The Arrival of the Total Training System
The 1990s were characterized by changes in the world order, containment of localized fighting, and a revamped Naval strategy. As 1991 began, the Jan. 15 deadline for the U.N.-ordered withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait neared; and U.S. aircraft carriers advanced to locations near the Persian Gulf. On Jan. 16, (the night of Jan. 17 in the Middle East), Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched at pre-programmed targets by U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea; just in time to be shown on the evening news.
The Gulf War was the first war the public could see in real time. TV viewers around the world saw first hand the awesome military might of the United States as it liberated Kuwait. On Feb. 27, President George H.W. Bush declared that Kuwait had been liberated. However, U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq remained in effect. Naval Aviation was actively involved in patrolling Iraq during the remainder of the first half of the decade. It was also involved in supporting U.N.-imposed sanctions against Iraq and limiting Iraq’s threat to its minorities and neighbors.
The Soviet Union had cooperated with the United States during the Gulf War, the first U.S.-Soviet coordinated effort since World War II. Soviet glasnost (openness) and perestroika (re-structuring) were bringing about changes and unrest in the Soviet Union. In August 1991, an attempted coup triggered the dissolution of the Soviet Union into its component republics. On Dec. 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev formally resigned as president of a Soviet Union that no longer existed. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the United States as the world’s only superpower. The new world order presented regional rather than global threats and challenges. In response, the Navy developed a new strategy promulgated in the white paper entitled, “. . . From the Sea.” The paper emphasized littoral warfare – along the coastlines – and maneuver from the sea.
The new global situation also called for the downsizing of the Navy’s personnel and material. With the Soviet Union no longer a threat, the Clinton administration supported a smaller defense budget. For Naval Aviation it was the largest draw-down since World War II. Many aviation squadrons and Naval shore facilities were disestablished, reorganized or consolidated.
The initial half of the 1990's marked a first for women in the Navy. In April 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin dropped most of the restrictions that prohibited women from engaging in aerial and Naval combat. Later in the year, Congress supported the secretary’s decision to allow women in combat by repealing the Combat Exclusion Law. In October 1994, USS Eisenhower became the first aircraft carrier to deploy with women permanently assigned on board.
At NAS Kingsville, the 1990's marked the end of the TA-4 Skyhawk era. For nearly 25 years, the Skyhawk served as the primary jet trainer for Student Naval Aviators at NAS Kingsville and thousands of Navy and Marine Corps pilots earned their Wings in the “Scooter.” The Skyhawk was replaced by the Boeing T-45 Goshawk. The first group of flight instructors for the T-45 arrived on board in 1992 and began training students in the new aircraft a few months later.
The T-45 featured improved operational performance, a greater training capability, and lower operational costs for training than the TA-4. The Integrated Training System that came on board with the aircraft included a greater emphasis on Ground School, simulator training, and time in the cockpit. The Total Integrated System included operational and instrument flight simulators (OFT/IFT), academics, and training integration system support. The T-45 was also slated to be incorporated into the advanced portion of Navy/Marine Corps Naval Flight Officer (NFO) training with Training Air Wing SIX at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., by 2007.
More than 150 students a year reported to Training Air Wing TWO for Undergraduate Jet Pilot Training. The Air Wing consisted of approximately 200 Student Naval Aviators, 75 instructor pilots, and 80 civilian personnel. All students underwent a rigorous training syllabus in the T-45 Goshawk on the way to earning their Wings of Gold.
The Training Wing TWO Ground Training Department provided classroom instruction, computer aided instruction, and flight simulation in instrument and operational flight trainers. L-3 Vertex contract maintenance and support departments provided the Navy with maintenance and upkeep for the aircraft, support for the aircrew's flight gear, and support for all of the ground and simulator instruction.
NAS Kingsville 1990s Timeline
Jan. 16, 1990: VT-23 completes first carrier qualification detachment of the decade, achieving 104-percent qualifications off the coast of Key West.
May 1, 1992: The first class of flight instructors from VT-21, assigned to train the next generation of Naval Aviators in the new T-45A Goshawk, begins their own training in the T-45A.
Nov. 14, 1992: USS Lexington, the Navy’s unsinkable “Blue Ghost” of World War II is officially turned over to the city of Corpus Christi for use as a museum.
Aug. 27, 1993: New Commissary opens on station next to the Navy Exchange after six months of construction. Cost of the new facility is $2.6 million.
Jan. 1, 1994: The Navy begins training aviators at NAS Kingsville using the new T-45 Training System, which includes the T-45 Goshawk jet trainer. The Goshawk replaces the aging T-2 Buckeye and TA-4 Skyhawk.
May 24, 1994: Secretary of the Navy John Dalton announces that VT-23 will be relocated to NAS Meridian, Miss. The move was made in order to carry out plans to transition from the aging T-2 Buckeye and the TA-4 Skyhawk to the T-45 Goshawk. Squadron moves to NAS Meridian, Miss., in July.
Aug. 23, 1994: Last of the T-2C Buckeyes and remainder of VT-23 personnel depart the air station.
Sept. 16, 1994: Last flight out of NAS Kingsville for the TA-4J Skyhawk departs at 10:30 a.m. The flight ends a relationship with NAS Kingsville dating back to 1969.
March 24, 1995: NAS Kingsville moves headquarters to Building 2740, paving the way for the demolition of the historic Bldg. 700, affectionately called the “White House.”
June 13, 1996: Ground Training Complex dedicated to the memory of John J. McIntyre, former Training Air Wing TWO Training Officer.
Sept. 9, 1996: Ground breaking ceremony held for $2.4 million addition to the Air Operations Building. Project consisted of a one-story, 11,487-square foot addition to the existing Air Ops complex, and a new five-story air traffic control tower. (Facility opens in 1998.)
Dec. 12, 1996: Ground breaking ceremony held for construction of Public-Private Venture (PPV) Navy Family Housing Unit in Kingsville. The project would serve as a model for other Navy PPV ventures.
July 7, 1997: Ground breaking ceremony held for construction of new Fire Station complex. ($1.5 million project completed in January 1999.)
July 31, 1998: New Corrosion Control Facility debuts “Flashjet” paint stripping system. New system incorporates patented process that combines pulsed light energy and a steady stream of dry ice pellets to remove up to 4-square-feet of paint for less than $4 a square foot -- about one sixth of the cost of chemical stripping, without any environmental issues. NAS Kingsville is the first Naval Air Station to have system installed for permanent use.
January 1999: Bldg. 700, former NAS Kingsville Headquarters Building affectionately called the “White House,” was torn down. The historic building was erected in 1942.