Officials in Kingsville, Texas, are making a public bid to snare some of Oceana Naval Air Station's fighter jets.
Oceana's future is uncertain, so Kingsville wants to get a squadron whose role is training pilots to fly F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets.
Known as Oceana's fleet replacement squadron, the unit has about 55 of the base's estimated 258 fighter and attack jets.
Kingsville, a city of 25,000 in South Texas near the Gulf Coast, is home to a naval air station that trains Navy and Marine pilots.
The city's quest for more jets got a boost last year from the federal Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
The BRAC panel demanded that Virginia Beach halt and roll back development in high-risk areas around Oceana. It also urged the Navy to "begin immediately" to address noise and safety issues by moving "high-density training" operations to other bases. The final BRAC report cited Kingsville and Whitehouse Outlying Landing Field, near Jacksonville, Fla., as two possibilities. Whitehouse was once used by pilots at the Navy's former Cecil Field to simulate aircraft carrier landings.
The Navy is not required to move training operations under the BRAC finding. But the report bolstered Kingsville's case, said Dick Messbarger, executive director of the Greater Kingsville Economic Development Council.
A delegation from Kingsville met late last month in Washington with BRAC's chief of staff to discuss the commission's findings.
"It's pretty apparent that there is concern about high-intensity air traffic in and around Virginia Beach," Messbarger said. "Shame on us if we don't do our due diligence in this kind of environment."
In December, the Virginia Beach City Council adopted a plan to protect Oceana.
It did not, however, include one of BRAC's primary demands: a program to condemn and buy homes and businesses in the high-risk Accident Potential Zone 1 around the base.
Beach officials say their plan, which bans all new homes and most new businesses in APZ-1, meets the BRAC demands. But in a recent letter, the Pentagon warned that the city's plan might not go far enough.
No one is sure what will happen if the Defense Department's inspector general rules that Virginia Beach did not comply with BRAC's demands.
The inspector general has until June 1 to decide. *Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun