JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – After nearly a year of construction, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center-led project to replace aging runway infrastructure at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, is making steady progress and on track to have aircraft flying out of the installation by the fall of 2022.
AFCEC launched phase one of the $143 million construction effort in early March 2021 to replace the aging infrastructure built in 1941. The project includes paving, full-depth concrete end sections, an asphalt center section and asphalt shoulders as well as installing a new lighting system.
“Mission-ready airfields are critical to the lethality and readiness of our forces,” said Col. Dave Norton, deputy director of AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate. “We partner with Air and Space Forces to deliver sustainable and cost-effective infrastructure solutions our installations need to successfully accomplish their priorities.”
Offutt’s 55th Wing provides intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic attack missions that serve all Department of Defense branches. The wing, currently operating out of facilities at Lincoln Airport, needs a reliable and safe airfield to restore full operational capabilities to the base and continue its national defense missions, Norton said.
AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate, which facilitated the project’s award in June 2020, provided centralized design to optimize Offutt’s runway and ensure it meets the dimensions and weight-bearing capacity of the fleet of RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, as well as E6-Bs and E-4Bs, which are among the Air Force’s heaviest airframes.
The project is the most extensive effort in Offutt’s history. Over the years, the runway has been patched and repaired but never completely replaced.
“This runway replacement project was greatly needed to keep our wing and host unit flying missions going,” said Col. Kristen Thompson, 55th Wing commander. “Having a brand-new runway will be a major benefit to Team Offutt and our 55th WG aircrew members for many, many years to come. We are very grateful to AFCEC for all their support and advocation on our behalf.”
“It is a three-phased project that requires a tremendous amount of coordination with the runway project management office, senior leaders at Offutt and a number of contractors,” said Eric Staph, AFCEC program manager.
Phase zero efforts began in October 2020 with onsite mobilization, bringing in material, heavy construction machinery and equipment for ground and preparatory work before the airfield closed in March 2021 with flying operations moving to Lincoln.
AFCEC supported the preparatory work at Lincoln Airport before the mission transition, Staph said, by providing $30 million in funding for necessary infrastructure upgrades to the apron, an existing hangar, a fire station and a temporary hangar.
Phase one efforts, which began 10 months ago, include tearing out the old runway and preparing the subgrade before placing more than 150,000 square yards of concrete and 50,000 tons of asphalt.
With demolition complete, contractors are working in different areas of the flightline to include the mass parking apron; a $24 million project contract modification, Staph said.
Even with Nebraska’s harsh winter climate in full swing, construction activities on the runway and the mass parking apron are continuing, Staph said.
“The prime contractor, Gilbane Federal, is one of our Worldwide Engineering & Construction contractors. They have assembled a team of local sub-contractors from the Omaha area, and they are very experienced working in the cold weather in the Midwest,” he said. “Our contractors know what they are doing, how to get things done and what can be done in winter months.”
At this point in the season, there are a lot of activities in progress on the northwest apron to build a new trench drain and a blast fence. In addition, progress continues with installation of airfield lighting ducts, lighting systems, and utility ducts and underdrains.
Asphalt and paving work, which requires warmer temperatures, are scheduled to resume in March 2022, Staph said.
“Overall, construction is at the halfway point, and we aim for the new runway and the mass parking apron to be complete by late September 2022,” Staph said.
At that point, Offutt’s aircraft will start flying missions out of its home installation.
Phase three will begin in early October with work on the grounds surrounding the airfield and final erosion control.
The entire project is expected to be complete by April 2023.