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Cecil Field closing faces delay

The Navy will probably delay the closing of Cecil Field Naval Air Station until the summer of 2000, a Navy official said.

Vice Adm. John Mazach, commander of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet air forces, said this week that the new base for Cecil's FA-18 Hornets will be not be ready by the scheduled December 1998 departure date.

As a result of the delay, he said, the last Hornets will not be leaving Cecil until December 1999.

That presumably would push back the closure of the base until the summer of 2000, a year later than announced, Mazach said.

This is the third time the date for the final departure of the FA-18s has been pushed back. The first target date of September 1998 was pushed to December 1998 and now December 1999.

It is unclear what effect the delay would have on Northrop Grumman's plans to open a major aircraft-repair plant at the base.

"I don't want to start a frenzy, but certainly it could have an impact," said Dick Dunne, a Northrop Grumman spokesman.