 1, 1979 - November 1, 1991
Redesignated: 6555th Guided Missile Wing, 14 May 1951
Redesignated: 6555th Guided Missile Group, 1 March 1953-7 September 1954
  • 2d Mobile Communications Group, 1 October 1975
Redesignated: 2nd Combat Communications Group, 24 March 1976-30 June 1990
  • 4802d (later 6555th) Guided Missile Squadron, April 10, 1951 - August 15, 1959
Inactivated and reactivated as: 6555th Guided Missile Group, 15 August 1959
Redesignated: 6555th Test Wing, 21 December 1959
Redesignated: 6555th Aerospace Test Wing, 25 October 1961
Redesignated: 6555th Aerospace Test Group, 1 April 1970-1 October 1990
Redesignated: 6555th Guided Missile Wing, 14 May 1951
Redesignated: 6555th Guided Missile Group, 1 March 1953-7 September 1954
  • 550th Guided Missiles Wing, 11–29 December 1950
  • 4802d (later 6555th) Guided Missile Squadron, April 10, 1951 - August 15, 1959
Inactivated and reactivated as: 6555th Guided Missile Group, 15 August 1959
Redesignated: 6555th Test Wing, 21 December 1959
Redesignated: 6555th Aerospace Test Wing, 25 October 1961
Redesignated: 6555th Aerospace Test Group, 1 April 1970-1 October 1990
  • 6550th Air Base Wing, September 4, 1951 - March 1, 1953
Redesignated: 6550th Air Base Group, March 1, 1953 - October 1, 1990
Redesignated: 1040th Space Support Group, October 1, 1990 - November 12, 1991
Redesignated: 45th Support Group, November 12, 1991 - present
  • Air Force Eastern Test Range, October 1, 1949 - February 1, 1977
Det. 1 Space and Missile Test Center (SAMTEC), February 1, 1977 - October 1, 1979
Eastern Space & Missile Center (ESMC), October 1, 1979 - November 1, 1991
  • 6541st Missile Test Wing, September 4, 1951 - September 7, 1954
  • 45th Space Wing on November 12, 1991–present
45th Support Group became subordinate of Wing
Eastern Space & Missile Center became subordinate of Wing

Reference for history summation, major commands assigned and major units assigned[27][30][31]


The base has the Space Coast Inn for visiting personnel, dormitories for permanent party single enlisted personnel, quarters for families in three separate housing areas, recreational housing on the beach, beach access, combined officers and enlisted clubs, commissary, a large AAFES base exchange (BX), library and numerous morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) facilities.

There are several chapels including Chapel One, Chapel Two, South Chapel at the South Housing area, and Seaside Chapel (Building 440). There is a "45th Space Wing Chapel" which travels with the Wing when it is deployed. The Catholic Group is called "St. George Parish" and meets in Chapel One or Two. While the buildings are owned by the Air Force, the Catholic Parish is under the spiritual direction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

In 2009, base housing was privatized and in addition to active duty personnel and their families, also became available for lease by members of the Reserve and Guard, military retirees, Department of Defense civil service employees and DOD contractors.[32]

In 2010, the construction of a new 74,000 square feet (6,900 m2) medical clinic was started. It is expected to cost $18.5 million.[22]


The Missileer was published by the base weekly until September 28, 2012. It was discontinued due to defense budget cutbacks as a result of sequestration. A local paper, Florida Today, publishes The Shark Pride weekly, as a replacement for the former publication.[33]

Surrounding areas


Patrick Air Force Base lies on a barrier island, and is primarily accessed from the mainland by the Pineda Causeway (State Road 404) in Satellite Beach, or State Road A1A which runs the entire length of Patrick AFB.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cliff Lethbridge. “Chapter 2: The Missile Range Takes Shape (1949-1958)”, The History of Cape Canaveral, Spaceline, Inc. website, 2000. Retrieved on November 16, 2007.
  2. Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. 24. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.
  3. [1]. Retrieved on 2015-12-02.
  4. Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. 34. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.
  5. FAA Airport Master Record for COF (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2007-10-25
  6. Moody, R. Norman (13 February 2010). "New Commander takes the flag". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Patrick AFB CDP, Florida". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved January 31, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Moody, R. Norman (May 12, 2007). After days of delay, airmen return from deployments. Florida Today.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Factsheets : 920th Rescue Wing. Retrieved on 2013-09-18.
  11. retrieved May 9, 2007
  12. Moody, R. Norman (May 12, 2007). "After days of delay, airmen return from deployments". Florida Today.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Brotemarkle, Ben (May 17, 2016). "WWII Roots". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A, 5A. Retrieved May 17, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1
  15. Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. v. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website
  16. 16.0 16.1 Flight 19. Retrieved on 2013-09-18.
  18. Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. v. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.
  19. [2] Archived March 15, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  20. England, Annie (May 4, 2015). "Social director greeted dignitaries from all over the world". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A. Retrieved May 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Moody, R. Norman (15 October 2010). "Major construction planned at Patrick". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. [3]. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  24. Moody, R. Norman (February 8, 2011). "President's plane was not Air Force One". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 2B.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. 25.0 25.1 Lethbridge, Keith. "THE MISSILE RANGE TAKES SHAPE (1949-1958)". Retrieved 2008-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Fact Sheets : EVOLUTION OF THE 45TH SPACE WING". Retrieved 2008-06-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Cornett & Johnson, p. 156
  29. Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
  30. Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on September 17, 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4
  31. U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles, (2009), George Mindling, Robert Bolton ISBN 978-0-557-00029-6
  32. Calkins, Chris (2009-01-29). "Base housing policy changes Feb. 2". 45th SW Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-04-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Missileer

Other sources

External links