RICHMOND, Va. — U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger visited the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility March 29, 2021, to learn more about the complex mission of the VNG’s aviation assets and the need for a new aviation support facility. Spanberger was joined by a member of Rep. Ben Cline’s staff and received briefings from Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and other VNG senior leaders. The group also toured the current facility and conducted an aerial tour on board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter of the proposed location for the future facility, as well as key VNG facilities in the Richmond area.
“The Virginia National Guard plays a critical role in keeping our communities safe, and they deserve our strongest possible support. During this week’s visit to the Army Aviation Support Facility, I was honored to hear directly from Virginia National Guard leadership about their ongoing missions, current challenges, and future needs,” said Spanberger. “I will continue to be an ardent supporter of our Guard members in Congress, and I thank Maj. Gen. Williams — as well as others who joined for the visit — for their clear commitment to their fellow Virginians and fellow Americans. Our Commonwealth is fortunate to be protected by these dedicated men and women, and I thank them for their selfless service.”
The lease on the current facility expires in 2032 and the Virginia National Guard is actively seeking funding and developing plans for a new facility that will better suit the needs of the fleet and the organization.
“No matter what great things we may do here, the lease runs out,” Williams explained. He praised both the AASF and Virginia’s aviation battalion for the work they do supporting the organization, the state and other military partners. “Our aviation battalion is probably the most utilized of all our military capabilities.”
The current aviation facility is poorly suited to meet the needs of the fleet. It was designed to house and maintain aircraft no longer in use, lacks adequate space to protect the aircraft from the elements and is at a point of failure.
“The lack of adequate aircraft storage is a big one. About $150,000-200,000 is your loss per aircraft for having them out in the elements, per year,” explained Col. William X. Taylor, the state’s aviation officer and commander of the AASF. With a fleet of 20 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, the added maintenance cost due to exposure rises quickly, he said. “It’s a big thing with aircraft outside, so obviously covered space is huge.”
The proposed future facility would make use of already-designated federal land and would allow for adequate space for all of the VNG’s aviation capabilities, to include their UH-72 Lakota helicopters and fixed winged assets. It would also allow for continued use of the facility as airframe changes occur in the future.
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 in recent years.
Earlier in March, Virginia’s Congressional Delegation sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, Director of the Army National Guard, citing their full support of the new facility.
“This project is the number one priority for the Virginia Army National Guard and is desperately needed to replace aging and undersized facilities at Richmond International Airport, which are no longer suitable for mission execution,” the letter stated. “Given the critical nature of the operational needs for the Army aviation mission and the upcoming deadline for the relocation of these operations, we hope you will give all due consideration to funding this project in the near future. As you know, the Virginia National Guard always answers the call to service for the defense of the nation, and plays a pivotal role in the safekeeping of the National Capital Region and the Hampton Roads military economic complex.”
The plan for the new facility is still in development and will cost an estimated $89 million to complete.