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Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base
USGS aerial image, 8 April 1994
Airport type Military (ANG)
Owner New York Air National Guard
Serves Westhampton Beach, New York
Elevation AMSL 67 ft / 20 m
Coordinates 40°50′37″N 072°37′54″W / 40.84361°N 72.63167°W / 40.84361; -72.63167
Direction Length Surface
ft m
6/24 9,000 2,743 Asphalt/Concrete
1/19 5,000 1,524 Asphalt/Concrete
15/33 5,000 1,524 Asphalt
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]

Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base is a former military airport located 3 nautical miles (6 km) north of the central business district of Westhampton Beach, in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, United States. It is approximately 80 miles (130 km) east of New York City.

Known as Suffolk County Air Force Base until 1969, then Suffolk County Air National Guard Base until 1991, when it was renamed in honor of Col Francis S. Gabreski, a flying ace in World War II who was the commander of the 52nd Fighter-Interceptor Wing at the base from 1964 through November 1967 when he retired.

Today, the airport is used by the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing (106 RQW), an Air Combat Command (ACC)-gained unit.

The airports civil operations operate at Francis S. Gabreski Airport.



In 1943, the United States government built the airport for use as an Army Air Forces base during World War II. Initially a sub-base of Mitchel Field on Long Island, it was later assigned to First Air Force. Suffolk County Army Air Field's host unit was the 437th Army Air Force Base Unit and was tasked with the air defense of the New York City area and for flying antisubmarine patrols along the Atlantic coast. After the war, the airfield was conveyed to Suffolk County for use as a civil airport, but with a reversal clause for future military utilization, if warranted.

In 1951 the airport was reclaimed by the United States Air Force due to the Korean War National Emergency and was leased as an Air Defense Command (ADC) base. Renamed Suffolk County AFB, the installation was assigned to the Eastern Air Defense Force and was the prime Air Defense Command facility responsible for defending the New York City metropolitan area against hostile air attack.

56 nuclear-tipped BOMARC missiles were stored in 56 metal sheds just west of the airport from 1959 until 1964. It was one of 10 such facilities on the east coast which were aimed at Soviet bombers. The sheds are still in place just north of Old Country Road. The 187 acre site is used now by Suffolk County to impound cars. Suffolk County and the FBI also use a portion for a shooting range.[2]

The initial USAF unit assigned to Suffolk County AFB was the Connecticut Air National Guard's 103rd Fighter-Interceptor Wing (103 FIW), which was federalized and brought on to active duty on 1 June 1951. Its 118th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron flew F-47N Thunderbolts. The 103 FIW remained briefly at Suffolk County until replaced by the 45th and 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons in November 1952, flying the F-86 Sabre as part of the 23rd Fighter-Interceptor Group (23 FIG).

In 1955, the 23 FIG was reassigned to Presque Isle AFB, Maine and replaced by the newly-activated 52d Fighter-Interceptor Wing (52 FIW), which flew under various designations from Suffolk County AFB until 1969, with the 2d and 5th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons flying F-94 Starfire, F-101 Voodoo and F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors. Assigned in 1963 to the New York Air Defense Sector, the base was deactivated in 1969 as part of a general drawdown of the then-renamedAerospace Defense Command and released back to Suffolk County.

Military operations were reintroduced in June 1970, when the 102d Rescue Squadron|102nd Air Refueling Squadron]] (102 AREFS) of the 106th Air Refueling Group (106 ARG) of the New York Air National Guard relocated to Suffolk County with their KC-97 Stratotankers after the closing of Naval Air Station Floyd Bennett Field. In 1972, the unit's mission changed from air refueling to fighter-interceptor, with the new mission of controlling the skies along the northeast U.S. coast with F-102 Delta Dagger aircraft.

In 1975, the designation and mission changed again to "Aerospace Rescue and Recovery", later shortened to "Air Rescue" and then simply "Rescue". The current names of the 102nd Rescue Squadron (102 RQS) and 106th Rescue Wing (106 RQW) were assigned in 1995. Today, the 106 RQW provides search and rescue services using HC-130P Hercules aircraft and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. The rescue wing was featured in the book and movie of The Perfect Storm which details the crash of one of the wing's HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters while conducting search and rescue operations from the airport during the 1991 Perfect Storm.

Air Force One was based at the airport in the summers of 1998 and 1999 during weeklong visits by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton during extended stays at the Georgica Pond home of Steven Spielberg in East Hampton (village), New York.

See also


  • Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links



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