|Part of Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC)|
|Located near: Chicopee, Massachusetts|
A Westover C-5B Galaxy taxies in from a local training mission
|In use||1939 – present|
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
|Garrison||439th Airlift Wing|
|IATA: CEF – ICAO: KCEF – FAA LID: CEF|
|Elevation AMSL||241 ft / 73.5 m|
|Source: Federal Aviation Administration|
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Westover Air Reserve Base (IATA: CEF, ICAO: KCEF, FAA Location identifier: CEF) is an Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) installation located in the Massachusetts communities of Chicopee and Ludlow, near the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. Westover hosts the largest Air Reserve Base in the world in terms of area. Until 2011, it was a backup landing site for the NASA Space Shuttle and in the past few years has expanded to include a growing civilian access airport sharing Westover's military-maintained runways. The installation was named for Major General Oscar Westover who was commanding officer of the Army Air Corps in the 1930s. Westover was killed on 21 September 1938 in the crash of his high-speed Northrop A-17AS at Lockheed Aircraft's air field in Burbank, California (now known as Bob Hope Airport). The host unit is the 439th Airlift Wing (439 AW) of the Twenty-Second Air Force (22 AF), Air Force Reserve Command. Outside of the AFRC command structure, the 439 AW and Westover are operationally gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC).
Due to its location, Westover is transitted by many different aircraft.
Physically, Westover is the largest Air Force Reserve base in the United States and will expand significantly over the next decade to further encompass Active and Reserve Component activities of the Navy, Marines, Army, and mainline Air Force functions from installations closed by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
Current military operations at Westover Air Reserve Base are centered around its exceptionally long runways. The Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) uses Westover for its largest cargo aircraft. It maintains a fleet of sixteen C-5 Galaxy aircraft operated by the 439th Airlift Wing (439 AW), an Air Force Reserve unit that is operationally gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC). In 2003, the Air Force Reserve Command briefly changed the name of Westover Air Reserve Base to Westover Joint Air Reserve Base. It has since been renamed to its previous designation of "Westover Air Reserve Base" as a military installation and is referred to as Westover Air Reserve Base/Metropolitan in DoD and FAA Flight Information Publications (FLIP).
The Westover complex serves the "Joint Use" mission of military and civilian cooperation. The core aviation facilities at Westover are owned by the Department of Defense while nearly a 100 acres (400,000 m2) are under private ownership. The two parties coordinate operations in order to promote national defense and economic development. The 11,597-foot (3,535 m) and 7,082-foot (2,159 m) long runways provide the flexibility for significant separation between military and civilian operations.
439th Airlift Wing
- 439th Maintenance Group
- 439th Mission Support Group
Air Force Auxiliary
- Westover Composite Squadron, NER-MA-015, Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol
- 302d Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
- 287th Medical Detachment, 804th Medical Brigade
- 226th Transportation Company (Railway Operating)(assigned to the 757th Transportation Battalion (Railway), Milwaukee, WI)
- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27
- Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Detachment B
- Marine Air Support Squadron 6
- Springfield Military Entrance Processing Station
Plans for Westover Field were made in 1939 as a result of the Nazi Germany invasion of Poland in 1939. Up to then, the country had only seventeen unimproved and ill-maintained air bases. The Army Air Corps began rapid expansion at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide an adequate air force for defense of the United States. The Mayor of Chicopee, Massachusetts, Anthony Stonina lobbied long and hard to a new military airfield in the Northeast, arguing convincingly for the town's flat, open tobacco fields as a natural air field. Within two weeks of the Polish invasion, Chicopee was chosen for a new base.
President Roosevelt signed a $750,000 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project bill for the air base's construction in November 1939. Fourteen hundred WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers cleared the land, and actual construction was started in February 1940. The Quartermaster Corps proved to be unequal to the gigantic task of rapidly designing and building hundreds of military installations across the country, so to ease their burden, the Army Corps of Engineers was given all Army Air Corps work in November 1940. The original airfield at Westover consisted of three runways in the standard "A" pattern to accommodate landings in all directions based on wind direction. They were concrete, aligned 7000x150(N/S), 7000x150(NE/SW), 7000x150(NW/SE). A large parking apron was constructed to accommodate the aircraft with maintenance hangars and supporting buildings. Since the Constructing Quartermaster had already planned the base, the first permanent masonry buildings were constructed east of the airfield to those designs, which were intended to be lasting and attractive. Wartime demands, made necessary several hundred buildings based on standardized plans and architectural drawings. The buildings were designed to be the "cheapest, temporary character with structural stability only sufficient to meet the needs of the service which the structure is intended to fulfill during the period of its contemplated war use." To conserve critical materials, most facilities were constructed of wood, concrete, brick, gypsum board and concrete asbestos. Metal was sparsely used. Westover Field was designed to be nearly self-sufficient, with not only hangars, but barracks, warehouses, hospitals, dental clinics, dining halls, and maintenance shops were needed. There were libraries, social clubs for officers, and enlisted men, and stores to buy living necessities. The early permanent buildings were retained after the war and which have survived, while of the hundreds of temporary buildings later constructed to meet the tremendous needs of the war mobilization by the Corps of Engineers only a few remain.
On 6 April 1940, "Army Day" nationwide, the dedication, flag raising and ground breaking ceremony was held on site. The new air base was named for Major General Oscar Westover, Chief of the Air Corps, US Army, who had died in September 1938. Major General Oscar Westover was in part responsible for the beginning of a period of expansion that ended with the emergence of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. He was named Chief of the Air Corps and promoted to Major General on 22 December 1935. He spent the next two-and-a-half years flying to bases around the country to step up pilot training and increase the emphasis on aviation which would be important in the 1940s. On 21 September 1938, General Westover lost his life in an airplane accident near the Lockheed plant at Burbank, California, when his plane burst into flames on landing. Building at the base was constant throughout 1941. At first, the base had been planned to accommodate 1,400 men as an airplane overhaul facility, but by 1940 this had been increased to 3,000 men. At the start of 1942 there was housing for approximately 3,300 enlisted and 500 officers, and at the close of that year there were quarters for about 8,000 officers and men. All but a few of these temporary buildings are now gone.
The first organization at the base was the 10th Signal Platoon that began working in June 1940. The first Air Corps arrived in July. Throughout 1941 many organizations passed through being activated and inactivated. For a brief time the all-black 369th Antiaircraft Coast Artillery Regiment, known as "Harlem's Finest" was stationed here.
World War II
Westover Field was placed under the jurisdiction of the Northeast Air District, later First Air Force, with the 25th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron the main Base Operating Unit. During the course of the war, it became the largest military air facility in the Northeast.
The mission of Westover was to organize and provide initial training to new combat units. Pilots, navigators, bombardiers, flexible gunners and other aircrew would arrive and be assigned to newly organized squadrons and groups. Newly manufactured B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters and other aircraft would be ferried to Westover and be assigned to the newly formed units to begin their first phase of combat group training. After the personnel were assigned to aircraft as aircrews and squadrons, the airmen training consisted of aircraft familiarity, formation flying and other basic skills. Aircrews consisted of new graduates from Training Command and experienced aircrews being transferred into the new units. Along with the flight crews, ground echelon personnel were formed into aircraft maintenance squadrons, and the command and staff echelons were organized. From Westover, the units would proceed on to second-stage advanced training at other bases prior to their deployment into operational services
In 1942 Westover Field was training center for anti-submarine, engineering, chemical platoons, bomber and fighter groups. In 1943, training mainly focused on fighter groups and anti-submarine combat units, and in the fall of 1943 the base's main mission shifted from fighter training to training heavy bombardment groups. On 7 April 1944, the Base Operating Unit was reorganized into the 112th Army Air Force Base Unit. As victory in Europe was achieved, some aircrews were brought back to be trained for re-deployment to the Pacific Theater. At the end of the war troops were prepared for inactivation.
Air Transport Command/Military Air Transport Service
With the end of World War II, Westover Field was designated as a permanent United States Army Air Force installation in 1945 and was not inactivated as most of the wartime temporary training airfields were in the fall of 1945.
On 1 February 1946 Westover became an Air Transport Command (ATC) base which meant that it was the terminus for air routes around the world. During World War II, ATC had developed into a huge military air carrier with a worldwide route pattern. Routes had been established to places that had seen few men before the war, and where aircraft had been unheard of. Airline personnel who had never left the United States before the war, had become veterans of long over-water flights to the remotest regions of earth. Four-engine C-54 Skymaster and shorter-range C-47 Skytrain transports took supplies and reinforcements from Westover to the armed forces and returned with the wounded and discharged troops. In 1947, ATC C-54 aircrews from Westover took part in the rescue of stranded airmen in the arctic, rescuing the crew of Kee Bird, a B-29 Superfortress that made an emergency landing in northern Greenland, hundreds of miles from an airfield.
With the establishment of the United States Air Force in September 1947, the name of Westover Field was changed to Westover Air Force Base on 13 January 1948.
On 1 June 1948 Air Transport Command was reorganized into the Military Air Transport Service (MATS), and Westover was designated as Headquarters, Atlantic Division, Military Air Transport Service. From Westover, MATS 1600th Air Transport Wing airlifters provided service across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe; to the Caribbean and South America; to North Africa and the Middle East to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Westover was also the launching point of the heroic Berlin Airlift for 327 days during the Soviet blockade. Altogether 276,926 flights by C-47s and C-54s were flown, bringing an average of one ton of supplies and food to each Berlin resident. Chicopee schoolchildren responded to the plight of German children and organized "Operation Little Vittles" sending ten tons of candy attached to handkerchief parachutes which were dropped from the air. Westover took part in the Korean War transporting freight and passengers to the forces in Japan and South Korea, and casualties were brought to the Westover Air Force Base Hospital from 1950 to 1954.
Air Defense Command
In 1951 Air Defense Command established an air defense interceptor presence at Westover, its units being assigned to the base in a tenant status until the turnover of the base to the Air Force Reserve in 1974.
The 60th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (33d FIG, Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts) was moved to the base in January 1951 flying F-86A Sabres and assumed an air defense mission, providing air defense in the northeastern United States. The squadron changed equipment in December 1951 to more-capable F-86E Sabres before receiving the ADC F-86D Sabre Interceptor in July 1953. The 60th FIS remained until August 1955 when it was moved back to the ADC 33d Fighter Group base at Otis.
A second ADC interceptor squadron, the 324th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (4622d ADW, Otis AFB) was activated at Westover on 18 October 1955. The 324th FIS flew the F-86D Sabre Interceptor, and was later updated to the SAGE-capable computer-directed F-86L in October 1957. ADC established a more substantial presence in July 1957 when the 4729th Air Defense Group was activated. The 4729th ADG was organized after the 4622d Air Defense Wing became the Boston Air Defense Sector at Stewart AFB, New York. The group was the command and control organization for the 324th FIS until ADC moved the 324th FIS to USAFE, where it began performing air defense duties at Sidi Slimane Air Base, Morocco for SAC B-47 Stratojets deployed there.
In February 1961, the 76th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (Boston Air Defense Sector) was activated at Westover flying the supersonic F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor, assuming air defense duties. The 76th remained at Westover until 1 July 1963 when it was inactivated due to budget reductions. In September 1972, the 4713th Defense Systems Evaluation Squadron (21st Air Division) moved to Westover AFB from Otis AFB. The mission of the squadron was to provide Electronic Counter-Measure (ECM) training and evaluation services to the various ADC ground-based Radar Squadrons. The squadron operated specially-equipped EB-57E Canberra bombers fitted with an assortment of Radar jamming devices to train radar squadrons with thousands of hours of ECM training. These specially-equipped EB-57Es were operated until April 1974 when the squadron was inactivated as part of the phase-down of Aerospace Defense Command.
Strategic Air Command
Detonation in August 1949 by the Soviet Union of an atomic bomb spawned a new strategy in the military, calling for massive retaliation in the event of an attack. General Curtis LeMay carried the strategy to its furthest conclusion: the military had to carry out a pre-emptive attack if it became clear that there were preparations for nuclear attack by an enemy in progress. This strategy was to be made manifest through the Strategic Air Command (SAC) In 1955 the Strategic Air Command (SAC) assumed jurisdiction of Westover Air Force Base, and the MATS transport units assigned were transferred to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. Westover's geographic location in New England made it preferable for SAC for its long distance, great circle route flights across the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic regions for strategic missions against the Soviet Union if the Cold War suddenly turned into an armed conflict.
499th Air Refueling Wing
SAC initially came to Westover with activation of the provisional 4050th Air Refueling Wing (later 499th Air Refueling Wing) and the Eighth Air Force headquarters. The wing supported SAC bombardment and Tactical Air Command fighter aircraft with air-to-air refueling. It was equipped initially with propeller-driven KC-97s and later upgraded to the jet-powered KC-135 Stratotanker. The 499th also flew the EC-135 Looking Glass missions in support of the Post Attack Command and Control System (PACCS) for Eighth Air Force. On 11 November 1957 a KC-135 tanker piloted by Gen. Curtis LeMay flew 6,350 miles from Westover AFB to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 13 hours 2 minutes, a world record for nonstop nonrefueled jet flight. The 499th Air Refueling Wing was inactivated on 25 June 1966.
99th Bombardment Wing
The 99th Bombardment Wing moved from Fairchild AFB, Washington to Westover AFB in late 1956, and began operation of the B-52 Stratofortress. The 99th Bomb Wing kept bombers and tankers on ground alert at all times, and SAC crews lived on 24-hour alert for two weeks at a time. The 348th Bombardment Squadron operated the B-52 from December 1956 through April 1972 while assigned to the 99th Bombardment Wing at Westover AFB. The Target Intelligence Training Building [Building 1875] was constructed in 1957. The Corps of Engineers in Boston oversaw its construction to designs by McClintock & Craig Engineers and Architects of Springfield. It was designated as Target Intelligence Training Building for the Reconnaissance Technical forces in 1957, but its functions were always highly secret. Original drawings of Building 1875 indicated rooms for radar bomb training, se-cure storage, predictions, mission support and operational intelligence maps. Here also were Link Trainers that simulated aircraft for training purposes.
In 1959 the "Mole hole", building 7450, was the first building erected as part of the SAC massive retaliation strategy. Here was where long-range B-52 bombers armed with nuclear devices were kept on continuous alert on a nearby runway, known as the Christmas tree. Their crews rotated through the mole hole, spending one week of 24-hour alert in underground quarters going everywhere together during that week so they were always ready for launch in a few moments. The lower control room was outfitted for SAC operations in case of nuclear war. Nuclear weapons were stored at the Stony Brook section of the base and planes loaded with these devices were kept on the ground ready to take off at a moment's notice. In case of nuclear war, an alternate SAC command bunker, called The Notch, was constructed deep within Mount Holyoke, in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts. In 1967, SAC crews were sent to Southeast Asia on B-52 Arc Light bombing missions and anti-war activists began protesting the war on a daily basis at Westover's main gate. President Richard Nixon ordered the inactivation of the Eighth Air Force in 1970, although the 99th Bomb Wing continued its missions over Southeast Asia. Many American prisoners of war returned from North Vietnam through Westover and this operation ended in 1973 with the return of the last POWs from North Vietnam.
Westover was the home of one of four photographic labs for film taken on strategic reconnaissance missions during the SAC era, processing film secretly made by Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. In January 1961, the Air Force Satellite Photo Processing Laboratory (later designated the 6594th Test Squadron) was activated and placed under Eighth Air Force. The quantity of film taken by SAC reconnaissance aircraft was so great that another building on base operated primarily as a silver recovery facility. Strategic reconnaissance was one of the primary missions of SAC since its establishment in 1946, and during the Cold War, it was critical to SAC's mission. Film exposed on high-speed reconnaissance aircraft over non-friendly territory was developed and translated to maps in Buildings 1900 and 1875. The climax came in 1962 when Soviet R-12 Dvina Intermediate-range ballistic missiles were being installed in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis was in large part played out at Westover where U-2 film of the Russian cargo ships carrying additional missiles approaching Cuba was developed.
Air Force Reserve
Strategic Air Command phased down operations at Westover in the early 1970s as part of the drawdown of United States forces after the end of the Vietnam War, but also in part due to the reduction of B-52 wings in favor of Intercontinental ballistic missiles. The last SAC aircraft at Westover left in the spring of 1975. They were three KC-135s of Det 1, 42nd Bomb Wing, out of Loring Air Force Base, Maine, the tankers which had pulled satellite alert at the Westover Alert Facility "mole hole." SAC's 4040th Air Base Group, the caretaker unit for Westover, departed in 1976.
One year later, SAC leadership turned the base over to the Air Force Reserve. From that time until October 1987 the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing operated C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider aircraft. The wing converted to C-5 Galaxy heavy transports in 1987 and the unit eventually became designated as the 439th Airlift Wing. Westover ARB continues to operate as the world's largest Air Reserve Base and largest Air Reserve Component airlift wing, as well as being one of the country's two centers for Galaxy C-5A military transport aircraft.
Between March and July 1991, soldiers returning from the 1991 Gulf War landed at Westover where they were met by their families and friends.
On 30 July 2002, the old air traffic control tower at Westover ARB was destroyed using five earthmovers to pull down the 40-year-old building. Destruction of the tower followed the completion of a new 10-story, $4.1 million facility that rises 123 feet above the airfield, providing 100 percent visibility of the field as well as 21st century air traffic control equipment.
Major commands to which assigned
Major units assigned
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission ruled that Westover would absorb other military units in New England. The expansion proposed the transfer of all military operations at Bradley International Airport to Westover and the nearby Barnes Municipal Airport. The exception to this decision is the 103rd Airlift Wing, which will remain at Bradley. A $32 million building project is underway to accommodate the additional 1600 service members required by the plan.
The new Armed Forces Reserve Center will host Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy Reserve operations. The Massachusetts Army National Guard will also make its debut at the base.
The air base is one of the biggest employers in the Springfield area and produces an estimated $231 million in economic activity at current levels. Much of base's extensive landholdings have been sold as surplus and developed into industrial parks for tenants such as Friendly's Ice Cream.
The local government credits Westover with spurring development of the Memorial Drive corridor, including several planned hotels and a high-end retail plaza.
As a center for military air operations, Westover Air Reserve Base poses several hazards to local residents. These include air pollution, noise pollution, and water contamination hazards – all of which are shared with similar-sized commercial airports.
Due to its sheer size, the C-5 Galaxy comes fitted with powerful engines (GE TF-39 on classic models), which burn fuel at an elevated rate, causing concern over the release of air pollutants. As with all military aircraft, the C-5 Galaxy runs on JP-8 fuel – a practical and economic fuel, but one renowned for its high impurity levels (e.g. sulfur) and variable composition. During operation, C-5 Galaxy aircraft are expected to release significant levels of contaminants – including sulfur dioxide, arising from the oxidation of sulfur present in the fuel; carbon monoxide, due to the incomplete oxidation of hydrocarbon molecules; and particulate matter. The release of such air pollutants is not exclusive to C-5 Galaxy aircraft. Comparable commercial aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 airliner, employ GE CF-6 engines – a direct descendant of the GE TF-39 model found in C-5 Galaxy aircraft – which burn fuel at comparable rates, and can produce similar levels of air pollutant concentrations.
The engine model employed by the C-5 Galaxy, General Electric's TF-39, holds the unique distinction of being the first successful high-bypass turbofan engine ever developed, and is the predecessor to modern-day engines employed in large airliners – such as the General Electric CF-6, employed in some Boeing 747 airliners. Despite this distinction, the TF-39 was not optimized for noise control, as were its commercial successors. As a result, the C-5 Galaxy has become known as a notoriously loud aircraft, with a very distinctive high-pitched sound. This has led to concerns among local residents regarding the loud engine noise, which can become obtrusive for residents living very near the base. It should be noted that the C-5's currently stationed at Westover are much quieter than the B-52 aircraft that they replaced. To moderate concerns of noise pollution, Westover A.R.B. has in place a strict curfew on maintenance engine runs, which are not allowed to take place after 10PM – although, depending on operational requirements, aircraft may still depart any time. Westover A.R.B. operates a noise complaint phone line, which can be used by residents concerned with elevated engine noise levels.
As a C-5 Galaxy maintenance hub, Westover A.R.B. makes significant use of aerospace chemicals which pose well-known environmental hazards. These include aircraft deicing fluid, used to deice aircraft during winter operations, and which has been reportedly found in the chemical analysis of water in the Cooley Brook, which feeds into the Chicopee water reservoir. Other chemicals are used during day-to-day maintenance operations – including JP-8 fuel, hydraulic fuel, and a variety of lubricants, among others. Westover A.R.B. implements strict chemical disposal policies, designed to prevent entry of these and other harmful chemicals into the local environment.
However, Westover's extended operations history has produced numerous hazardous waste sites. The Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies concluded that "Fifty years of military operations at Westover have created a complex set of hazardous waste sites. USAF has identified over two-dozen sites on the active Base and on nearby Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) that were sold off as the Westover has downsized." According to the military's estimates, the waste sites may affect 21,000 people who live within a one mile radius of the Base, Chicopee Memorial State Park and the Chicopee Reservoir (both active recreational areas for surrounding communities), underground drinking water resources, wetlands areas, and critical wildlife habitats.
The 731st Tactical Airlift Squadron was assigned C-123K Provider aircraft (used during the Vietnam War to spray Agent Orange) between 1972–1982, at which time those aircraft were retired to storage. In 1994 the Air Force Museum identified dioxin contamination remaining from one of the squadron's aircraft (Tail #362, Patches). Other Air Force tests confirmed dioxin contamination remaining on stored aircraft at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. All stored aircraft were destroyed by smelting in 2010. Former crews and maintenance personnel are pursuing medical treatment from the US Department of Veterans Affairs for dioxin exposure, although the VA has determined not enough dioxin residue remained after Vietnam to affect crews' health. On 26 January 2012 the Center For Disease Control's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued an official letter disputing the VA's position and confirming crews and maintenance personnel were "likely" exposed to a 200 times greater risk for cancer. No issue regarding the aircraft leaving any contamination at Westover AFB has been raised.
Facilities and aircraft
The portion of the Westover complex still under military control covers an area of 2,500 acres (10 km²) which contains two runways: 5/23: measuring 11,597 x 301 ft (3,535 x 92 m) and 15/33 measuring 7,082 x 150 ft (2,159 x 46 m). A new Air Traffic Control tower was constructed in 2002 and the old tower was demolished.
According to Federal Aviation Authority records for the 12-month period ending 26 September 1994, the airport had 38,137 aircraft operations, an average of 104 per day: 81% military, 18% general aviation and 1% air taxi. There were 46 aircraft based at this airport: 35% military, 50% single engine, 9% multi-engine, 2% jet aircraft, 2% helicopters and 2% ultralight.
Military facilities are under control of the Commander, 439th Airlift Wing, currently Col Steven D. Vautrain. The civilian portion of the airport is run by the Director of Civil Aviation, an employee of the Westover Metropolitan Corporation.
This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Westover Air Reserve Base".
- , effective 2011-07-30 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "FAA" defined multiple times with different content
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