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15 December 2017 Military Aviation » Malta-based » US Navy  
 

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FASRON 201 Special

Although a history of Hal-Far airfield can be found on this page., the following extract is sufficient for the purpose of this page.

When the Korean War flared up in June 1950 the bustle declined but Kalafrana was very active as a hold-unit for spare Sea Furies and Fireflies. At the end of 1950, the Americans first appeared for short stays at Hal Far when the United States Navy squadron VP-20 with PB4Y Privateer maritime patrol bombers flew in from Port Lyautey, emulated in January 1951 by the similarly equipped VP-23.

But in late 1953 a permanent establishment of the USN was set up when FASRON 201 Special made Hal Far its home. A naval aircraft servicing unit, FASRON 201, brought with it two types of aircraft - Lockheed WV-2 Warning Stars of VW-2 squadron, and Fairchild R4Qs (Navy's version of C-118) of VR-35. The establishment's presence, moreover, attracted many other types of visiting USN aircraft, including P2V Neptunes and shipboard types as F4U Corsairs and F2H Banshees, to name but a few.

The US Navy were guests on the Fleet Air Arm, and as such did not pay a "rent" for the use of HMS Falcon. But the US Navy shared in the maintenance costs, which were based on the number of landings and take-offs of those aircraft allocated to FASRON and other visiting individual aircraft. Naval Patrol squadrons, that were on detachment to Hal Far, from time to time, were themselves responsible for the costs incurred in operating their aircraft.

As a Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron base, Hal Far was used by several squadrons of the US Navy for training exercises. In addition to this, US aircraft carriers used to deploy their aircraft for some days at Hal Far, as happened on February 26 1951. On this day, twenty Vought Corsairs from USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, landed at Hal Far in batches of four, having left their carrier, which had been anchored at Marsaxlokk Bay since February 24.

Two squadrons were permanently based at FASRON, namely VW-2 with Super Constellations for AEW and ASW duties and the Marine Squadron MAG-VR-35 operating Flying Boxcars for logistics support duties. Other squadrons, namely VP-11, VP-21, VP-23 and VA(HM)-13 (which later changed to VP-24) were frequent visitors, with some of them writing a page in their respective histories during their stay at Hal Far. VP-11, while on its third visit to Hal Far in 1956, broke a new US Fleet record when its aircraft flew over 1000 hours of ASW training missions in each of two consecutive months, The record earned VP-11 the coveted US Navy 'E' award for battle proficiency excellence, and this 'E' was eventually sported on each of its Neptune aircraft. Another squadron, VP-24, was re-designated VA(HM)-13 at Hal Far on July 3, 1956. Also worth mentioning is VP-23, which during its five-month deployment in Malta from January to May 1959 had three Neptunes (one of them serial number 145905/U), sporting a factory-sponsored two-tone finish (white top and black undersides) for testing purposes. It was learned that the white top fuselage reduced the temperature inside the Neptune by 16 degrees Celsius when compared with the all-black ones.

The US Navy carried out several constructional works. The most notable were the Control Tower, the six ammunition storage buildings, several huts and the buildings at the end of both runways (south), the latter erected in 1958. Five months prior to FASRON disbandment, Hal Far had its runways re-surfaced. Runway 13/31 (6000 ft long) was re-surfaced between April 20th and May 26th, 1959. The other runway, 09/27 (4500 ft long) was given a new surface between June 12 and July 28, 1959. Hal Far was closed to all air traffic during the last phase of works, between May 27th and June 11th, 1959.

In 1958, FASRON 201 Special received a citation from the Commander Naval Air Force US Atlantic Fleet (ComAirLant), vice Admiral W.L. Rees. The citation was awarded to FASRON as it had completed three years (1956 - 58) of accident free air operations.

By now, Hal-Far airfield had been developed to its maximum capacity, and no further room for expansion was available. In September 1959, the Stars and Stripes was lowered for the last time, as the US Navy moved to NAS Sigonella, in Sicily. The last squadron to leave Malta was VA(HM)-13, that same month.
        
 
US Navy Squadrons

SQUADRON AIRCRAFT SERIAL NO. NOTES
MAG-VR-35 C-119   Logistics support duties.
VA(HM)-13     This squadron was later re-designated VP-24, before again becoming VA(HM)-13 on 03.07.56 at Hal-far. Can anyone confirm this, and why? VA(HM)-13 was also the last squadron to leave Malta in September 1959, when the US Navy relocated to NAS Sigonella, Sicily.
VP-11 L. P-2 Neptune   This squadron earned the coveted US Navy 'E' award for battle proficiency excellence, and this 'E' was eventually sported on each of its Neptune aircraft. During its third visit to Hal Far in 1956, it also established a new US Fleet record, after its aircraft flew over 1000 hours of ASW training missions in each of two consecutive months.
VP-20 PB4Y Privateer   Arived end of 1950, from Port Lyautey.
VP-21      
VP-23 PB4Y Privateer   Arrived during January 1951.
VP-23 L. P-2 145905/U This was one of three Neptunes with a two-tone finish, as described in the introductory note above. Based at Hal-Far from January to May 1959.
VR-35 R4Q   Arrived late 1953.
VW-2 Super Constellations   Arrived late 1953 for AEW and ASW duties.
        
 
        
 
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