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Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale
(Palmdale Army Air Field)

Air Force Plant 42 is at Palmdale, CA, north of Pasadena in Los Angeles County. It is operated by Lockheed, Rockwell International, Northrop, and Nero. AFP 42 is located in the northeastern portion of Los Angeles County, California, within the Antelope Valley of the Mojave Desert, approximately 80 miles north of Los Angeles. It has over 6,600 acres (the government owns 85%) and includes approximately 4.2 million square feet of floor space (the government owns 45%). The site includes multiple high bay buildings and airfield access with flyaway capability. The facility also has one of the heaviest load-bearing runways in the world.
In 1940, the Palmdale Airport was activated as a Palmdale Army Air Field for use as an emergency landing strip and for B-25 support training during World War II. The installation was declared a surplus facility in 1946 and was purchased by Los Angeles County for use as a municipal airport. The installation was reactivated by the Air Force in 1950 for use in final assembly and flight testing of jet aircraft, and was later repurchased from Los Angeles County.
The concept for AFP 42 originated in the challenge of flight testing high performance jet aircraft over heavily populated areas. In 1951, the USAF purchased the site and awarded a contract to Lockheed Aircraft to develop the master plan for the site. The plan was to construct a facility that would meet the requirements of full war mobilization and augment the industrial production potential of the major airframe manufacturing industry in southern California. Following approval of the Master Plan in 1953, the Palmdale Airport officially became Air Force Plant 42; ownership of the installation was transferred to the Federal Government in 1954. With USAF encouragement, Lockheed signed a lease in 1956 for 237 acres to use Palmdale Airport for final assembly and flight testing. Since then, the plant has supported facilities for the production, engineering, final assembly and flight testing of high performance aircraft. During the 1980s it was used by Lockheed to produce the U-B/TR-1 and support the SR-71. Northrop produced the F-5E, and Rockwell supported the B-1B.
Northrop Grumman's B-2 final assembly and modification facility is at Palmdale. The Department of Defense, in February 1995, announced its plan for providing depot support for the B-2. The plan includes a mix of commercial and organic sources for providing various functions and/or maintaining various components. For example, the engines are to be maintained by the Air Force, software support is to be provided by commercial sources, and airframe maintenance is to be provided by Northrop Grumman at Palmdale, California.
Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility is where all the individual parts, pieces and systems came together and were assembled and tested. Upon completion, the spacecraft was turned over to NASA for transport overland from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, California. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base is the site of the mate-demate facility for mating or demating the spacecraft and the shuttle carrier aircraft.
Approximately 250 major subcontractors supplied various systems and components to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The structures of the orbiter were manufactured at various companies under contract to Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division, Downey, Calif. The upper and lower forward fuselage, crew compartment, forward reaction control system and aft fuselage were manufactured at Rockwell's Space Transportation Systems Division facility in Downey and were transported overland from Downey to Rockwell's Palmdale, Calif., assembly facility. The midfuselage was manufactured by General Dynamics, San Diego, Calif., and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The wings (including elevons) were manufactured by Grumman, Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y., and transported by ship from New York via the Panama Canal to Long Beach, Calif., and then transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The vertical tail (including rudder/speed brake) were manufactured by Fairchild Republic, Farmingdale, Long Island, N.Y., and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The payload bay doors were manufactured at Rockwell International's Tulsa, Okla., facility and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The body flap was manufactured at Rockwell International's Columbus, Ohio, facility and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The aft orbital maneuvering system/reaction control system pods were manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis, Mo., and transported by aircraft to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. They were also transported by aircraft from Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility to the Kennedy Space Center.
Copied with permission from

Corps of Engineers History

Air Force Plant # 42 is located in the city of Palmdale, Los Angeles County, California.

Air Force Plant # 42 consisted of 5844.34 acres of land acquired for the Department of the Air Force, 5844.25 acres are still under U.S. Government control. 5508.14 acres were acquired in fee from many individuals between 1953 to 1962. 336.11 acres were acquired with lesser interests for perpetual avigation and clearance easements. Several of these easements were placed in effect on 1 August 1953, the others were placed in effect between 1957 to 1959. The remaining 0.09 acre was acquired by lease on 3 September 1954.

The site has been used for the manufacturing and testing of aircraft, and is still being used as such. The site is also being used as the Palmdale Airport. There are many improvements on the site; office buildings, runways, aircraft hangers, and an airport terminal. These improvements were constructed over several years.

The lease on the 0.09 acre was terminated on 23 July 1971. The Department of the Air Force reported 13.41 acres excess to General Services Administration (GSA) on 9 December 1960. GSA then conveyed the same 13.41 acres to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by transfer letter dated 4 April 1961. On 31 August 1970, the Department of the Air Force reported 5.88 acres excess to the GSA. GSA transferred the same 5.88 acres to the FAA by letter dated 12 October 1971.

The Department of the Air Force / USA government owns the land that was acquired in fee. The 0.09 acre that is no longer under DOD control, has no DOD improvements remaining and there is no evidence of unsafe debris, hazardous or toxic waste, or unexploded ordnance.

Source Los Angeles Distict, Army Corps of Engineers

Posted 30 Nov 08

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