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    NAS Patuxent River, MD History

    The site of NAS Patuxent River, popularly Pax River or NAS Pax, was rich in American history long before the station; relating it all would require a book-length work. Today's Naval Air Station Patuxent River was conceived in the late 1930s, and built in a hurry in 1942-43. Prior to the commissioning of NAS Pax River, the Navy had most of its design, development, testing, and evaluation facilities spread out among several stations and under control of many desks in many Navy Department bureaus, some split among officers or part-time duties.

    NAS Pax River was central to centralizing and streamlining Navy aircraft development and production. Station construction was rapid, bringing undeveloped land and farm land to full NAS flight status in only one year, including (at first, very cramped) housing for some 7,000. By the summer of 1943 the station was up and flying test planes, using experienced combat aviators. Many of the systems developed and tested at NAS Pax in the late war were brought to action in the early jet age after the war; in 1945 and 1946 the first Navy jet fighters were tested at Pax; in the 1950s new weapons systems were tested for use in the Korean War, including the angled carrier launch deck.

    In 1958 the Navy Test Pilot School was established at NAS Pax River, providing instruction to US Navy and Army testing aviators. The TPS has the distinction of providing three of the original seven US astronauts: Alan Shepard (who had also tested the angled launch deck), Wally Schirra, and John Glenn. Later TPS alumni include John Young, Scott Carpenter, Jim Lovell, Richard F. Gordon, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Mark Kelly, and Sunita Williams. Another highly notable TPS graduate is Rear Admiral Edward L. Feightner, a World War Two ace and one of the most influential test pilots of the 1950s.

    In the mid-1960s NAS Pax River was the site of developing helicopter-based anti-submarine warfare techniques for the new, nuclear submarine age. In the 1970s, Pax River was thirty years old, and needed an upgrade to the more modern, computerized world. A wave of construction and technical updating followed. The 1990s saw a general force realignment, with NAS Pax becoming even more focused on Navy technical development, with related population growth and continued improvements to facilities, including a child care center, expanded commissary and Naval exchange, a family services center, and more family housing.