Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base

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Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base
Ellington Air Force Base
Ellington Field

Air National Guard.png

Part of Texas Air National Guard (TX ANG)
Located near: Houston, Texas
MQ-1B Predator - 147th Reconnaissance Wing - Ellington Field Texas.png
MQ-1B Predator – 147th Reconnaissance Wing – Ellington Field Texas
Coordinates29°36′26″N 95°09′32″W / 29.60722°N 95.15889°W / 29.60722; -95.15889 (Ellington Field JRB)
In use1917 – present
Controlled by United States Air Force
Garrison147th Reconnaissance Wing - Emblem.png
147th Reconnaissance Wing
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Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base
Ellington Air Force Base
Ellington Field

Air National Guard.png

Part of Texas Air National Guard (TX ANG)
Located near: Houston, Texas
MQ-1B Predator - 147th Reconnaissance Wing - Ellington Field Texas.png
MQ-1B Predator – 147th Reconnaissance Wing – Ellington Field Texas
Coordinates29°36′26″N 95°09′32″W / 29.60722°N 95.15889°W / 29.60722; -95.15889 (Ellington Field JRB)
In use1917 – present
Controlled by United States Air Force
Garrison147th Reconnaissance Wing - Emblem.png
147th Reconnaissance Wing
Airfield information
Elevation AMSL32 ft / 10 m
Coordinates29°36′26″N 095°09′32″W / 29.60722°N 95.15889°W / 29.60722; -95.15889Coordinates: 29°36′26″N 095°09′32″W / 29.60722°N 95.15889°W / 29.60722; -95.15889
KEFD is located in Texas
Location of Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base
See: Ellington Airport (Texas) for civil airport information

Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base is the home base of the Texas Air National Guard 147th Reconnaissance Wing.



The United States Air Force 147th Reconnaissance Wing provides two 24/7 MQ-1B Predator Unmanned Aerial Systems combat support sorties which provide theater and national-level leadership with critical real-time Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Air-to-Ground Munitions and strike capability.

Also, the Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) provides terminal control for weapons employment in a Close Air Support scenario integrating combat air and ground operations.

New construction designated under the "Grow the Army" project was completed in 2010. The project consisted of ten buildings for the Army National Guard and reserve units, including a battle command training center complete with state-of-the-art computerized equipment. “This will be a tremendous cost benefit to the Army Reserve as travel and logistical costs will be streamlined,” noted Major General Eldon Regua, 75th division commander.[1]

The $80 million construction project includes a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) Battle Command Training Center, which simulates war conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.,[2] a second Armed Forces Reserve Center with an assembly hall and offices, a Welcome Center, which will handle retention, recruitment and military identification services. The military ID center is expected to bring thousands of retired and active military annually to Greater Houston to renew or pick up IDs, Navy, Marine Corps and Army Reserve maintenance and storage facilities, a security checkpoint and the relocation of Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston from Galena Park to a new $20 millon facility scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Ellington now has the rare distinction of having all five military branches of the U.S. Department of Defense – Army, Navy and Marine Reserve units, Army and Air National Guard – in addition to the Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security, and NASA operations – on one base.[3]


In 1917, the U.S. government purchased 1,280 acres (5.2 km²) of land from Dr. R. W. Knox and the Wright Land Company to establish an airbase in Houston. The location, near Genoa Township in southeast Houston, was selected because the weather conditions were ideal for flight training. Soldiers from nearby Camp Logan briefly assisted with the construction of the airfield when civilian workers went on strike.[4] Soon after construction began on the airfield, the base was named after Lt. Eric Lamar Ellington, an Army pilot killed four years earlier in a plane crash in San Diego.[5]

The base, which consisted of a few hangars and some wooden headquarters buildings, was completed in a matter of months. By the end of 1917, the field was ready to receive its first squadron – the 120th Aero Squadron, which was transferred from Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, along with its Curtiss JN4 Jenny biplanes, which were shipped in wooden crates via railroad.[4]

World War I

During World War I, Ellington served as an advanced flight training base. As of 1918, Ellington had its own gunnery and bombing range on a small peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico near San Leon, Texas. Ellington became well known in military circles, and had a series of "firsts", including the first camp newspaper, the first American aerial gunnery and bombing range, the first "canteen girls", and the first aerial ambulance in American military history.[4] Before the end of the war, approximately 5,000 men and 250 aircraft were assigned to the base.[6]

Ellington was considered surplus to requirements after World War I and the base was inactivated as an active duty airfield in 1920. A small caretaker unit was kept at the airfield for administrative reasons, but generally, the only flight activity during this time was from Army pilots stationed at Kelly Field who flew down to practice landings on Ellington's runways.[4]

By 1923, Ellington had been ordered to be completely dismantled, but that plan was halted when the Texas National Guard established an aviation squadron at the field.[4] Soon after, the 111th Observation Squadron (known colloquially as "Houston's Own" and later the 147th Fighter Wing) was born, also stationed at Ellington Field.[4] The squadron, which flew Curtiss JN6Hs and De Havilland DH.4s, provided mapping, photography, and reconnaissance support for the 36th Infantry Division.[4]

Several years later in 1927, Ellington's status was again threatened as local city leaders began to discuss the construction of a municipal airport. That airport, the present day William P. Hobby Airport, confirmed the squadron's fears that Ellington's aging facilities were obsolete; as a result the Texas National Guard decided to move the 111th to new facilities at the municipal airport instead.[4] The Texas National Guard and 36th Infantry Division bought most of the airfield's buildings, but the field remained unused; by 1928 Ellington was again overtaken by tall prairie grass. That same year, a fire engulfed what was left of the airfield, consuming its remaining structures, except for the concrete foundations and a metal water tower. For the next 12 years, the U.S. military leased the land to local ranchers for use as pasture.[4]

World War II

Space Shuttle Orbiter Challenger at Ellington Field in 1982

World War II, with its increasing need for trained pilots, helped to reestablish Ellington Field as an active facility. Rep. Albert Thomas, one of Houston's representatives in the United States House of Representatives, pushed for rebuilding Ellington as a pilot training center. Beyond the area's excellent weather for flying, Thomas argued that the Houston area's petroleum refineries, upon which the war effort depended, would need military protection in the region.[4]

In 1940, construction began on a much-expanded Ellington Field, which eventually included five control towers, two 46,000-square-foot (4,300 m2) hangars, the most modern medical complex in south Texas and 74 barracks. Ellington became the home of the 69th, 70th, 71st, 72nd, 74th, 75th and 76th Fighter Squadrons.[7] The base was one of the sites where bomber pilots received their advanced training and also housed the United States Army Air Corps' bombardier school, known as "the Bombardment Academy of the Air."[4] In 1943, the bombardier school was replaced with a school for navigators. By the end of 1943, more than 65 women who served in the Women's Army Corps were also stationed at Ellington. The WACs worked in noncombat Army jobs in order to free men for combat duty. "By taking over an Army job behind the lines, she frees a fighting man to join his fellow soldiers on the road to Victory," stated WAC director Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby.[8] Ellington served primarily as a reserve airbase from the end of the war in 1945 until 1948.[4]

Post war

NASA's fleet of T-38 Talons sitting on the flightline at Ellington, being readied for STS-26 crew, 1988.

Air Training Command

In 1948, Ellington Airport was one of many airfields selected to be reactivated in an effort to maintain a large military force in the United States after World War II.[4] The airfield was reopened for active duty on 31 March 1949 and renamed Ellington Air Force Base. The Air Force activated the 3605th Navigation School and opened a USAF navigator school.[9] The first class entered training on 8 August 1949. Navigator cadets trained in TB-25 "Mitchell" and T-29 "Flying Classroom" aircraft. The program was part of a two-base effort, in which Ellington would provide basic navigation training and its graduates would then be reassigned to Mather AFB, California for advanced training.

Navigation training was enhanced at Ellington when the Air Force installed a microwave navigation system. To help navigators learn celestial positioning, a Houston resident paid for the construction of a planetarium at Ellington. The planetarium, which stood 50 feet (15 m) high and was topped by an aluminum dome, could hold 40 students.[4]

In 1952, ATC expanded the training program at Ellington with the establishment of a multi-engine flying training program as part of Flying Training Air Force. As a cost-cutting measure, Headquarters USAF directed ATC in November 1953 to reorganize its observer training program and decrease training time. Air Training Command managed the restructure by converting primary observer training into a primary basic course and by providing advanced instruction in the basic course. Ellington was designated to provide primary observer training, with the establishment of the 3605th Observer Training Wing. In 1956, navigator and observer training were consolidated, which consisted of 42 weeks, including 180 hours of in-flight training.

During 1958–59, USAF navigator training training operations were consolidated at Mather AFB and James Connally AFB, followed by a second consolidation to Mather AFB as the sole training location in the early 1960s.

Air Defense Command

Ellington AFB was selected as one of the first of twenty-four Air Defense Command stations of the permanent United States surveillance radar network. On 2 December 1948, the Air Force directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction of this and the other twenty-three sites.

Radar facilities were activated on 1 February 1953 with the 747th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron operating a pair of AN/FPS-10 radars The station was designated P-79. In 1955 the Air Force placed an AN/FPS-8 at Ellington that subsequently became an AN/GPS-3. This set operated until 1960. In 1957 an AN/FPS-6 set replaced the AN/FPS-10 height-finder radar.

In addition to the main facility, Ellington operated two AN/FPS-14 Gap Filler sites:

By 1960 Ellington performed air traffic control duties for the FAA with an ARSR-1 radar, being designated FAA site J-15. On 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-79. The 747th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was inactivated on 31 December 1969 and the FAA operated the ARSR-1 afterwards.


In late 1972 the radar facilities at Ellington were reactivated by Aerospace Defense Command, and given the new NORAD designation Z-240. Ellington became Operating Location "C" or the 630th Radar Squadron arrived which operated an AN/FPS-90 height-finder radar, which was modified to an AN/FPS-116 circa 1977. The AN/FPS-116 was retired circa 1988. Air Force use of Ellington ceased on 30 September 1998 when an FAA ARSR-4 radar was activated nearby at Morales, TX (J-15A) as part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS).[10][11]

Reserve use

Texas Air National Guard Convair F-102A Delta Dagger 56-1026 about 1970, the type of aircraft flown by president George W. Bush during his Air National Guard Service

The United States Navy opened a short-lived Naval Air Reserve Center at Ellington in 1957.[4] Navy pilots and aircrews flew amphibious and land-based aircraft on antisubmarine and maritime patrol training missions over the Gulf of Mexico, but budget problems forced its closure just a year later.[4]

The Air Force transferred Ellington AFB to Continental Air Command effective 1 April 1958. Navigator training was reassigned to Mather AFB and to James Connelly AFB, Texas. As a result, in 1959, Ellington was downgraded to a reserve Air Force Base, and has served the military in that capacity since; the Civil Air Patrol moved its headquarters from Bolling Air Force Base to Ellington the same year. In addition, Ellington also routinely hosted several college level Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps summer courses/Field Training encampments, hosting officer candidates from 22 states until that summer program was consolidated at the Air Force's Officer Training School facility at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. The Civil Air Patrol has also since relocated their national headquarters to Maxwell AFB, but a local CAP unit still remains at Ellington.[12]

The space age

NASA T-38s in the hangar at Ellington Field

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Ellington Field was utilized for pilot and navigator training for active air force, air force reservists, air national guardsmen, and Navy, Marine, and foreign students.[5] NASA established Ellington as its base for astronaut flight training in the early 1960s because of its proximity to the newly constructed Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The T-38 Talon (T-38N) is the primary jet aircraft used for astronaut training at Ellington.[7] The field was the site of the Apollo lunar landing training program.[4] Most of NASA’s aircraft based at the Johnson Space Center are kept and maintained at the base.[13]

Ellington Field was officially inactivated by the Air Force in 1976 and all Air Force Reserve squadrons were transferred to other military facilities; however, the Texas Air National Guard, the Texas Army National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard Air Station Houston) still maintain a military presence at the base. In 1984, the city of Houston purchased Ellington to use as a third civil airport, and it was renamed Ellington Airport on 14 January 2009.[14]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ http://www.fly2houston.com/0/3916924/0/83280D83283/
  2. ^ http://www.khou.com/news/neighborhood-news/Houston-Military-training-held-at-Ellington-Airport-117178133.html
  3. ^ http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/bay_area/news/article_dad8fa32-e5bb-52f1-930a-1228f1a982fa.html
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Ellington Field: A Short History, 1917–1963". www.jsc.nasa.gov. http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/ellington/Ellington.pdf. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  5. ^ a b "Ellington Field". www.tshaonline.org. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/EE/qbe2.html. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  6. ^ "Ellington Field". globalsecurity.org. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/ellington.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  7. ^ a b "Ellington Field, A Journey Through History". http://www.jsc.nasa.gov. http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/roundup/online/2005/0105_p4_7.pdf. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  8. ^ "WACS Train at Ellington Field, Texas,". UT Discovery. http://www.utexas.edu/opa/pubs/discovery/disc1997v14n2/disc-wacs.html. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  9. ^ "Air Education and Training Command Significant Events, US Air Force". http://www.aetc.af.mil. http://www.aetc.af.mil/library/history/aetcsignificantevents/1940-49/index.asp. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
  10. ^ Cornett, Lloyd H. and Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 – 1980, [1] Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO (1980)
  11. ^ Winkler, David F. & Webster, Julie L., Searching the Skies, The Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program, [2] US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories, Champaign, IL (1997).
  12. ^ "Civil Air Patrol squadrons". The Air Force Association (AFA). http://www.afa.org/contact_links.asp?searchby=state&ent=cap&stabbr=TX. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  13. ^ /pdf/161111main_ellington_aircraft_fact_sheet.pdf "Ellington Field Aircraft, 161111main_ellington_aircraft_fact_sheet.pdf (application/pdf Object)". National Aeronautics and Space Administration, www.nasa.gov. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson /pdf/161111main_ellington_aircraft_fact_sheet.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-05.[dead link]
  14. ^ "Ellington name changes from “Field” to “Airport”." Houston Airport System. 15 January 2009. Retrieved on 17 January 2009.

External links