A visit to Naval Air Station North Island was arranged during 2018.
North Island is a massive United States Naval air base situated at the northern end of Coronado, near San Diego in California.
North Island is home to the US Navy West Coast MH-60 Seahawk helicopter squadrons, plus the West Coast COD squadrons, and a transport squadron. In addition, the Fleet Readiness Centre South West (FRSCW) is a major unit that performs maintenance and upgrades to the West Coast F-18, H-53 and H-60 fleets. Other units here include the Customs/Border/Homeland Security forces as well as some civilian contractor units providing specialised support services to the USN.
The fixed-wing units here are VR-57 “Conquistadors” flying the Boeing C-40A (Boeing 737) providing medium and long range transport services to the West coast.
VRC-30 “Providers” operate Grumman C-2 Greyhounds to provide Carrier On-board Delivery (COD), transporting passengers and cargo onto USN carriers. The venerable Greyhound is due to be superseded by a transport version of the USMC V-22 Osprey, introducing an additional capability to the COD role as this new tilt-rotor aircraft is also able to land on smaller warships, not just aircraft carriers.
Flight Support Inc is a civilian operated unit flying civil registered Learjets from North Island, providing various different support services to the US Navy, from emulating threats or providing ECM jamming against warships. The Learjets can be fitted with a number of different underwing stores, depending upon the required tasking.
North Island is more often associated today with rotary wing operations, and these are exemplified by the numerous Sikorsky Seahawk squadrons that are based here. MH-60Rs (Romeos) are operated by the HSM prefixed squadrons (Helicopter Maritime Strike), whilst the MH-60S and HH-60H variants are operated by the HSC prefixed squadrons (Helicopter Sea Combat).
The location of the airfield near fantastic downtown San Diego means that the base is often home to visiting aircraft, either for weekend or lunchtime stops, plus regular detachments from squadrons working up for their upcoming carrier deployments.
FRCSW processes numerous aircraft through (H-60, F-18, H-53 and V-22) for major servicings, upgrades and re-sprays, so there is usually plenty of variety to see there too.
We are very grateful to our hosts for providing us the time and insights.