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Miramar Looked Like This When TOP GUN Was Just Getting Off the Ground

This Film History of the Famous West Coast Air Station is Solid Seventies Gold

Official US Navy photograph

In 1970 the Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group produced the film “Seaview” for Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, located near San Diego in California, to portray the history and then-current utilization of the station. Now a Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), Miramar was of course home to the Pacific Fleet fighter and Airborne Early Warning and Control squadrons for many years. The installation is also forever famous for its association with TOP GUN, the Naval Fighter Weapons School (NFWS) now located at NAS Fallon in Nevada. Uploaded to YouTube by sdasmarchives, the film includes some gorgeous footage of 1970s-vintage Navy jets.

Official US Navy photograph

First used by the Army during World War I as Camp Kearny to train infantrymen, the base occasionally saw aircraft activity on the large parade deck area though no airstrip was built there. Charles Lindbergh practiced there before his famous flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. Used briefly for helium dirigibles during the 1930s, runways didn’t appear until 1940. Parts of the base were used by the Marine Corps for training and by the Navy to train crews slated to fly the Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer patrol bomber. Ironically the bases were combined into what became MCAS Miramar in 1946- but for only a few months.

Official US Navy photograph

The Marines moved to MCAS El Toro in 1947 and Miramar became Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Miramar until it became a full-fledged NAS in 1952. NAS Miramar became a primary jet base during the 1960s in support of the Vietnam War. In 1969 the NFWS became part of VF-121 Pacemakers before first becoming a separate command and later world-famous. In 1996, NFWS was relocated and absorbed into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) at NAS Fallon in Nevada. On October 1st 1997 NAS Miramar once again became MCAS Miramar.

Official US Navy photograph

Appearing in the film are early-model mothballed Naval Reserve A-4s from NAS Jacksonville (6F), NAS South Weymouth (7Z), and either VA-303 Golden Hawks or VA-304 Firebirds of Reserve Carrier Air Wing THREE ZERO (CVWR-30). Later, Miramar-based VC-7 Tallyhoers/Red Tails A-4Cs pass some gas. A TA-4F was used for much of the air to air photography. F-4s appearing in the film are assigned to VF-111 Sundowners, VF-142 Ghostriders, VF-154 Black Knights, VMFA(AW)-531 Grey Ghosts, and Miramar’s own VF-121 Pacemakers  and VF-124 Gunfighters. Also appearing in the film are RF-8G Crusaders from VFP-63 Eyes of the Fleet and F-8J Crusaders from VF-191 Satan’s Kittens.

Official US Navy photograph

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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