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Nellis Air Force Base

Air Combat Command.png
Air Combat Command

Nellis AFB NV - 9 Jun 1994.jpg
USGS aerial photo as of June 9, 1994
Airport type Military: Air Force Base
Owner United States Air Force
Operator Air Combat Command
Location North Las Vegas, Nevada
Built 1941
Occupants 99th Air Base Wing, 57th Air Base Wing
Elevation AMSL 1,867 ft / 569 m
Coordinates 36°14′10″N 115°02′03″W / 36.23611°N 115.03417°W / 36.23611; -115.03417
Direction Length Surface
ft m
03L/21R 10,123 3,085 Concrete
03R/21L 10,055 3,065 Concrete
Sources: official site[1] and FAA[2]
Nellis AFB is located in Nevada
Nellis AFB
Location of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada
FAA airport diagram
Map showing the locations of Nellis AFB and the NTTR

Nellis Air Force Base (IATA: LSVICAO: KLSVFAA LID: LSV) is a United States Air Force base located in North Las Vegas, Nevada. It is seven nautical miles (13 km) northeast of the central business district of Las Vegas.[2] It was named in honor of P-47 pilot 1st Lieutenant William Harrell Nellis, who was killed in WWII during the Battle of the Bulge.



An installation of the Air Combat Command (ACC), Nellis is the location of the United States Air Force Warfare Center[3] and is a major training location for both U.S. and foreign military aircrews. The base is named for William Harrell Nellis,[4] a Las Vegas resident and Army Air Force P-47 pilot who died in action during the Battle of the Bulge.[4]

The main base covers approximately 11,300 acres (4,600 ha). Sixty-three percent of it is undeveloped, while the remaining area is either paved or contains structures.

The base consists of three major functional areas.

The associated Nevada Test and Training Range is located to the west in Nye and several other counties.


As a result of its varied roles, Nellis AFB is home to more squadrons than any other Air Force Base.


United States Air Force Warfare Center

  • 53d Wing (Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; 53rd Wing has 17 subordinate unit locations nationwide)
  • 57th Wing
  • 98th Range Wing (formerly 554th Range Group)
  • 99th Air Base Wing responsible for the operation of Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases (formerly 554th Operations Support Wing)
    • 99th Civil Engineer Squadron (formerly 554th Red Hat Squadron and 554th Civil Engineering Squadron)
    • 99th Communications Squadron
    • 99th Comptroller Squadron
    • 99th Contracting Squadron
    • 99th Mission Support Group (formerly 554th Support Group & 554th Combat Support Group)
      • 99th Civil Engineer Squadron (formerly 554th Red Hat Squadron and 554th Civil Engineering Squadron)
      • 99th Communications Squadron
      • 99th Contracting Squadron
      • 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron
      • 99th Mission Support Squadron
      • 99th Services Squadron
    • 99th Medical Group (formerly 554th Medical Group & formerly under 554th Combat Support Group)
      • 99th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
      • 99th Dental Squadron
      • 99th Medical Operations Squadron
      • 99th Medical Support Squadron
      • Surgical Operations Squadron
      • Inpatient Operations Squadron
    • 99th Security Forces Group (all security forces formally under 554th Combat Support Group)
      • 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron (formerly 554th Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM))
      • 99th Security Forces Squadron (formerly 554th Security Police Squadron - 554th SPS)
      • 99th Security Support Squadron (formerly 554th Security Support Squadron, protecting Area 2 (nuclear weapons storage area or "WSA"), just north by northeast of Nellis AFB)
    • 99th Services Squadron

Other units

Area 2

Area 2 is widely regarded as one of the largest weapons storage sites in the United States.[6] When atomic testing was occurring at the Nevada test Site, Area 2 was used for the storage of the weapons.[6]


Major Commands to which assigned

  • West Coast Air Corps Training Center, April 1941
USAAC Flexible Gunnery School, March 1941
  • Air Corps Flying Training Command, January 23, 1942
Redesignated: Army Air Force Training Command, March 15, 1942
Redesignated: Air Training Command, July 1, 1946
Las Vegas Army Airfield was placed in caretaker status, August 28, 1946, and inactivated on December 31, 1946. It was assigned as a subbase of Mather AAF, California, between August 30, 1947 – March 31, 1948. It was reactivated on April 1, 1948 and assigned as a subbase of Williams AFB, Arizona, April 1, 1948 – October 1, 1950 when it was returned to primary installation status.

Major Units assigned

  • Army Air Force Gunnery School, June 16, 1941 – December 6, 1946
  • 79th Air Base Group, June 17, 1941 – August 14, 1942
  • 70th Base HQ and Air Base Squadron, August 14, 1942 – May 1, 1944
  • 82d Flying Training Wing, August 25, 1943 – June 16, 1946
  • 3006th Army Air Force Base Unit, May 1, 1944 – July 31, 1945
  • 3021st Army Air Force Base Unit, May 1, 1944 – July 31, 1947
  • 3595th Combat Crew Training Wing, December 22, 1948 – July 1, 1958
Redesignated: 4520th Combat Crew Training Wing, July 1, 1958 – January 20, 1968
  • USAF Aircraft Gunnery School, May 15, 1949 – September 1, 1966
Incorporated into USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center, September 1, 1966
Redesignated: USAF Fighter Weapons Center, June 1, 1992
Redesignated: USAF Weapons and Tactics Center, June 15, 1993
Redesignated: USAF Warfare Center, October 1, 2005 – Present
Redesignated: USAF Fighter Weapons School, September 1, 1966 – June 1, 1992
Redesignated: USAF Weapons School, June 1, 1992 – Present
  • USAF Aircrew (later Combat Crew Training) School, July 14, 1950 – January 20, 1968
  • 3595th (later 4520th) Air Demonstration Squadron, June 1, 1956 – February 25, 1967
Redesignated: USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, February 25, 1967 – Present
  • 4520th Air Base (later Combat Support) Group, November 1, 1961 – January 20, 1968
  • 4520th Combat Crew Training Group, November 1, 1961 – August 1, 1963
  • 4525th Fighter Weapons Wing, September 1, 1966 – October 15, 1969
  • 474th Tactical Fighter Wing, January 20, 1968 – September 30, 1989
  • 57th Fighter-Interceptor (later Fighter Weapons) Wing, October 15, 1969 – April 1, 1977
Redesignated: 57th Tactical Training Wing, April 1, 1977
Redesignated: 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, March 1, 1980
Redesignated: 57th Fighter Wing, October 1991
Redesignated: 57th Wing, June 15, 1993 – Present

References for history introduction, major commands and major units[7][8][9][10][11]

Operational History

The history of the base began with a survey in October 1940 by Major David M. Schlatter of the Army Air Corps, who examined various sites in the Southwest looking for a location for an aerial gunnery school. Las Vegas was attractive for its clear weather and year-round flying, and the then-impoverished city was eager for a military base. On January 2, 1941 the city bought an airstrip run by Western Air Express and leased it to the Air Corps three days later, the plan being to use the strip for both military and civilian aircraft. One fallout of the opening of the base was the closing of Block 16 brothels in Las Vegas.[12]

Construction of the "Las Vegas Army Air Field" began in March 1941; the first commander, Colonel Martinus Stenseth, arrived in May. Much of the early gunnery training, originally set to begin in September, but not underway until January 1942, used machine guns mounted in trucks and targets on railroad cars, used to accustom students to firing at a moving target. World War II made the base's mission especially urgent, and by the end of 1942, 9,117 gunners had graduated, with aircraft in use including Martin B-10s, AT-6s, A-33s, B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24 Liberators, and B-26 Marauders. Remains of Clay Pigeons from these guns still exist today in the desert north of Las Vegas. Many pieces of the destroyed aerial drone targets litter the hillside north of the gunnery range and can be seen in town when the sun reflects off of them.

At the height of training in 1943 and 1944, over 15,000 men and women were at the base. Actors Ronald Reagan and Burgess Meredith came to help produce the film Rear Gunner. Much of the training was for B-17 gunners, then at the beginning of 1945 emphasis shifted to the B-29 Superfortress. An innovation was the use of a specially-designed target aircraft, the RP-63, which was sufficiently armored to be shot at with frangible bullets. At war's end, the school had trained more than 55,000 gunners[13] including more than 45,000 B-17 gunners, and more than 3,000 for the B-29.

The gunnery school closed in September 1945, and the base itself was officially inactivated in January 1947. It was reactivated by the newly-created United States Air Force in March 1948, who organized an advanced single-engine school. The first Air Force Gunnery Meet was held at the base on May 2, 1949, with competitors from 14 Air Force units, flying both prop and jet aircraft.

The base was renamed Nellis Air Force Base on April 30, 1950 from Las Vegas Air Force Base.[4] Shortly thereafter the base was again needed to prepare pilots for the Korean War, first with P-51 Mustang training, and then with F-80s and F-86 Sabres. The base also became a part of testing programs for new aircraft.

The Air Force air demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds came to Nellis on June 1, 1956, along with F-100 Super Sabres.[14] The F-105 Thunderchief arrived in 1960; in June 1962, two crashes in one day at Nellis forced the grounding of all F-105s for evaluation and modifications. The last USAF F-100s were retired in 1969, although the aircraft continued in use in the Air National Guard into the 1970s.

On September 1, 1966, the Tactical Fighter Weapons Center was established to unify the research and training functions of the base and assigned to the 12th Air Force.[15]

In 1969, the 57th Fighter Wing was activated to start then-named USAF Fighter Weapons School.[citation needed] Now known as the USAF Weapons School, it provides to this day graduate level training on all weapons systems that a USAF officer would be expected to utilize. This includes air to air combat with both gun and missiles and air to ground combat. The graduates are also given basic courses in fighter system maintenance in particular how to tell if a system is installed wrong during the preflight walk around.

This school was created in response to lessons learned from air to air combat in World War II,[16] and is similar to the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School.

Housing shortages had been a perennial problem for the base, but in the early 1970s Las Vegas' growth resulted in a new problem, with residential areas beginning to encroach on the flight paths. Although the problem was handled by modifying operations, the issue continues to plague both Nellis and Las Vegas planners.

U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons fly above the Nevada Test and Training Ranges on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., June 5, 2008. The jets are assigned to the 64th and 65th Aggressor squadrons stationed on Nellis Air Force Base.

Lessons from the Vietnam War led to the establishment of Red Flag exercises at Nellis.[citation needed] Pilots from the 64th Aggressor Squadron now fly F-16s according to the doctrines of possible enemy forces, and engaging in mock dogfights with visiting squadrons from the United States and countries friendly to the United States. The 65th Aggressor Squadron was activated and flies the F-15 in its first adversary role.

Continuing with the trend of competitive training, in 1981 the ten-day Gunsmoke '81 was the first gunnery meet to be held since 1962, and featured teams from all over the world. The event would continue to be held every two years. The 1980s were a busy time for Nellis, with a dozen types of aircraft being supported, as well as visiting aircraft from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and foreign nations. In 1988, the F-117 Nighthawk was unveiled here; it had been developed and tested at the Tonopah Test Range, a smaller facility in the northern part of the nearby Nellis Air Force Range in the desert northwest of Las Vegas.

The Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Airstrip was a part of Nellis. While little known, it was home to the 11th, 15th, and 17th Reconnaissance Squadrons which operate the Predator RQ-1, MQ-1 and MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). On June 20, 2005 the field was renamed Creech Air Force Base.

On January 14, 2003 the first production F-22A Raptor was delivered to the base. Nellis Air Force Base was selected as the location for the F-22 Force Development Evaluation program and Weapons School for the reason of weather similar to that in Iraq and Afghanistan. On December 21, 2004 one F-22A crashed on takeoff, marking the first accident at the base since March 1996 and the first accident of an F-22 since 1992. As of July 2008, there were 12 Raptors assigned to the 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron for various development and evaluation missions.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center for Excellence was established at Creech Air Force Base in 2005.

On November 14, 2006 the Air Force declassified information regarding an American-manned Russian MiG unit used in training at Nellis from the late 1970s to early 1980s. This unit was known as the Red Eagles and used MiG-17s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s to simulate combat to test the capabilities of the F-4 Phantoms, F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons.

On April 23, 2007 construction was started on a 140 acre, 70,000 solar panel power generation system. The installation on the west side of the base was completed in December 2007. The 14 megawatt system is expected to provide 25% of the base's power requirements.[17] On May 27, 2009 President Barack Obama toured the photovoltaic array during a visit to the base where he promoted the Recovery Act of 2009 and renewable energy.[18]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the base has a total area of 3.1 sq mi (8.0 km2), all of it land. It is also treated as a census-designated place by the United States Census for statistical purposes, and so specific demographic information about residents of the base is compiled. As of 2000, the base had a population of 8,896.[4]


As of the census[19] of 2000, there were 8,896 people, 2,873 households, and 2,146 families residing in the base. The population density was 2,895.9 people per square mile (1,118.8/km²). There were 3,040 housing units at an average density of 989.6/sq mi (382.3/km²). The racial makeup of the base was 68.46% White, 14.34% African American, 1.37% Native American, 4.97% Asian, 0.73% Pacific Islander, 4.90% from other races, and 5.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.72% of the population.

There were 2,873 households out of which 52.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.5% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.3% were non-families. 17.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 1.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.91 and the average family size was 3.36.

In the base the population was spread out with 33.4% under the age of 18, 19.7% from 18 to 24, 38.5% from 25 to 44, 7.1% from 45 to 64, and 1.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 117.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 124.8 males.

The median income for a household in the base was $33,118, and the median income for a family was $34,307. Males had a median income of $25,551 versus $19,210 for females. The per capita income for the base was $13,601. About 10.0% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.4% of those under age 18 and 16.1% of those age 65 or over.

In popular culture and media

  • The base is frequently referenced in books by Dale Brown.
  • The 1991 video game Megafortress features training exercises flown out of the base.
  • In the 1998 video game F-22 Raptor, the player is set to take off from Nellis on at least one occasion.
  • In the 1999 video game Jane's USAF, all training missions are set in the Nellis AFB.
  • In the 2003 film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Nellis is referenced at the near end of the movie as being attacked by SkyNet's forces.
  • In the 2007 film Transformers, the base showed a Special Ops team landing in a C-17 Globemaster III, and F-22 Raptors are shown taking off from the base. But in actuality, the base used in the shot is Edwards AFB, California. Holloman AFB, New Mexico was also used in filming the movie.[20]
  • In the popular viral video Where the Hell is Matt (2008), Matt Harding can be seen dancing while in freefall at Nellis Air Force Base.[21]
  • In 2009, Nellis Air Force Base was featured in an episode of Top Chef; the episode was filmed in the dining facility kitchen and The Thunderbirds hangar.
  • In 2009, on the television game show Jeopardy!, the base commander Dave Belote became a 5-day champion.

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Nellis Air Force Base".

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
  • Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
  1. ^ Nellis Air Force Base, official website
  2. ^ a b FAA Airport Master Record for LSV (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2008-06-05
  3. ^ "Tour Nellis Air Force Base". Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d "LIEUTENANT WILLIAM HARRELL NELLIS". Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  5. ^ a b "Nellis Airmen locate missing aircraft". California Wing, Civil Air Patrol. 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  6. ^ a b Knapp, George (2008-11-07). "I-Team: The Road Warriors, Part 2". Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  7. ^ Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0912799536; 0160022614
  8. ^ 57th Wing Fact Sheet, Nellis AFB
  9. ^ USAF Warfare Center Fact Sheet, Nellis AFB
  10. ^ Major Tennant Units, Nellis AFB
  11. ^ USAF Air Warfare Battlelab Fact Sheet, Nellis AFB
  12. ^ "Las Vegas' Past". NetPhilosophy.Com. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  13. ^ "Las Vegas Army Air Field (Nellis)". Cooperative Libraries Automated Network. Polaris Library Systems. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  14. ^ "Thunderbird History". Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  15. ^ "R.G. "ZACK" TAYLOR". Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  16. ^ "The History of the USAF Fighter Weapons School". 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  17. ^ Solar power system page at Nellis AFB website
  18. ^ Obama: We're Seeing Results From Stimulus
  19. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  20. ^ Movie project transforms Holloman
  21. ^

External links

Simple English

Nellis Air Force Base (Nellis AFB) is a United States Air Force military base. It is located in the north part of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is home to the Thunderbirds. The base also trains fighter aircraft for the US Air Force. The base is named for William Harrell Nellis, a Las Vegas resident and P-47 pilot who died in action during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Nellis AFB is home to the F-15, F-16, and the F-22 Raptors.

The main base covers close to 11,300 acres (46 km²). Much of the base is undeveloped. The rest of the area is either paved or has buildings. The Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Airstrip was a part of Nellis. It used to be known as "Area 3". On June 20, 2005 the field was renamed to Creech Air Force Base.

Major Areas

The base has three main areas.

  • Area I include the airfield as well as the mission support functions.
  • Area II contains the munitions area.
  • Area III contains housing, and the Mike O'Callaghan Federal Hospital.


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