Naval Air Facility El Centro is located in the heart of Southern California’s Imperial Valley. It is a two hour drive from San Diego and Palm Springs, one hour from Yuma, AZ, and fifteen minutes from the Mexican border.
With year-round great flying weather and the proximity of several instrumented bombing ranges, El Centro is an integral part of Naval Aviation Training.
The facility has two operating runways. The 9,503-foot (2,897 m) east/west runway handles 96 percent of the traffic. It is equipped with a Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (FLOLS) at each approach end as well as lighted carrier flight deck landing areas at both ends so pilots can simulate carrier landings.
Apart from “touch and go” landings and take-offs, aircrews use the many ranges at NAF El Centro to develop their skills. A remote-controlled target area allows naval aviators and naval flight officers to practice ordnance delivery. The desert range is used for air-to-ground bombing, rocket firing, strafing, dummy drops and mobile land target training. The target complex uses the Weapons Impact Scoring System that microwaves target images to a range master control building for immediate verification of weapons delivery accuracy.
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The addition of the Display and Debriefing Subsystem, known as DDS, expanded the role of NAF El Centro to include air combat training by utilizing remote television, acoustical and laser scoring systems. The DDS is linked with the Tactical Air Crew Training System (TACTS) to provide a computerized record of the tactics employed by individual aircrews to employ and to evaluate the effectiveness of each maneuver.
NAF El Centro is the winter home of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, The Blue Angels. NAF El Centro historically kicks off the Blue Angels’ season with their first air show, traditionally held in March.