|Lajes Air Base|
|Lajes Field, as seen from the southeast coast of the island of Terceira|
|IATA: TER – ICAO: LPLA |
|Airport type||Military / Civilian terminal for airlines and other civilian operators on the west side of airfield|
|Owner||Portuguese Air Force (Base Aérea 4) / Azorean regional Government (civilian terminal)|
|Operator||Portuguese Air Force|
|Serves||Praia da Vitória / Angra do Heroísmo|
|Commander||Colonel Sérgio Ferreira|
|Occupants||Comando da Zona Aérea dos Açores / Base Aérea Nº 4 |
65th Air Base Wing
Lajes Search and Rescue Coordination Centre /
Aerogare civil das Lajes (Civilian Operations Terminal) / SATA Air Açores / Aeroclube da Ilha Terceira / Light aircraft private operators
|Elevation AMSL||55 m / 180 ft|
Lajes Field or Lajes Air Base (Portuguese: Base Aérea das Lajes), officially designated Air Base No. 4 (Base Aérea Nº 4, BA4) (IATA: TER, ICAO: LPLA), is a multi-use air field, home to the Portuguese Air Force Base Aérea Nº4 and Azores Air Zone Command (Portuguese: Comando da Zona Aérea dos Açores), a United States Air Force detachment (operated by the 65th Air Base Wing of United States Air Forces in Europe), and a regional air passenger terminal located near Lajes on Terceira Island in the Azores, Portugal. Located about 3,680 kilometres (2,290 mi) east of New York City and about 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) west of Lisbon, Portugal; the base sits in a strategic location midway between North America and Europe in the North Atlantic Ocean.
World War II
During World War II, the designation of the airfield was changed to Air Base No.4 and the Portuguese government expanded the runway, sending troops and equipment to Terceira, including Gloster Gladiator fighters. The military activities in the Azores grew in 1942, as the Gladiators began to be used to support allied convoys, in reconnaissance missions and on meteorological flights. In addition, the first Portuguese Junkers Ju 52 arrived in July 1942 to fly cargo missions.
By 1943, the British and American armed forces were allowed basing rights in Portugal, and the Royal Air Force took over Lajes Field as RAF Station Lajes. The Azores permitted British and American airplanes to protect Allied shipping in the mid-Atlantic.
On 1 December 1943, British and U.S. military representatives at RAF Lages Field signed a joint agreement outlining the roles and responsibilities for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and United States Navy (USN) at Lajes Field. The agreement established guidelines and limitations for the ferrying of aircraft and the transport aircraft to Europe via Lajes Field. In return, the US agreed to assist the British in improving and extending existing facilities at Lajes. Air Transport Command transport planes began landing at Lajes Field immediately after the agreement was signed. By the end of June 1944, more than 1,900 American airplanes had passed through this Azorean base. Using Lajes Field, the flying time relative to the usual transatlantic route between Brazil and West Africa was nearly cut in half from 70 to 40 hours.
Lajes Field was one of the two stopover and refueling bases for the first transatlantic crossing of non-rigid airships (blimps) in 1944. The USN sent six Goodyear-built K-ships from Naval Air Station South Weymouth in Massachusetts to their first stopover base at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland and then on to Lajes Field in the Azores before flying to their final destination at Port Lyautey, French Morocco. From their base with at Port Lyautey, the blimps of USN Blimp Squadron 14 (ZP-14 or Blimpron 14) conducted night-time anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to search for German U-boats around the Straits of Gibraltar using magnetic anomaly detection (MAD). In 1945, two ZP-14 replacement blimps were sent from Weeksville, North Carolina to the Bermudas and Lajes before going on to Port Lyautey.
The United States and the United Kingdom transferred control of Lajes to Portugal in 1946. The Portuguese redesignated Lajes as Air Base No. 4 and assigned it to the air branch of the Portuguese Army. However, talks between the U.S. and Portugal began about extending the American stay in the Azores. A temporary agreement was reached between the U.S. and Portuguese governments giving the U.S. military rights to Lajes Field for an additional 18 months: the relationship between the Portuguese and American governments continues to this day, where the U.S. military resides under a tenancy status. Lajes Field remains Portuguese Air Base 4 under the direction of Headquarters Azores Air Zone commanded by Portuguese Air Force brigadeiro (equal to a U.S. two-star general).
In 1947, the Portuguese Esquadra 41 started to operate from Lajes, equipped with Boeing SB-17, Grumman HU-16 Albatross, Douglas C-54 Skymaster and, later Sikorsky H-19. This unit was responsible for the SAR (Search and Rescue) operations in the Atlantic between Europe and North America.
In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military alliance was established. Portugal, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and various (other) western European countries were charter members of NATO. By reason of the NATO alliance, Lajes was available for use by those countries, and the use of Lajes was one of Portugal's primary contributions to the alliance.
In 1953, the Commander-in-Chief of United States Atlantic Command organized a subordinate unified command in the Azores called U.S. Forces Azores (USFORAZ). A small staff of United States, United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps personnel composed the joint staff of USFORAZ, serving as the liaison between the U.S. and the Portuguese in the Azores.
In the late 1950s, USAF air refueling/tanker aircraft were stationed at Lajes to provide inflight refueling for U.S. aircraft transiting the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the tanker units left Lajes by 1965, but others returned later, especially the USAF KC-135 Stratotanker. This transfer, coupled with the introduction of newer long-range aircraft, resulted in a gradual decline in Lajes traffic. The Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and its successor, the Military Airlift Command (MAC), became responsible for USAF activities at the base, and for a while the 1605th Military Airlift Support Wing acted as USAF host unit.
Lajes Field also played a crucial role in Cold War politics. From 1932 to 1968, Portugal was under the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar, yet the U.S. Government maintained friendly relations with the Estado Novo regime, especially after 1943. With rising postwar tensions between the East and the West, the United States understood the strategic importance of Lajes Field and continued its close friendship with the Salazar Government in Portugal.
During the Portuguese Colonial War, from 1961 to 1975, the Air Force Hospital at Lajes operated as the main centre for treatment and rehabilitation of mutilated and heavy burned soldiers of the three services of the Portuguese Armed Forces.
Another important Cold War operation at Lajes was the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Facility Lajes (NAF Lajes), a tenant activity at the air base. NAF Lajes, and its associated Tactical Support Center (TSC)/Antisubmarine Warfare Operations Center (ASWOC), supported rotational detachments of U.S. Navy P-2 Neptune and later P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that would track Soviet attack, guided missile, and ballistic missile submarines in the region. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and end of the Cold War, P-3 operations at Lajes declined, and the Naval Air Facility was inactivated in the late 1990s.
Airlines and destinations
Portuguese Air Force
United States Air Force
Lajes Field is the home of the 65th Air Base Wing, which in turn is subordinate to the United States Air Forces in Europe. The wing provides base and en route support for United States Department of Defense, NATO, and other authorized aircraft transiting the installation.
In addition to the 65th Air Base Wing, other units at Lajes Field include U.S. Army Military Traffic Management Command’s 1324th Military Port Command, U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command’s 729th Air Mobility Support Squadron, Detachment 6 of the Air Force News Agency, Detachment 250 - Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Defense Property Disposal Office, and the Defense Commissary Agency.
Lajes Field is also the home of the 65th Communication Squadron, which provides communication in the form of ground radio, ground radar, SatCom (Satellite Communications), and cryptography to the base.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
- Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 20 October 2011 to 0901Z 15 December 2011
- Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
- Lajes Field Official Home Page
- United States Air Forces in Europe
- Ramstein Air Base
- RAF Mildenhall
- Air Mobility Command
- Air Force News Agency
- 65th Air Base Wing
- Global Security
- Air Base No. 4 (BA4) at the Portuguese Air Force official website
-  for details regarding Esquadra 401 or 401 Squadron (Casa C-212 Aviocar) at the Portuguese Air Force official website
-  for details regarding Esquadra 751 or 751 Squadron "Pumas" (AW101 Merlin) at the Portuguese Air Force official website
- First transatlantic crossing of non-rigid airships by USN Blimp Squadron ZP-14
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