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AFCEC leads major airfield modernization at Wake Island Airfield

A rescue jumpmaster from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron looks upon Wake Island.

A rescue jumpmaster from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron looks upon Wake Island.The Air Force Civil Engineer Center awarded a contract to AECOM in February 2019 to execute critical airfield construction. The effort includes work on Taxiway Bravo and Hot Cargo Pad. AFCEC delivered design and is responsible for management of the project. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

F-35B Lightning IIs with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the Wake Island Avengers, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fly over Wake Island

F-35B Lightning IIs with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the Wake Island Avengers, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fly over Wake Island during a regularly scheduled deployment of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, August 1, 2018. AFCEC is partnering with the 611th Civil Engineer Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to modernize infrastructure at Wake Island. The airfield will receive new lighting, and grounding and pavement markings to support mission readiness and global air mobility. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

The view from an MC-130H Combat Talon II flying over Wake Island, July 20, 2015.

The view from an MC-130H Combat Talon II flying over Wake Island, July 20, 2015. Wake Island is a U.S. Territory operated by the U.S. Air Force through Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. The island, considered an air bridge for Air Force aircraft flying across the Pacific Ocean, is getting timely infrastructure upgrades thanks to an Air Force Civil Engineer Center contract with AECOM. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is executing $87 million in critical airfield construction at one of the most isolated Air Force installations to enhance operational and defense capabilities for U.S. forces.

The outpost, known as Wake Island Airfield, holds great significance to the Air Force because it serves as a trans-Pacific refueling depot for military missions in addition to being a military training and missile testing location. 

This two-and-a-half square-mile coral atoll, made of three islets, is considered the air bridge for Air Force aircraft flying across the Pacific Ocean because of its unique location and the 9,800-foot runway. 

It’s the runway that is of central importance. It enables the Air Force to conduct their mission, and in case of emergency allows military aircraft to be diverted to land there safely. 

As the longest in the Pacific Islands, the runway has deteriorated after many years of use.

“Timely infrastructure is critical to mission assurance. We are proud of our contributions to construct mission-ready and power projecting platforms that enable commanders increase readiness and lethality,” said Col. David Norton, director of AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate. 

Wake Island is a U.S. Territory, and has been named a National Historic Landmark due to the World War II battle that took place at the atoll in 1941. On Dec. 8, 1941, it was attacked by the Japanese, who, after a hard fought battle with U.S. Forces assigned to the island, took possession two weeks later. It was surrendered by the Japanese on Sept. 4, 1945. The Air Force took control of the island in 1973. 

Located halfway between Hawaii and Japan, the atoll handles between 500 and 600 aircraft annually and needs improved infrastructure to fully support the Air Force mission. The installation is operated by the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.  

Partnering with the 611th Civil Engineer Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AFCEC is engaged in multiple projects to modernize the airfield infrastructure and supporting facilities on the island.

“AFCEC is a key player in ensuring infrastructure for the Air Force to enable mission capability and success for the warfighter,” Norton said. “Our team of experts is committed to restore full capability to the airfield and facilities to ensure the island remains a vital strategic link in the Pacific region.”

AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate awarded the construction contract in February 2019. 

This effort, executed by AECOM, a California-headquartered contractor, will modernize the airfield infrastructure by repairing and expanding Taxiway Bravo and the Hot Cargo Pad.

AFCEC delivered design for this construction and is responsible for overall management of the project. 

After the pre-construction phase, construction began in March 2020 and is slated for completion by spring 2021.

“The remote location of the Wake atoll required extensive logistics planning to ship construction equipment, material, parts and supplies which we successfully accomplished in November 2019,” said Capt. David Leonard, AFCEC’s project manager. 

The in-progress work on Taxiway Bravo will add new aprons and shoulders with rigid pavement. The paving started in April 2020 and is near completion.

“The existing paving was in poor condition and needed upgrades to meet Air Force standards for aircraft parking,” said Leonard.  “The repair will include aircraft hardstands for fighter and heavy aircraft.”

The effort also includes repair of two drain pipes in the existing drainage basin that run under the aprons and taxiway. They will be replaced with 24-inch reinforced concrete piping. 

Construction is also underway for the existing airfield Hot Cargo Pad – a high security zone used for loading and unloading ammunition, explosives and other hazardous material. 

“As a safety precaution the Hot Cargo Pad area is currently closed to aircraft because of its unsafe surface until it’s fully repaired,” Leonard said. 

Ultimately, the infrastructure will accommodate C-17 Globemaster III operations, which is the Air Force’s most flexible cargo aircraft capable of rapid, strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo. 

Upon completion of construction, the modernized airfield will receive new lighting, grounding and pavement markings to support mission readiness and global air mobility.