Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
Note: This page goes into a bit of history of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the slideshow at the end includes the aircraft based there. Special thanks to many individuals who have helped make many of the photos possible.
Located approximately sixteen miles from the Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is the largest military base in all of New Jersey, and the only tri-service Joint Base in the United States. The base is rich in history, going back to 1917 for the Lakehurst side and Fort Dix side and 1937 for the McGuire side.
Lakehurst Maxfield Field's history begins as a munitions-testing site for the Imperial Russian Army in 1916. It was then acquired by the United States Army as Camp Kendrick during World War I. The United States Navy purchased the property in 1921 for use as an airship station and renamed it Naval Air Station Lakehurst (NAS Lakehurst) and later renamed Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (NAES Lakehurst).
The United States Navy's lighter-than-air program was conducted at Lakehurst from its inception through the 1930s. NAS Lakehurst was the center of airship development in the United States and housed three of the U.S. Navy's four rigid airships, (ZR-1) USS Shenandoah, (ZR-3) USS Los Angeles, and (ZRS-4) USS Akron. Several of the airship hangars built to berth these airships still survive today. Hangar One, in which the Shenandoah was built, held the record for the largest "single room" in the world. The base also housed many Navy non-rigid airships, otherwise known as "blimps," in several squadrons before, during, and after World War II. This included the U.S. Navy's ZPG-3W (EZ-1C), which was deactivated in September 1962. In 2006, after a 44-year hiatus, the U.S. Navy resumed airship operations at Lakehurst with the MZ-3.
However, the installation is probably most famous as the site of the LZ 129 Hindenburg disaster on May 6, 1937. Despite the notoriety and well-documented nature of this incident, today there is a simple memorial that denotes the location of the crash at then–NAS Lakehurst in the field behind the large airship hangars on base. A ground marker, painted black, and rimmed by a bright yellow painted chain, locates where the gondola of the Hindenburg came to rest.
Left: Hangar One towers
over the two smaller hangars. It is listed under the National
Register of Historic Places.
Lakehurst conducts the unique mission of supporting and developing the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment and Support Equipment for naval aviation. Since the 1950s, aviation boatswain's mates have been trained at NAES Lakehurst to operate catapults and arresting systems on aircraft carriers using rail guided jet donkeys pushing dead loads at 200 knots tested carrier arresting gear cables and tailhooks. The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Arresting Gear system that will replace the existing steam catapults and the Mk-7 arresting gear are being developed and tested at Lakehurst at full-scale shipboard representative test facilities located on site.
One of many test catapults at Navy Lakehurst. It's powered by what appears to be four J57 turbojet engines.
Fort Dix was established on July 16, 1917 as Camp Dix, named in honor of Major General John Adams Dix, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the American Civil War, and a former United States Senator, Secretary of the Treasury and Governor of New York. Fort Dix has a history of mobilizing, training and demobilizing Soldiers from as early as World War I through April 2015 when Forts Bliss and Hood in Texas assumed full responsibility for that mission. In 1978, the first female recruits entered basic training at Fort Dix. In 1991, Fort Dix trained Kuwaiti civilians in basic military skills so they could take part in their country's liberation from Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Fort Dix ended its active Army training mission in 1991 due to Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendations, which ended its command by a two-star general. Presently, it serves as a joint training site for all components and all services of the U.S. military and is commanded by an Army Colonel.
McGuire Air Force Base was established as Fort Dix Airport in 1937 and first opened to military aircraft in January 1941. On January 13, 1948 the United States Air Force renamed the facility McGuire Air Force Base in honor of Major Thomas McGuire, Jr., (1920–1945), who died on January 7, 1945 when his P-38 Lightning spun out of control and crashed on Negros Island in the Philippines as he attempted to aid his wingman during an aerial dogfight. McGuire was the second highest scoring ace in World War II, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery; a memorial currently exists at McGuire's fatal crash site on Negros Island as a tribute.
A memorial to Major Thomas McGuire can be found in one of the traffic circles on base.
Over the years after World War II, McGuire Air Force Base became a premier base for airlift operations for the host unit. Important aircraft such as the C-7 Caribou, C-54 Skymaster, C-118 Loadmaster, C-121 Constellation, and C-135 Stratolifter were based at some point during the tenure of the 438th Military Airlift Wing's long history. The New Jersey Air National Guard also hosted a fighter and interceptor unit at McGuire, flying aircraft such as the P-47 Thunderbolt, F-51 Mustang, F-82 Twin Mustang, F-84E Thunderjet, F-84F Thunderstreak, F-86 Sabre, F-94 Starfire, F-106 Delta Dart, F-105B Thunderchief, F-4D Phantom, and F-4E Phantom. The F-4E Phantom represented the last of the fighter aircraft to have been based at McGuire, with the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing's role converting completely over to the air refueling role in 1991 with the KC-135E Stratotanker; the unit has since converted to the KC-135R Stratotanker. The unit is one of two wings of the New Jersey Air National Guard.
The 141st Air Refueling Squadron
had celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2017. To
While all of the above aircraft were stationed at McGuire, the base for thirty-seven years was home to the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. Between 1967 and 2004 the C-141A and C-141B Starlifter was the primary airlift aircraft to call the base home - at one point over thirty-two Starlifters were assigned to McGuire during its peak. C-141s from McGuire took part in every major Operation since the late 1960s from Vietnam to Desert Storm all the way to the early part of Operation Enduring Freedom and to a lesser extent Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On October 1, 1994, the 438th Airlift Wing was inactivated, being replaced at McGuire by the 305th Air Mobility Wing which was transferred from Grissom AFB, Indiana when Grissom was realigned via BRAC action to the Air Force Reserve Command. With the new 305th Air Mobility Wing, McGuire received the first of what would become a total of thirty-two KC-10 Extender tanker aircraft. The C-141 Starlifter was retired in 2004, having been replaced by the C-17 Globemaster III. The 305th Air Mobility Wing shares its thirty-two KC-10s and fourteen C-17s with their reserve counterparts at the 514th Air Mobility Wing; neither the 305th or 514th claim any particular KC-10 or C-17.
Lockheed C-141B Starlifter located at Starlifter Memorial Park. The aircraft was given a new paint job in 2017.
In 2005, the United States Department of Defense announced that Fort Dix, NAES Lakehurst, and McGuire AFB would be affected by a Base Realignment and Closure. For base operations support, Fort Dix and Navy Lakehurst became part of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. It was the first base of its kind in the United States and is the Department of Defense's only tri-service joint base. While the entire complex, which spans Burlington and Ocean Counties in New Jersey is referred to as one, the separate parts that were once Army, Navy, and Air Force operated are still referred to as such. The New Jersey National Guard continues to train on the Fort Dix side, the Navy continues to conduct testing on the Lakehurst side, and the host units on the McGuire side continue to operate as such. Today, the 87th Air Base Wing oversees all operations on the sprawling base.
With the closure of NAS/JRB Willow Grove in 2011, several tenant units from that base relocated to Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst. Marine Air Group 49's headquarters moved from Willow Grove to McGuire along with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772. Fleet Logistic Squadrons 52 and 64 relocated to McGuire as well, with VR-64 currently operating; VR-52 was disestablished not too long after the move to McGuire. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 also established a detachment at McGuire, eventually moving all operations to the base by 2016.
Today, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home to the following units and their respective aircraft:
In addition to the above aircraft, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is also an operating base for several C-12 Huron transport aircraft. These aircraft, based off the Beechcraft King Air 350, are operated by the United States Army and are utilized for various transportation roles.
Unique to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst are the aircraft belonging to the 150th Special Operations Squadron. The squadron operates the Boeing C-32B, which is based off of the Boeing 757 airliner. It is not a new aircraft for the USAF; the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews operates six C-32A aircraft, which are 757s outfitted to carry various Cabinet heads as well as its role as carrying the Vice President of the United States and the President of the United States when the President cannot use the VC-25. The C-32B differs from the C-32A in that it has a generic all-white paint scheme with very minimal markings and Rolls-Royce engines compared to the C-32A's Pratt & Whitney engines. Its mission is highly classified. The C-32B airframes were originally delivered to airline customers; the USAF had purchased the aircraft when the airlines no longer had a need for the airframe.
The future for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst looks bright. The next decade will bring the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker to the base. Twenty-four of the tankers, which are essentially based off a Boeing 767-200 design, will replace the thirty-two KC-10 Extenders. The USAF's long term plan for the KC-10 fleet is to eventually retire all of the KC-10s and possibly have the USAF go to a single aerial refueling tanker fleet once all of the KC-135 Stratotankers are retired. The Hustlers of HMH-772 are reported to be the last Marine squadron to fly the CH-53E Super Stallion; they will eventually convert to the CH-53K King Stallion by the end of the next decade. The Red Dogs of HMLA-773 will likely convert to the AH-1Z Viper in the future. There is no replacement in the near term for the C-17 Globemaster III; it is presumed that the aircraft will continue to serve well into the 2030s with any replacement of the type possibly coming to fruition in that decade or later. The 108th Wing's KC-135R Stratotankers will also remain at McGuire for the near term; it is possible that their KC-135s may be among the last to be retired. Finally, it remains to be seen as to if the Condors of VR-64 will obtain newer C-130Js or convert to a new aircraft type; this may end up happening as the C-130T is under extra scrutiny as a result of a July 2017 crash involving a Marine Corps KC-130T.
Photos in the slideshow below represent aircraft based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and were taken between January 2016 and March 2018. Apologies for the large copyrights in each photo - this is necessary in this day and age where photos are widely stolen and passed along as if they are one's own.