NORFOLK (AP) -- The Navy will pay NASA nearly $2 million a year to conduct field carrier landing practice at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore.

Using the facility will allow the Navy to stop sending some Norfolk-based squadrons to Jacksonville, Fla. to conduct practice there.

NASA announced details of the agreement on Thursday. The Navy says E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound aircraft will conduct up to 20,000 passes annually at the site.

The money will go toward upgrading the facility's airfield and conducting repairs. The Navy has also agreed to reimburse NASA for support services it uses during training.

The flights are expected to begin this fall after the Navy finishes making improvements to the airfield, including installation of lighting to simulate the deck configuration aboard an aircraft carrier.

Retired Rear Admiral and former pilot Fred Metz says moving this training to Wallops is 'very important,' because it keeps the airplanes and personnel here in Virginia, instead of going to the hassle and expense of sending them to Florida to train.

At the same time, Metz said, the move will lighten the workload at Naval aviation facilities in Hampton Roads. 'It will take a lot of the heat off Oceana, when they have to bounce at Oceana, and take a lot of heat off Fentress,' Metz said.

Retired Rear Admiral Craig Quigley heads up the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance. He says doing the training at Wallops means less expense for the Navy and less time away from home for the air crews. 'So there's absolutely no down side to any of this,' Quigley said.

AP-WF-05-02-13 1534GMT

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