The Naval Air Station Patuxent River is located in Lexington Park, Maryland. It is about 92.4 nautical miles (150 kilometers or 94 miles by air) north of Norfolk, Virginia. The Naval Air Station Patuxent River is also some 115 nautical miles (93 kilometers or 51 miles by air) southeast of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
The Naval Air Station Patuxent River is located near the mouth of the Patuxent River on the Chesapeake Bay in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Home to the Naval Air Systems Command headquarters and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, the Naval Air Station Patuxent River is a center for testing, evaluating, and acquiring items related to naval aviation. The Naval Air Station Patuxent River is also home to the Navy's Weapons Systems Test Division, the Propulsion System Evaluation Facility, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division.
At one time, the area that is now the Naval Air Station Patuxent River was prime farmland supporting several large plantations and many tenant farmers and sharecroppers.
In 1937, aviation test programs were being conducted at many stations in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania. The US Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics selected Cedar Point as the place to consolidate these functions in the Naval Air Station Patuxent River due to its remote location that offered freedom from congestion of air traffic and plenty of space for testing weapons.
The United States' involvement in World War II sparked the construction of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in December 1941. The federal government began to purchase about 6.4 thousand acres of land, and residents had about a month to leave.
Without suitable transportation to the new Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the Navy revived a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad and added an extension to the air station in 1944. Known as the U.S. Government Railroad, the steam-powered rail line operated until 1954 when a modern highway was built to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
At the peak of construction, about seven thousand people were employed at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Workers from across the country joined local residents in seeking the relatively high-paying jobs at the station. Because demand for housing during construction far exceeded what was available at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, barracks were built for the workers. Later, housing was constructed in Lexington Park.
Formally commissioned in 1943, the Naval Air Station Patuxent River was called the "most needed station in the Navy." More than $155 million was invested in constructing the engineering complexes and renovating existing facilities. As base realignments and closures eliminated Navy facilities, the Naval Air Station Patuxent River grew. Realignments and closures added new functions and new jobs to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in 1991, 1993, and 1995.
The consolidations are now finished, and the Naval Air Station Patuxent River is home to three major Navy commands: the Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, and the Air Test Wing Atlantic. The Naval Air Station Patuxent River also hosts 52 other tenant commands.
The consolidations have made the Naval Air Station Patuxent River the biggest employer in the area. With over 17 thousand people stationed there, the workforce includes over three thousand active duty service members, almost seven thousand civil service employees, over six thousand contractors, and two thousand military dependents.
The Naval Air Station Patuxent River covers over 13.8 thousand acres and houses facilities valued at about $2.6 billion. The facilities include 935 buildings, including 10 hangers, that encompass more than 200 acres (8.7 million square feet). There are five runways in the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, one of them 3.6 thousand meters (11.8 thousand feet) long. The Naval Air Station Patuxent River commands restricted air space of over two thousand square kilometers (780 square miles) and controlled air space of almost 13 thousand square kilometers (five thousand square miles).
The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River supports the US Navy's aircraft and airborne weapons systems. Established in 1955, NAVAIR replaced the earlier Bureau of Naval Weapons. NAVAIR military and civilian personnel are located in eight locations in the United States and one overseas location.
The support that NAVAIR provides at the Naval Air Station Patuxent Riverspans the full life cycle of naval aircraft, weapons, and systems that Marines and Sailors operates. The support includes research, development, design, systems engineering, repair and modification, and logistics. It also involves acquisitions, testing and evaluation, and providing training facilities.
One of two product centers within NAVAIR, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) has facilities at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River and in Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida. NAWCAD is the custodian if the Navy's test facilities, labs, and aircraft needed to support the fleet's acquisition requirements. NAWCAD facilities support the Marine Corps and Navy air vehicle systems fleet and trainers with research, development, testing, evaluations, and engineering.
The geography and climate at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River are critical to accurate performance testing of fixed- and rotary-wing vehicles that will be used in maritime environments. NAWCAD's products and services at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River include a wide range of activities.
NAWCAD provides acquisition support for air combat systems and for three Naval aircraft test squadrons and the Naval Test Pilot School that maintain 140 aircraft. NAWCAD's Air Combat Environment Test & Evaluation Facility in the Naval Air Station Patuxent River creates virtual battle space for electronic warfare operational tests and training scenarios.
The Atlantic Range Facility provides NAWCAD's electronic warfare flight test functions. Fifteen Electromagnetic Environmental Effects facilities are located at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. These facilities ensure that aircraft avionics are compatible with onboard systems and their intended operation environment.
NAWCAD operates the Air Vehicles Materials Labs and Facilities and Air Vehicles Test & Analysis Capability functions to test and evaluate materials. NAWCAD also tests and evaluates the broad spectrum of missions systems and sensors that support ship/shore communications, electronics systems teams, combat communication systems, and Navy ship construction programs.
The Naval Test Wing Atlantic (the Wing) at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River supports the development and purchase of naval aeronautical technology systems. The Wing is made up of four squadrons: Naval STRIKE Aircraft Test Squadron; Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron; Naval Force Aircraft Test Squadron; and the US Naval Test Pilot School.
The mission of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River's Naval Test Wing Atlantic is to support the development and acquisition of naval aeronautical and related technology systems. The Wing is composed of four squadrons: Naval STRIKE Aircraft Test Squadron; Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron; Naval Force Aircraft Test Squadron; and the US Naval Test Pilot School.
The United States Naval Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River provides training to experienced Department of Defense pilots and foreign military experimental test pilots. It also trains flight test engineers and flight test navigators. It is the only test pilot school in the military that has academic courses covering helicopters. The selection process for the Test Pilot School is highly competitive. Alumni of the Naval Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River include Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Jim Lovell, Wally Schirra, John Glen, and many other notable astronauts and pilots.