Naval Air Station Patuxent River also known as NAS Pax River, is a United States Naval Air Station located in St. Mary's County on Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Patuxent River. It is home to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and serves as a center for test and evaluation and systems acquisition relating to Naval Aviation. Commissioned on 1 April 1943 on land largely acquired through eminent domain, the air station grew rapidly in response to World War II.
The base became a center for testing as several facilities were constructed throughout the 1950s and 1960s; including the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (1958), the Weapons Systems Test Division (1960), and the Propulsion System Evaluation Facility. This is also the etsting facility for the new V-22 Osprey. Since the end of the Cold War, the Navy's Base Realignment and Closure measures have migrated research and testing facilities for both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft to NAS Patuxent River from decommissioned bases. The complex now hosts over 17,000 people, including active-duty service members, civil service employees, defense contractor employees, and military dependants.
NAS Patuxent River is home to the Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters, the Air Test Wing Atlantic, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Commands.
It was used as a filming location for the Harrison Ford movie Random Hearts (1999). Ford and director Sydney Pollack both visited Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Ford, a certified pilot, flew the aircraft himself. Situated on a peninsula between the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay, NAS Patuxent River is located on 6400 acres of what was once prime farmland, consisting of several large farms, Mattapany, Susquehanna, and Cedar Point, as well as numerous tenant and sharecropper properties and a few clusters of vacation homes. The Cedar Point community included several churches, a post office, and a gas station. Some of the old homes now serve as quarters for Navy personnel stationed there.
In 1937, the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics sought to consolidate aviation test programs, previously being conducted at several stations, including Dahlgren and Norfolk, Virginia, the Washington Navy Yard, and Naval Air Station Anacostia in Washington, D. C., and the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cedar Point was selected due to its remote location on the coastline, well removed from air traffic congestion, with ample space for weapons testing.