Morón Air Base
Located 37°10′N, 5°36′W in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain, approximately 35 miles southeast of the city of Seville and 75 miles northeast of Naval Station Rota. The base gets its name from the nearby town of Morón de la Frontera. Morón's massive flight line, aircraft refueling system, long runway and prime location on the Iberian peninsula, close to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, means the base was and is a vital link in any operation moving east from the United States. The base was a self-contained residence for airmen serving in the 3973rd CDS. (Thanks to Bill Vickery for most of the pictures of buildings on the base.)
Moron AB began to function as an airfield in 1941 and was established to train fighter pilots for the Spanish Army Air Force. Since then, Spain has used the base for headquarters for a light bomber wing, a fighter wing and the present F-18 squadron and P-3 squadron. Negotiations began between the US and Spain in 1951 and approval for US bases in Spain came as part of the Defense Agreement of 26 Sep 53. In return for basing rights, the US agreed to provide Spain with an air defense force. Built primarily for SAC bombers, Moron was one of three bases built in Spain. It had been established as a Spanish fighter training base in 1941. Construction began in 1953 under the direction of the US Navy and was carefully planned, taking over 3 years to complete.
The first SAC B-47 bomber arrived 13 May 58. Moron’s mission during the 60s was to support the SAC bomber reflex and then KC-97 strip alert tanker missions, Chrome Dome. The base also supported TAC fighter deployments. In 1961 after the Berlin Wall was built and tensions between the US and USSR were high, many (55) National Guard and reserve units were federalized and sent to Europe. One, the 157 FIS from SC., went to Moron AB, Spain until Jun 62 when it returned to the states.
In Apr 66, the base transferred from SAC to USAFE and the 7473 CSS took over as host unit. The mission became communications support, fair weather flying operations by TDY RF-4 and RF-101 reconnaissance units based in Europe. The 67 ARRS supported air rescue missions.
In 69, Moron Air Base became a Dispersed Operating Base with only occasional exercise flying. By 1971 the base was put in a caretaker status with base services contracted out and these services were reduced several times throughout the 1980s.
In 1983, an agreement between Spain and the US allowed 15 tankers to be operated from Moron AB and by 1986 it had become a major peacetime staging base. In Mar 84, Moron AB was selected by NASA as a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) for the space shuttle program.
In Aug 90, SAC deployed 22 KC-135s and KC-10 tankers to support Operation Desert Shield. In Jan 91, SAC changed Moron AB from refueling to bomber operations for Desert Storm. The 801st Bomb Wg (Provisional) consisted of 24 B-52s, 3 KC-135s and over 2,800 personnel. This was the largest deployed bomber wing during the war.
Moron AB is a limited base - austerely manned, has no permanent operational aircraft but does have facilities for communications, air traffic control nav aids, maintenance, supply, billeting, recreation, messing, transportation, and provides operational support for forces deploying to and from SW Asia.
Disposition: NATO stand-by base, active Spanish Air Force Base
Update: As of November, 2016, Spain has agreed for the Morón base to be a permanent fixture, at least for the foreseeable future. Spain agreed to at least 3000 troops and 40 additional aircraft to be stationed there. The mission of Morón Air Base is to operate and maintain a strategic forward operating base to support the US and Allied air/space power projection, to include transient and aircraft maintenance operations. The installation hosts Air Mobility Command, Air Force Space Command and Air Force Office of Special Investigations units.
View of Moron Air Base ramp from the Tower - March 1963
Photo courtesy of Bruce Aro, 2188th Communications Squadron
From Los Toros commentator Steve Marston:
"While the atmosphere in the tower this day in 1963 was relaxed, the ramp was a beehive of activity. It's reflex rotation day
There is a line of alert vehicles in front of the command post. KC-135's waiting with cargo doors open. Three B-47s that have been downloaded and are ready for that all important launch. The base courier aircraft, a C-47, gooney bird waiting patiently for it's next trip to Madrid. The B-47s in the reflex alert area, gleaming white in the Spanish sun, protected by a dozen Air Policemen. The twin round white fighter alert hangars at the end of runway 21.
On the other side of the tower, are three B-52 chrome dome aircraft. Only landing at Moron with a declared emergency, each aircraft would need security protection for their emergency landing and the duration of their visit to Spain. This, on a reflex turn around day, which required sentries for upload/download and weapons convoy operations, would stretch the resources of the CDS Flight on duty to the breaking point.
The command post is visible, the on-scene command/communications van parked in front. A blue metro van with white top, the vehicle was equipped with several vhf radios and working positions, and a huge loudspeaker system on top. It was a beast to drive, and if all the radios were in use the engine rpm had to be kept high.
The alert area access point is faint in this version of the photograph."
Three B-52s Down from Operation Chrome Dome