Local News

Navy To Put OLF, Squadrons In N.C., Va.

Posted Updated

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Navy will build a practice landing fieldfor jets in Washington County and base squadrons of F/A-18 SuperHornets at existing bases in North Carolina and Virginia, localofficials and a Defense Department source said Tuesday.

Bunny Sanders, mayor of Roper in central Washington County, saidRep. Frank Ballance, D-N.C., called her office to give her advanceword of the decision. Brian Roth, mayor of the county seat ofPlymouth, said he had been told of the decision by other officialsof his town.

A Defense Department source told The Associated Press that theNavy's proposal would be made formal Wednesday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said theproposal calls for 120 of the $45 million F-18 Super Hornets to belocated at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., and 24at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

Super Hornets fly from aircraft carriers during deployments andthe landing field would be used to practice carrier landings beforethe jets are deployed.

Residents near the proposed landing strip worried about thepotential for noise, lost property and damage to the environment.They campaigned vigorously against it, protesting in their owntowns and in Raleigh. Local officials passed resolutions urgingCongress to hold hearings, and even Gov. Mike Easley urged the Navyto reconsider its plans.

"They had tunnel vision from the beginning on the WashingtonCounty site," said Roth, who was with Sanders in Raleigh onTuesday to discuss the matter with Easley's staff.

"This is by no means a final issue," Sanders said. "We aremeeting with the governor's office in the morning on a legal issuewhich we feel has the potential to give the governor significantleverage to assist Washington County, Beaufort County and easternNorth Carolina and keep the (landing field) out of this county."

Navy and Marine officials in Virginia and North Carolinawouldn't comment or couldn't be reached.

Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet, hassaid Washington County was the Navy's preferred site for the fieldbecause jets from both bases can use it easily.

The Navy's decision, to be published Wednesday in the FederalRegister, calls for eight Super Hornet squadrons and a squadron ofspare planes to be based at Oceana Naval Air Station in VirginiaBeach, Va. Another two squadrons of 12 jets each will be based atMarine Corps Air Station Cherry Point near New Bern.

Copyright 2023 by WRAL.com and the Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.