Basa Air Base

   This is "Fightertown Philippines", the home of the "Boys of Basa", the "Pit of the Cobras" the "Roost of the Figthers". This is the place of the Philippine Air Force’s 5th Fighter Wing codenamed "Cobra" and whose F-5 equipped 6th Squadron and the armed AS-211 equipped 7th are based. It is also the home of the PAF’s Aerobatic Squadrons, the "Blue Diamonds" and the "Red Aces". This is the haven of the first air defense of the nation.

   Built during the early stages of World War II by the United Sates Army Air Corp, it was then known as Florida-Blanca Air Field after the Pampanga town to which it is presently located today, After the War, it was turned over to the PAF on 02 May 1947 and the first post war PAF fighters, the P-51 Mustangs were transferred here.

   The Base was named in honor of Philippine Army Air Corp Lt. Cesar T. Basa, a member of Captain Villamor’s P-26 equipped 6th Pursuit Squadron and who became the first Filipino aerial dogfight casualty in Philippine Military history.

   Basa Air Base is located in a rural area just outside metro Manila, about 40 miles northwest. It has a single 8,000 foot runway. It has historically been the base for the Philippines' fighter squadrons and elite acrobatic squadrons. (Coordinates: 14o59'12 N, 120o29'30 E).

   The base was constructed by the United States prior to WWII and was named "Floridablanca Airfield" after the nearby small town. The Japanese took over the facility during World War II and used it for bombers and fighters. The US recaptured it in January 1945, and subsequently lengthened the runway to allow US bombers to use it. In April 1945, the American 312th Bomber Group and 348th Fighter Group started moving into the base and used it to mount strikes against Japanese forces remaining in the Philippines.

   With the post-war establishment of the Philippine Air Force, Floridablanca Airfield was tranferred to Philippine control on 2 May 1947. The decision was made to base the PAF's future fighter force there, and officers and pilots began moving there in August 1947. In October 1947, the 6th and 7th Fighter Squadrons were activated and based at Floridablanca, and eventually both were formed into the 5th Fighter Group. The first pilots flew P-51D's that had been donated by the US. Several surviving Philippine fighter pilots who had served early in World War II and survived the war, joined the new unit, including the famous Major Benito Ebuen.

   On 20 April 1948, Floridablanca Airfield was renamed Basa Air Base, after Lieutenant Cesar Basa, a Filipino fighter pilot who had been killed during a dogfight against overwhelming Japanese forces in December 1941. He had been subsequently become the Philippines' first combat air casualty.

   Fighter squadrons from Basa AB flew sorties during the late 1940's and early 50's against local insurgents taking part in the Huk Rebellion. In early 1953, fighter pilots operating out of Basa also recieved permission to form the "Blue Diamonds" air acrobatic squadron.

   In view of the rapid technological advancements in a fast-changing world, the PAF moved towards modernization and expansion. Basa Air Base was closed in 1955 to pave the way for the gradual transition to jet aircraft operations. Developed into a modern fighter base complex, it was equipped with a sprawling multi-million peso jet runway, aircraft movement areas, lighting and refueling facilities, workshops, and other vital installations for 5th Fighter Wing jet operations. Basa AB saw the birth of the jet age for the PAF when, in 1957, the 5th Fighter Group received US F-86F and T-33A jets.

   In 1965, the fighter squadrons were equipped with the PAF's first supersonic fighters, US-made F-5A's, which were also based at Basa AB. These aircraft were the mainstay fighters of the Philippine Air Force until 1978, when the country received 25 F-8 Crusaders, which were much larger and more complex than the F-5's. The F-8 fleet was also stationed at Basa AB. The planes quickly became too expensive and difficult to maintain owing to their age and complexity and that. The continued presence of the United States military and lack of any immediate hostile air forces also contributed to discussions on retiring the fleet. The aircraft were permanently grounded in 1988 and kept in storage at Basa AB.

   During the December 1989 coup attempt, Basa AB remained in the hands of pro-government forces, and on the first day of fighting (December 1), a squadron of F-5A's from the 5th Fighter Group took off from Basa and strafed the rebel-held Sangley Point AB, destroying several planes and seriously damaging the coup plotters' air capabilities. The following day, F-5A's took off from Basa AB and struck rebel ground troops and vehicles at Camp Aguinaldo. The coup attempt dissolved on the third day.

   In 1991 the massive eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, less than 15 miles away, caused considerable damage to Basa AB, as much of it was buried in ash. Many of the grounded F-8's were damaged, and the final decision was quickly made to move them to Clark Air Base for open-air storage and to sell the whole fleet for scrap. Afterwards, the F-5's continued to operate out of Basa AB until 2002, when one of them crashed during an exercise and the decision was made to ground the entire fleet for safety and cost reasons. The planes were permanently retired in 2005 and as of 2009 were being stored either at Basa AB or Clark AB. In spite of the lack of true fighter planes, the 5th Fighter Group continued to fly out of Basa, using Aermacchi S-211 jet trainers. These aircraft have a secondary attack capability.

   As of 2009 Basa Air Base housed the Air Defense Wing headquarters, the 5th Fighter Group (also referred to as the 5th Tactical Fighter Group), and the 355th Aviation Engineering Wing, along with the 1302nd Dental Dispensary. The Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Plan called for the procurement of a fighter aircraft replacement by 2012, which would likely be based at Basa Air Base.