Text & Pictures: Philippe Decock - Archives from author and Coll SBAP  © sbap 2016
 

Morón Air Base (IATA: OZP, ICAO: LEMO) is located in southern Spain, approximately 50 km southeast of the city of Seville. The base gets its name from the nearby town of Morón de la Frontera.

Currently the base is home to Ala11, a Spanish Air Force fighter wing flying Eurofighter Typhoons, and a maritime patrol squadron flying Lockheed P-3M Orions.
Morón's massive flight line, in-ground aircraft refueling system, long runway and prime location on the Iberian peninsula, close to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, means the base is a vital link in any operation moving east from the United States. This will be discussed in the second part of the report.

 

A Spanish Air Force base

Construction of the Vázquez Sagastizábal Military Aerodrome, as Morón Air Base was initially known, began in 1940. The following year it began to function as a military airfield by the Spanish Air Force fighter school to train fighter pilots, flying the Fiat CR-32, until the early fifties.

 

That squadron was replaced in 1956 by the 7th light bomber squadron flying the CASA 2111, a locally produced Heinkel He-111 with Rolls Royce Merlin engines.

Three years later, the bomber squadron was replaced by the 5th fighter squadron flying the North American F-86 Sabre.

At the end of 1964, Spain decided to buy 70 Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighters. They were build under license by CASA.
The first unit to be equiped with the SF-5A/B, albeit mainly with two-seaters, was 202Sqn, on december 11th 1969. The unit at Morón was renamed Ala21 in 1971.
Here is a pair of Ala21 SF-5A's flying in formation with a Belgian Air Force 1Sqn Mirage 5BA during a squadron exchange at Bierset in april 1989.

In 1992, as the SF-5's were retired or taken over by Ala23 at Talavera, CASA C-101 Aviojets were temporarilly deployed to Morón to replace the SF-5's.

One year later, Morón welcomed the P-3's of Grupo 22 from Jerez de la frontera, as that base was closing down.

In 1997, the first of 24 second hand F/A-18's arrived at Morón to replace the C-101's and formed the Grupo 21.
Those Hornets were ex-USN aircraft from the disestablished VFA-127 'Desert Bogeys' adversary squadron and some other units.

In july 1999, Ala21 was redesignated Ala11 with Grupo 11 flying the Hornet and Grupo 22 flying the Orion. That change occured to keep Ala11, the first fighter unit of the Spanish air force, "alive" after the closure of Ala11 homebase at Manises, Valencia.

 

The entry into service of the new Eurofighter Typhoon signed the end of Hornet operations by Ala11 and all FA-18's were transfered to Ala46 in Gando, Gran Canaria.
On may 27th 2004, the first Eurofighter Typhoon arrived in Morón and joined 113 squadron, the operational conversion squadron.
As new aircraft are delivered to Ala11, a first operational squadrons (111 squadron) is progressively equiped with the new fighter. Another operational squadron (112 squadron) will be equiped in the near future.
The Typhoons from Ala11 have recently been deployed to Amari, Estonia, to take part in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, armed with live AIM-120's ans IRIS-T's.

A USAF airbase

In 1953, the Spanish and American governments finalized agreements to establish a number of Spanish-American air bases, including Morón Air Base.
Morón was one of three major USAF Cold War airbases in Spain, the others being Zaragoza Air Base near Zaragoza and Torrejón Air Base near Madrid. Construction efforts began in 1953 under the direction of the United States Navy, taking over 3 years to complete.
On May 13, 1958, the first flight of Boeing B-47 Stratojets were assigned to Morón Air Base to conduct Reflex operations (twenty-one day deployments of aircraft and crews being kept on full alert status ready for instant takeoff) accompanied by Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighters to conduct tanker missions.
Six weeks later the first rotational fighter squadron, the 1st Fighter Squadron, flying North American F-100 Super Sabres and commanded by Lt. Col. Chuck Yeager, arrived from George Air Force Base, CA, for temporary duty to conduct air defence alert.

 
  Lt. Col. Chuck Yeager

Morón continued to operate primarily as a Reflex base until 1962, when the first Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft arrived.
In 1966, the base was transferred from Strategic Air Command (SAC) to United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE). The mission changed to communications support, Temporary Duty (TDY) "fair weather" flying operations for McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom IIs from RAF Alconbury, and McDonnell RF-101 Voodoo from RAF Upper Heyford, United Kingdom and the support of air rescue operations provided by the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.
In 1971, Morón Air Base was re-designated to "modified caretaker status". Torrejón Air Base was designated as the Primary Support Base (PSB).
In November 1983, during the joint Spanish/American military exercise CRISEX 83, USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers were allowed once again to enter Spanish air space and land at Morón Air Base. The B-52 bombers were previously banned from entering Spanish airspace after the January 17, 1966 incident near Palomares, when an in-air refuelling B-52G (s/n 58-0256) collided with a United States Air Force Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker jet tanker (s/n 61-0273). Two hydrogen bombs ruptured, dispersing radioactive particles over nearby farms. An intact bomb landed near Palomares. The fourth bomb was lost at sea, 20 km off the coast.
A search involving three months and 12,000 men was required to recover the device, however, despite the deployment of highly sophisticated technical equipment by the US Navy, it was a local Spanish fisherman who finally guided them to find and recover the bomb.
In 1984, Morón became a NASA Space Shuttle Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site in support of the space shuttle program. Special navigation and landing aids were installed, and personnel were highly trained to recover the orbiter vehicle. In addition, launch periods during the 1980s saw USAF personnel deployed to Morón to provide on-site weather support, coordinating efforts with local Spanish weather personnel.
In 1990, Strategic Air Command deployed 22 KC-135 and McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender tankers to provide aerial refuelling for Operation Desert Shield and changed Morón Air Base's U.S. function from refueling to bomber operations. The 801st Bomb Wing (Provisional) at Morón Air Base consisted of 24 Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, 3 KC-135s and over 2,800 personnel. This was the largest deployed bomber wing during the war.
During 1991, the basing plan for Spain called for retaining Morón AB, along with Torrejón AB, and Naval Station Rota, but on a drastically reduced scale. In 1995, the 496th Air Base Squadron (496th ABS) was activated to replace the 712th Air Base Flight. Also at this time, USAFE redesignated Morón as a limited-use base, defined as austerely manned and no permanently assigned operational tactical forces. Throughout this time it was used as a staging base to support deployments. It was heavily used during the Gulf War by B-52s and tankers and during Operation Restore Hope and Operation Allied Force. Throughout 1995 to 1997, Morón became a popular staging area to host Coronet East movements to and from Turkey and Southwest Asia with over 95 fighter and tanker missions. In 1996, the 496th was placed under the 31st Support Group of Aviano Air Base, Italy.
In 1999, Morón became the home of the 92d Air Expeditionary Wing, tasked with providing fuel to Operation Allied Force during the Kosovo War. In addition to serving as the HQ 92 AEW (serving units in France, Crete, Sicily and Spain), Morón hosted 37 tankers (KC-135 and KC-10) and 800 personnel. The 92 AEW became the largest Tanker Wing since the Vietnam War and held the distinction of being the largest tanker base during the Kosovo war.
In 2001, the base provided record numbers of airlift and fighter rotations for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2003, the operations increased even more as Morón became a key pillar in the airbridge for airlift and fighter deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, the 496th ABS started reporting to the 712th Air Base Group and was realigned under the 38th Combat Support Wing of Ramstein Air Base, Germany later that year. In 2007, the 712th ABG inactivated and the 496th ABS was realigned again under the 86th Operations Group of Ramstein Air Base.
In 2011, the base once again proved its strategic importance as it served as the main tanker base for KC-10A and KC-135R aircraft supporting Operation Unified Protector in operations over Libya. In 2013, the USMC temporarily based 550 Marines as part of a rapid reaction force in Morón, Spain in support of U.S. Africa Command. This unit was outfitted with Bell Boeing MV-22B Ospreys and Lockheed Martin KC-130J aerial refueling / cargo aircraft. An advance element from this unit moved to Naval Air Station Sigonella in May.

 
 
 
Morón Air Force Base today...
 

 
 
 Briefing room Some souvenir of the squadron
  Operation room and mapping
 A visit to the controllers Flying areas
 Guate guadians: HA200 Casa Saeta North American F-86F Sabre
 Northrop SF-5A  Northrop SRF-5A
 Material shelter
 Lockheed C-130J-30 arriving from Ramstein
 Visit to the Grupo 11 111 Squadron is Eurofighter Typhoon equipped
 The pilots board from the 111 squadron and 113 squadron
 Equipment room
  BAE Striker II helmet
 
 
 Preparing for a mission
 
 Signature of the forms before departing
 
 
  
 Sun protection shelters
 
 
 Preparing for the run up
 
 
  Seat and canopy details
 
 Taxi clearance
 
 
 
 
 Take off
 
 Visit to the Grupo 22 Lockheed P-3M Orion is the mount of the 221 Squadron
 Another gate guardian: Grumman HU-16B/ASW Albatross
 
 
 
 The P-3M pilot office
  Overhead panel
  Navigator post
 Observer post
  Controller post
  In the back, the computers and a rest place for long missions
 The 22-22 and 22-34 abandonned and used for spare parts
 
 Pilot boards per aircraft types...Morón Air Base history

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