Landing Field Aids Security

I would like to once again relay to the public why the Navy requires an additional outlying landing field, or OLF, to support field carrier-landing practice and why this new facility is vital to our national security.

The OLF is needed to ensure we can meet our responsibility to defend our country. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Navy was directed to completely change the way it trains, maintains and deploys its forces. These changes — a truly revolutionary shift away from traditional rotational deployments — make the OLF a requirement due to a lack of adequate capacity at Fentress Airfield in Chesapeake.

Regardless of where the new OLF is located, it will enable the Navy to better accomplish its core mission of defending our nation and preventing future wars.

Some have suggested using a decommissioned carrier, an offshore training platform or more simulators for training. Whether for the new pilot first learning or the senior pilot returning to carrier operations, a safety margin is required that wouldn’t be possible on an offshore platform or ship.

The very demanding task of landing an aircraft on the deck of a carrier must be practiced with an adequate margin for safety before attempting to perform that task at sea. We have learned over many years how much training can be accomplished in simulation and how much is required in land-based practice to achieve that proper safety margin. Those well-meaning individuals who suggest we don’t truly need this facility don’t understand the challenges of landing on an aircraft carrier.

Our goal is to create a win for the Navy, a win for the nation and a win for the community ultimately hosting this facility. The Navy will continue to work closely with state and local officials and residents to identify opportunities that will provide benefits to the Navy and the surrounding communities.

Other organizations are contributing to this process, including various environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a variety of state agencies in Virginia and North Carolina. This collaboration has resulted in a number of ideas to bring economic benefits to the localities, which include development of commercial distribution centers, industrial or office parks, or community forests.

Enacting these and other ideas could bring hundreds of jobs and other economic benefits to the local communities. They also offer tremendous environmental benefits for threatened and endangered species, as well as their habitats. The ensuing environmental impact statement process will continue to allow us to explore all options. We look forward to working with all concerned parties to achieve a mutually advantageous solution.

We all owe America’s sons and daughters our best efforts to find this solution.

Anderson holds the rank of rear admiral. He is vice commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk.

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