RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs toured the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility Dec. 11, 2020. Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, joined Jabs on her tour of the facility, which is located adjacent to the Richmond International Airport in Sandston, Va. The tour served as opportunity for the deputy secretary to learn more about the VNG’s aviation footprint, the mission of the facility and state’s aviation battalion, as well as the plan for a new facility in the coming years.
“This is an amazing asset,” Jabs said. “I’ve flown out of the airport here a million times, and never realized this facility was on the backside. Having these aircraft and the maintenance and support capabilities is a critical capability for the Commonwealth.”
The lease on the current AASF expires in 2032 and the Virginia National Guard is actively seeking funding and developing plans to build a replacement facility that will better suit the needs of the fleet and the organization. The current facility is undersized, providing just 39 percent of authorized space, and antiquated with infrastructure better suited to older airframes no longer in use. Cover for the fleet is also lacking, which results in tens of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs to each aircraft every year.
“This is a good place to spend money,” said Col. William X. Taylor, the state’s aviation officer, who opened Jabs’ visit with an overview of the aviation facility, the capabilities of the Virginia National Guard’s army aviation assets and the many successes seen by the facility and 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment in recent years.
“The team here does remarkable things,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.
Failure to secure funding for a new facility could result in the elimination of aviation assets from the Virginia National Guard, a loss that would be felt across the force and the state. According to Taylor, Virginia aviation assets provide a valuable capability that reverberates across the state. In recent years, Virginia’s aviators have supported training missions with Virginia National Guard Soldiers, U.S. Navy Seals, operators with the 19th Special Forces Group and partners at schoolhouses at Fort Lee and Fort Pickett. They’ve spent nearly a decade building a relationship with Chesterfield Fire and EMS as part of Virginia’s Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team and delivered much-needed food and supplies to the ice-locked residents of Tangier Island.
“We’re doing great, but we need more resources,” Taylor said.
The plan for the new facility is still in development and will cost an estimated $89 million. The plan for the new facility intends to make use of land already federally-owned and will include a larger maintenance facility, overhead cover to help minimize maintenance and aging brought on by weather, and the room to adapt to future developments in airframe technology.