Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas is the largest pilot training base in the Air Force. It’s home to the 47th Flying Training Wing and the Air Education and Training Command. Annually, the base graduates 300 new pilots a year. During the week, the Laughlin runway sees more air traffic than any other airport in the country! If you’re an outdoors fan, you’re in luck. Nearby Lake Amistad has everything you could want to do outside, including lots of opportunities to camp, fish, and go boating. Rodeo fans are going to love living at Laughlin. That’s because Del Rio is home to the annual George Paul Memorial, also known as the Super Bull. That’s the longest running bull riding event in the world for those uninitiated into the sport. The event draws large crowds and is a lot of fun to attend. Read on to find out more about what to expect from your duty assignment to Laughlin.
After arriving, contact your unit and sponsor for specific in-processing instructions. Incoming student pilots need to report to the 47th Student Squadron Transition Office. If you’re permanent party, in-processing happens at the Military Personnel Element Customer Service Office.
A few things to keep in mind about this base in particular. There’s no post office on base, so you’ll need to travel to either Del Rio or Pecan to mail your packages. Weather at Laughlin is as you might expect - hot summers and fairly mild winters. Snow is rare, but it’s not out of the question. In fact, a 2021 storm showered 10 inches of snow on the area!
Laughlin AFB Location
Located in Val Verde County, Texas, Laughlin is just a few miles north of the United States-Mexico border. Del Rio is only 5 miles to the west. San Antonio is roughly 150 miles east.
More than likely, you’ll arrive via the Del Rio International Airport. Del Rio is just 10 miles from base, so it makes for a short commute.
Driving will allow you the freedom to check out what Texas has to offer. However, Laughlin is really far south, so be prepared for a very long drive, especially if you’re coming from the north.
Gates and Hours
Laughlin AFB has two gates.
West (Main) Gate, Spur 317, open 24/7
North Gate, Highway 90, hours vary according to installation needs
Contacts at Laughlin AFB
47th Student Squadron Transition Office (830) 298-5211
Airman and Family Readiness Center (830) 298-5620
Auto Craft Center (830) 398-5844
Base Operations Dispatch (830) 298-5308
Child Development Center (830) 298-5419
Civilian Personnel Office (830) 298-5806
Command Post (830) 398-5167
Del Rio Post Office (830) 775-3571
Dental Clinic (830) 298-6333
Finance Office (830) 29-5620
Housing Office (830) 398-5213
Legal Office (830) 298-5172
Library (830) 298-5119
Medical Clinic (830) 444-5445
Military Personnel Element Customer Service Office (830) 298-5276
Outdoor Recreation (830) 298-5830
Pass and Registration (830) 298-5349
School Liaison Office (830) 298-5620
TMF/Household Goods (830) 398-5206
Visitor Control Center (830) 298-5349
Youth Center (830) 398-5343
Mission and Units
The mission of Laughlin is to train pilots to create “combat-ready Airmen, leaders, and pilots.” The host wing is the 47th Flying Training Wing, which is part of the Air Education and Training Command. The 47th includes a medical group, a mission support group, and an operations group. Within each of these groups are several squadrons, each with their own mission and objective. Additionally, Laughlin is home to an Air Force Reserve Command of the 10th Air Force.
Laughlin AFB History
Like plenty of other Air Force installations, Laughlin got its start as an Army Air Corps base. It’s named in memory of Jack T. Laughlin, the first Del Rio-native service member to lose his life during WWII.
After WWII ended, Laughlin closed its gates and then opened again in 1952 at the start of the Korean War.
In 1962, service members stationed at Laughlin took the first pictures of Soviet missiles in Cuba. This led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tense 13-day political struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union.
These days, Laughlin trains pilots in several different aircraft.
Things to Do Around Laughlin AFB
As you might expect, you have excellent access to the great outdoors and all of the adventures that come with exploring nature at Laughlin. Of course, on-base you’ll find the usual options - gyms, bowling alleys, a golf course, and swimming. Outside the gates, Del Rio and the Texas countryside await!
Best Western Inn, Del Rio (830) 775-7511
Days Inn, Del Rio (830) 282-1357
Hampton Inn & Suites, Del Rio (830) 775-9700
Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Del Rio (830) 774-7774
Ramada Inn, Del Rio (830) 775-1511
If you’re a barbecue fan, then Texas is going to be heaven for you! Of course, the Lone Star state is known for lots of other food too, but its BBQ and Tex Mex are legendary. Like lots of other southern states, you won’t want to miss out on the sweet tea, either. Come cooler weather, be sure to dive into a bowl or two of authentic Texas chili. Be warned though that Texans have serious feelings about whether or not chili should have beans. You’ll also want to give kolaches a whirl. These Slavic-inspired baked goods come in all flavors and sizes, so you’ll definitely find one you love. Pro tip: the sweet ones are the best!
Museum buffs, don’t skimp on visiting the Whitehead Memorial Museum. Opened in 1962, it’s the only full-time public museum in all of Val Verde County, Texas. Learn about local history, natural and social science, and the arts.
If you’re looking for something more relaxing than a day learning things, the Val Verde Winery is worth the drive off base. The winery offers complimentary tours and tastings and it’s a great spot to watch a sunset.
Don’t leave Laughlin without at least one hike under your belt at the Amistad National Recreation Area. Visit Panther Cave and view 4,000 year old pictographs. Guided tours are also available.
Laughlin AFB Housing
Airmen calling Laughlin home have several housing choices. No matter which you choose, make sure you call the Military Housing Office as soon as you receive orders.
On-base housing is privatized. It’s owned and managed by Hunt Military Communities. Hunt offers many different neighborhood choices, all with excellent amenities.
If you choose to live off-base, there are several communities nearby. Del Rio is a small town, with a population under 50,000. The city boasts lots of outdoor activity options, so it might be an ideal pick if you and your family are outdoor enthusiasts.
Of course, Airmen E1-E3 and E4 with less than 4 years of service need to live in the barracks.
Schools Near Laughlin AFB
Mil-kids who call Laughlin home are served by the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District. There’s an elementary school inside the gates. Middle and high school students will attend school off base. Talk to the School Liaison Office for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
What planes are at Laughlin AFB?
Laughlin trains 300 pilots each year, so the aircraft at base tends to rotate based on pilot needs. Most often, you’ll find T-6A Texan II, the T-38C Talon and T-1A Jayhawk.
Does the Air Force have military dogs?
Of course! All branches of our military employ canine service members. Here’s how these mission-critical personnel train for missions.
How far is it from Laughlin AFB to San Antonio?
San Antonio is anywhere from 150 to 225 miles from Laughlin, depending on the route you take. Driving time ranges from 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours.
What is the largest Air Force base in Texas?
Laughlin is the largest military base for pilot training. However, Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls is generally considered the largest.