The Air Force has some of the best real estate in the world, but which bases are truly the best? Whether you like lounging on the beach, skiing down snow-covered slopes, immersing yourself in history, or dancing the night away in the big city during your time off, the Air Force has a base in the ideal location for just about everyone. Here are our top 10 Air Force Bases:
10. Lackland AFB, TX
Closest major city: San Antonio, TX
Part of Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland AFB is located right in the middle of San Antonio, TX. It’s home to Air Force Basic Military Training and the base’s primary mission is training. Located just 20 minutes from downtown San Antonio, Airmen stationed at Lackland AFB will find no lack of things to do in the local area. San Antonio has a lively local scene with a seemingly constant flow of festivals and events and it’s the 7th most populated city in the U.S. On-base housing is new and nice, but the waitlist is long. With a median home cost of $172,000, 14% below the national average, many Airmen choose to live in the very affordable surrounding area. Winters in the San Antonio area are mild, but summers are very hot.
9. Andersen AFB, Guam
Closest major city: Yigo, Guam
Andersen AFB is located on the island of Guam, a U.S. Territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s quite literally in the middle of nowhere with Hawaii being located 3,300 miles to the east and the Philippines 1,500 miles to the west of this tiny island. It’s home to the 36th Wing and the base is critical to strategic operations in the Pacific. Island fever can be a real concern for some, but, Guam is well known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear water, and scenic hiking trails through the island’s dense jungle that offer plenty to keep Airmen busy. Guam’s snorkeling and diving are considered to be some of the best in the world and its location makes access to Australia and Asia easy.
8. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Closest major city: Anchorage, AK
To some, being stationed in the Alaskan tundra might not sound very appealing. But, an assignment to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) is highly coveted. JBER is a joint Air Force and Army base run by the 673d Air Base Wing. The installation also hosts the headquarters for the United States Alaskan Command, 11th Air Force, U.S. Army Alaska, and the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. JBER employs 5,500 military and civilian personnel. The median price of a home in Anchorage is $345,000. While cost of living is a bit higher in Alaska than in the lower 48, Alaska doesn’t have state income or sales tax which can help offset the higher cost of living. In addition, Airmen and soldiers stationed there are eligible to receive cost of living allowance (COLA). There is an abundance of outdoor activities in the Anchorage area including hiking, skiing, hunting, and fishing. For the city dwellers, Anchorage offers bars, restaurants, and more.
7. Vandenberg AFB, CA
Closest major city: Lompoc, CA
Located in just under 10 miles northwest of Lompoc, California, Vandenberg AFB is home to the 30th Space Wing and is one of the Air Force and DoD’s primary sites for missile testing. It’s the only base in the U.S. that launches unmanned satellites into polar orbit. It also hosts launch pad facilities for SpaceX. Vandenberg AFB stretches over 98,000 acres with 35 miles along the Pacific Ocean and supports over 18,000 military and civilian personnel and their families. The base has 1,925 housing units and the median cost of a home in the local area is $336,000 which is relatively in line with California’s high cost of living. Vandenberg AFB is located just three hours from Los Angeles for those looking for the excitement of the big city and less than 45 minutes to Los Padres National Forest for nature enthusiasts.
6. Langley AFB, VA
Closest major city: Hampton, VA
Langley AFB is located on Virginia’s Tidewater region and is part of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, although it is not geographically collocated with Fort Eustis. Langley AFB is operated by the 633 Air Base Wing and is home to four other wings and Air Combat Command (ACC). The base also serves as a NASA research center. The median home value is $159,000 which makes the area an affordable place to live and many Airmen buy houses in the area. It’s one of the Air Force’s oldest bases and a portion of on-base housing are considered historic homes. Langley AFB is located on the Chesapeake Bay just a few feet above sea level and the base is subject to occasional flooding. The Hampton Roads area has constant festivals, the area is brimming with American Colonial history, beaches are easily accessible, and the base is less than three hours from Washington, D.C.
5. Scott AFB, IL
Closest major city: St. Louis, MO
Scott AFB is located near the town of Belleville, Illinois and is consistently ranked by Airmen as one of the top bases in the U.S. The base employs 13,000 military and civilian Airmen and is home to the 375th Air Mobility Wing and Air Mobility Command. It’s less than 25 miles from St. Louis, Missouri and whether Airmen are looking for that small town feel, country life, or prefer the fast pace of city living, Scott AFB offers it all. People with and without kids alike will find something to like about this well-located base. In addition, the St. Louis area has low crime rates, low cost of living, and good schools. The median home cost is among the lowest in the country at $76,000. The area experiences hot, humid summers and cold, occasionally snowy winters. There is plenty to do in the vicinity of the base as St. Louis is home to several professional sports teams, has an abundance of museums, and a lively music scene.
4. MacDill AFB, FL
Closest major city: Tampa, FL
MacDill AFB seems to be one of those bases that flies under the radar. This hidden gem is located just 4 miles from downtown Tampa. The base employs just over 6,000 people and is home to the 6th Refueling Wing, and two unified commands—United States Special Operations Command, and United States Central Command. Florida is home to many military bases and the community and state laws are very military friendly. Florida also has no income tax. Schools in the Tampa area rank well and the median cost to buy a home in the Tampa Bay area is $211,000 coming in just under the national average. While winters are warm and temperate, summers are often hot and sticky. But, when the weather heats up you can just head to MacDill’s own private beach to cool off or rent a pontoon boat, canoe, or kayak from the base marina to catch the bay or ocean breeze.
3. Ramstein AB, Germany
Closest major city: Kaiserslautern, Germany
Ramstein AB is located in the Rhineland-Palatinate in the west of Germany. Ramstein AB is home to the 86th Airlift Wing and serves as the central location for NATO units and training as well as the Headquarters United States Air Forces Europe. There are over 50,000 U.S. service members and Department of Defense civilians living in the local community which is often referred to as “Little America.” On base housing is abundant, but widespread across the area which means Airmen may not reside on the same base they work on. Members receive an overseas housing allowance, so if they choose to live off base, housing costs are covered. In addition, Airmen also receive an overseas cost of living allowance to offset higher living expenses. The Kaiserslautern Military Community has 11 schools with 500 staff and 7,000 students making it the largest Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDs) school district operated outside of the United States. Employment for military spouses is a priority, but positions are limited. Being that service members are stationed far from the U.S., Ramstein AB provides a wealth of base services that Airmen can take advantage of. The base also organizes travel and recreation trips so Airmen can take advantage of the opportunities that come with living in Europe.
2. RAF Lakenheath, UK
Closest major city: Suffolk, England
RAF Lakenheath is located in the quaint village of Suffolk in the eastern part of the UK. It’s technically a Royal Air Force station that exclusively hosts and is operated by U.S. Air Force personnel. RAF Lakenheath is home to the 48th Fighter Wing which is made up of nearly 8,000 personnel, 2,000 of which are British. The base is located about 45 minutes from Cambridge, an hour from London, and it’s possible to take a day trip to nearby Scotland. The weather can be quite dreary, but the culture, local history, and travel opportunities more than makes up for it.
1. Hickam AFB, HI
Closest major city: Honolulu, HI
If you’ve ever dreamed of living in paradise, look no further than Hickam AFB. Home to over 66,000 Airmen, sailors, and their families, Hickam AFB is part of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The base is located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu near the state’s capital city of Honolulu. Hickam AFB is home to the 15th Wing, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, and Hawaii Air National Guard. There are over 4,000 housing units on base, but housing is somewhat limited and the median cost of a home on Oahu is over $700,000. Despite extremely high cost of living, many Airmen vie for an assignment to arguably the Air Force’s best base which comes with year-round perfect weather, destination beaches, an intriguing history, world-class hiking, and the island vibe and community.