Nellis Air Force Base

From Academic Kids


Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base, located in Clark County, Nevada, on the northeast side of Las Vegas. It is also treated as a census-designated place by the United States Census for statistical purposes, and so specific demographic information about residents of the base is compiled. As of 2000, the base had a population of 8,896.

Nellis is a major training location for both US and foreign fighter aircraft pilots. The base is named for William Harrell Nellis, a Las Vegas resident and P-47 pilot who died in action during the Battle of the Bulge.

The main base covers approximately 11,300 acres (46 km²). 62 percent of it is undeveloped, while the remaining area is either paved or contains structures.

The base consist of three major functional areas.

  • Area I include the airfield and most of the mission support functions.
  • Area II is east of Area I and contains the munitions area.
  • Area III is across Las Vegas Blvd from Area I. It contains housing, base hospital, and open space.

More to the west in, among others, Nye County are several areas forming the associated Nellis Air Force Range.



The history of the base began with a survey in October 1940 by Major David M. Schlatter of the Army Air Corps, who examined various sites in the Southwest looking for a location for an aerial gunnery school. Las Vegas was attractive for its clear weather and year-round flying, and the then-impoverished city was eager for a military base. On 2 January 1941, the city bought an airstrip run by Western Air Express and leased it to the Air Corps three days later, the plan being to use the strip for both military and civilian aircraft.

Construction of the "Las Vegas Army Air Field" began in March 1941; the first commander, Colonel Martinus Stenseth, arrived in May. Much of the early gunnery training, originally set to begin in September, but not underway until January 1942, used machine guns mounted in trucks and targets on railroad cars, used to accustom students to firing at a moving target. World War II made the base's mission especially urgent, and by the end of 1942, 9,117 gunners had graduated, with aircraft in use including Martin B-10s, AT-6s, A-33s, B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24 Liberators, and B-26 Marauders.

At the height of training in 1943 and 1944, over 15,000 men and women were at the base. Actors Ronald Reagan and Burgess Meredith came to help produce the propaganda film Rear Gunner. Much of the training was for B-17 gunners, then at the beginning of 1945 emphasis shifted to the B-29 Superfortress. An innovation was the use of a specially-designed target aircraft, the RP-63, which was sufficiently armored to be shot at with frangible bullets. At war's end, the school had trained over 45,000 B-17 gunners, and over 3,000 for the B-29.

The gunnery school closed in September 1945, and the base itself was officially inactivated in January 1947. It was reactivated by the newly-created United States Air Force in March 1948, who organized an advanced single-engine school. The first Air Force Gunnery Meet was held at the base on 2 May 1949, with competitors from 14 Air Force units, flying both prop and jet aircraft.

The base was renamed Nellis Air Force Base on 30 April 1950. Shortly thereafter the base was again needed to prepare pilots for the Korean War, first with F-51 Mustang training, and then with F-80s and F-86 Sabres. The base also became a part of testing programs for new aircraft.

The Thunderbirds came to Nellis in 1956 (where they are still based as of 2005), along with F-100 Super Sabres. The F-105 Thunderchief arrived in 1960; in June 1962, two crashes in one day at Nellis forced the grounding of all 105s for evaluation and modifications.

In 1966 the Tactical Fighter Weapons Center was established to unify the research and training functions of the base, and in 1969 the last F-100s were retired.

In 1969 the 57th Fighter Wing was activated to start the USAF Weapons school. It provides to this day graduate level training on all fighter weapons that a USAF officers would be expected to utilize. This includes air to air combat with both gun and missiles; and air to ground combat. The graduates are also given basic courses in fighter system maintenance in particular how to tell if a system is installed wrong during the preflight walk around.

This school was created in response to lessons learned from air to air combat in Vietnam, and is similar to the US Navy's Fighter Weapons school.

Housing shortages had been a perennial problem for the base, but in the early 1970s Las Vegas' growth resulted in a new problem, with residential areas beginning to encroach on the flight paths. Although the problem was handled by modifying operations, the issue continues to plague both Nellis and Las Vegas planners.

Lessons from the Vietnam War led to the establishment of RED FLAG exercises at Nellis. Pilots from the 64th Aggressor Squadron now fly F-15s and F-16s according to the doctrines of possible enemy forces, and engaging in mock dogfights with visiting squadrons from the United States and countries friendly to the United States.

Continuing with the trend of competitive training, in 1981 the ten-day Gunsmoke '81 was the first gunnery meet to be held since 1962, and featured teams from all over the world. The event would continue to be held every two years. The 1980s were a busy time for Nellis, with a dozen types of aircraft being supported, as well as visiting aircraft from the Army, Navy, and foreign nations. In 1988 the F-117 Nighthawk was unveiled here; it had been developed and tested at the Tonopah Test Range, a smaller facility in the northern part of the nearby Nellis Air Force Range in the desert northwest of Las Vegas.

The Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Airstrip was a part of Nellis. While little known, was home to the 11th and 15th Reconnaissance Squadrons which operate the Predator RQ-1, MQ-1 and MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). In February 2001, a Predator successfully test fired its first Hellfire missile on the Nellis test range. On June 20, 2005 the field was renamed to Creech Air Force Base.

On January 14, 2003, the first production F/A-22 was delivered to the base. Nellis Air Force Base is selected as the F-22 Force Development Evaluation program and Weapons School. On December 21, 2004 one F-22 crashed marking the first accident at the base since March of 1996 and the first accident of a F-22 since 1992. Currently, March, 2005, there are 7 raptors assigned to Nellis for various development and evaluation missions.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center for Excellence was established at Indian Springs in 2005.


Location of Nellis AFB, Nevada
Nellis Air Force Base is located at 36°14'40" North, 115°3'8" West (36.244389, -115.052259)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the base has a total area of 8.0 km² (3.1 mi²). 8.0 km² (3.1 mi²) of it is land and none of it is covered by water.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 8,896 people, 2,873 households, and 2,146 families residing in the base. The population density is 1,118.8/km² (2,895.9/mi²). There are 3,040 housing units at an average density of 382.3/km² (989.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the base is 68.46% White, 14.34% African American, 1.37% Native American, 4.97% Asian, 0.73% Pacific Islander, 4.90% from other races, and 5.23% from two or more races. 11.72% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 2,873 households out of which 52.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.5% are married couples living together, 7.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 25.3% are non-families. 17.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 1.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.91 and the average family size is 3.36.

In the base the population is spread out with 33.4% under the age of 18, 19.7% from 18 to 24, 38.5% from 25 to 44, 7.1% from 45 to 64, and 1.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 24 years. For every 100 females there are 117.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 124.8 males.

The median income for a household in the base is $33,118, and the median income for a family is $34,307. Males have a median income of $25,551 versus $19,210 for females. The per capita income for the base is $13,601. 11.1% of the population and 10.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.4% of those under the age of 18 and 16.1% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Units Assigned

As a result of its varied roles, Nellis is home to more squadrons than any other Air Force Base.


  • 57th Wing runs all of the operations at Nellis and Creech Air Force base
    • 57th Operations Group
      • 57th Operations Support Squadron
      • 547th Intelligence Squadron (IS)
      • 414th Combat Training Squadron (Red Flag)
      • 66th Rescue Squadron
    • United States Air Force Air Ground Operations School (USAF AGOS)
    • 57th Maintenance Group
      • 57th Logistics Support Squadron
      • 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
      • The 57th Component Maintenance Squadron
      • The 57th Equipment Maintenance Squadron
      • The 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
    • USAF Advanced Maintenance and Munitions Officer School
    • USAF Weapons School
    • USAF Air Demonstration Squadron. The Thunderbirds
  • 99th Air Base Wing
    • 99th Comptroller Squadron
    • 99th Medical Group
      • 99th Medical Support Squadron
      • 99th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
      • 99th Medical Operations Squadron
      • 99th Dental Squadron
    • 99th Security Forces Group
      • 99th Security Forces Squadron
      • 99th Security Support Squadron
      • 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron
    • 99th Mission Support Group
      • 99th Communications Squadron
      • 99th Civil Engineer Squadron
      • 99th Mission Support Squadron
      • 99th Contracting Squadron
      • 99th Services Squadron
      • 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron
    • 99th Civil Engineer Squadron
    • 99th Mission Support Squadron
    • 99th Communications Squadron
    • 99th Services Squadron
    • 99th Contracting Squadron
    • 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron
  • 98th Range Wing
  • 53rd Wing based at Eglin Air Force Base
    • 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron


  • 11th Reconnaissance Squadron
  • 15th Reconnaissance Squadron


External links

  • Nellis AFB (
  • Global Security (
  • Aerial photo ( of Area 1. Nuclear weapons are stored in Area 2 (, to the east. (Mapquest/GlobeXplorer)

Template:Mapit-US-cityscalede:Nellis Air Force Base


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