Keesler Air Force Base (KBIX) is a military training base situated 133km east of New Orleans, near the county of Harrison in Biloxi, Mississippi. It is one of the biggest technical training centres of the United States Air Force (USAF). The base is owned by the USAF and operated by Air Education and Training Command (AETC).
The US Army received a proposal to build a base at Keesler from the Biloxi city officials in January 1941 to endorse Second World War training build-up. The US Government earmarked $6m for the base construction and additional $2m for the equipment installation. The projected cost was, however, increased to $9.6m in April 1941. On 14 June 1941, the US Army Corps of Engineers funded $10m to construct a technical training school at Biloxi.
The base was established in a 6.3km² site in 1941 under the designation Keesler Field. The first batch of trainees arrived at the field on 21 August 1941. The field was renamed as Keesler Army Airfield on 25 August 1941 in the honour of World War I Martyr Samuel Reeves. The basic training activities were ceased on 30 June 1946.
The Radar school was set up at the base in May 1947. The technical training school and Radar was coalesced in April 1948 to minimise the operating cost of the base. The Radio Operations School arrived at the base in 1949.
Chanute’s weather forecasting courses and Lowry’s meteorology and precision measurement payload laboratory training programmes were shifted to the base between 1992 and 1993. The Air Training Command was renamed as AETC in July 1993.
Design and construction
The USAF awarded a $73.8m contract to WG Yates and Sons Construction in December 2007 to design and rebuild nine facilities that were damaged during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The contract value may be extended by another $23.6m.
MOCA Systems was selected by the Air Force Centre for Engineering and Environment (AFCEE) in March 2007, to build 1,100 new houses worth $290m in the base under the $600 Military Family Housing programme.
The joint venture of Whitesell and Yates will design and construct a 27,700ft² fuel cell maintenance hangar at the base at a cost of $5.8m.
The hangar will conciliate extended C-130J-30 aircraft and render facilities for maintenance and support.
A four-storey in-patient tower is being built at the 81st Medical Group (81 MG) Hospital in the Keesler base at a cost of approximately $50m. The 81st MG features the second largest medical centre in the USAF.
The tower will incorporate facilities for in-patient treatment and diagnosis. The construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011.
Another project worth $32m undertaken at the hospital will renovate the infrastructure and accomplish energy management.
The project work will include superseding 17 air handling units, modernising the nutritional medicine kitchen hood and cooling systems, renovating the tower exhaust system and modifying the veterinary clinic chiller. Five elevators have been overhauled and restored as part of this project.
The KBIX, which serves as hub for the AETC, comprises 2nd Air Force (2AF) and 81st Training Wing (81TW). The CNATTU Keesler (Centre for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit) is also deployed at the base to train Navy and Marine cadets.
The 2AF carries out basic military and technical training for USAF cadets.
The 81TW was activated in July 1993 to provide technical training for cadets upon finishing basic training.
It also trains airmen in meteorology to analyse and forecast weather, monitor radar operations and predict tropical cyclones. The 81TW is organised into three groups: 81st Training Group, 81st Medical Group and 810 Operations Support Group.
Activated in November 1983, the 403rd Wing renders theatre airlift support and weather reconnaissance missions through 815th Airlift Squadron (815AS) and 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (53WRS) respectively.
Other training squadrons assigned to the base are 45th, 332nd, 334th, 335th, 336th and 338th.
The KBIX has a single 2,326m-long runway paved with macadam. It can accommodate C-21 Learjet, C-130 Hercules, T-28 Trojan, WC-130 Hurricane Hunters, T-41 and B-24 Liberator aircraft.
Additional facilities offered by the base include education, temporary lodging, accommodation, childcare and medical care.