The Navy announced Tuesday the cancellation of its search for an Outlying Landing Field in North Carolina and Virginia.
What began a dozen years ago as a way to offer pilots from Cherry Point and Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., a new isolated runway training location - and included a long legal battle in the courts - ended in a press release through the U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
The Navy had earlier in 2011 announced a suspension in development of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on five proposed locations for the OLF, three in Virginia and two in northeastern North Carolina.
In announcing the cancellation, the Navy said no OLF decision would be considered until basing and training requirements for the Navy’s F-35C Joint Strike Fighter were better defined. That isn’t expected until 2017, said Ted Brown, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Media Relations Officer.
Brown said the decision has no impact on Cherry Point since the OLF was to be used by only Virginia-based Navy pilots practicing aircraft carrier landings.
The Navy first announced plans for an OLF in 2001, with planned basing of Navy Super Hornet squadrons at Oceana and Cherry Point.
However, the decision to build the OLF in Washington and Beaufort counties soon erupted into a legal battle as environmental concerns were raised because of a nearby wildlife refuge. Property owners won in court in 2008, and the Navy started the process over with five sites, including two in Camden and Gates counties in North Carolina. Residents in those areas immediately began to protest and threaten lawsuits.
The Navy then announced its decision in 2011 to relocate the two Super Hornet squadrons that had been designated to be based at Cherry Point to the West Coast, citing a need for more planes in that region in response to possible activity in North Korea and other locations in Asia. The two squadrons would have brought more than 400 military personnel and 24 planes to Cherry Point, with an estimated annual economic impact on the region of $60 million.