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Success story: Kunsan AB runway repaired in 45 days


More than 600 concrete slabs were demolished and replaced during a 45-day runway repair project on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The engineering flight partnered with the Far East District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Kunsan Resident Office and the Army 411 Contracting Services Brigade to execute and oversee 12 different projects with a value of approximately $16 million. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The cross section shows the new runway atop the old runway on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo)


A construction team works on the north tie-in to the runway on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. A team effort resulted in the repair time being cut in half. (U.S. Air Force photo)

By Maj. Jon Jones
8th Civil Engineer Squadron

   As the last F-16 roared its engine and disappeared over the horizon heading toward Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron Engineering Flight began ushering contractors, bulldozers, excavators, dump trucks and all types of heavy equipment out to the 9,000-foot runway to start the first 24 hours of a massive 45-day construction project to breathe new life into the aging airfield on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. This was the beginning salvo of a repair project that had been in wing planning coordination for eight months.

   Evidenced by the hum of hydraulic hammers over the first two weeks of construction, the principal focus and driver for the runway closure was to demolish and replace more than 600 separate 15-by-12.5 foot-by 8-inch concrete slabs on the runway and connecting taxiways. These areas had been slowly crumbling away over the last few years with each pass of an aircraft and constant exposure to the elements.

   The Kunsan runway, built by the Japanese in 1938, received an 8-inch overlay in 1962. The last major repair was completed 10 years ago, and although it was still usable for flying operations, there were significant linear cracks, failed patches, spalling, corner breaks, scaling and joint-seal damage. These conditions warranted near daily repair and maintenance work, which ultimately led to this repair project.

   The engineering flight partnered with the Far East District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Kunsan Resident Office and the Army 411 Contracting Services Brigade to execute and oversee 12 different projects with a value of approximately $16 million. The work included replacement of roughly 76,500 cubic feet of concrete, installation of new threshold and runway edge lights, new edge lighting on the perimeter of the north and south overflow pads, improved concrete fairlead beam ramps stabilizing and securing the aircraft arresting systems, new asphalt concrete shoulders along the main taxiway, earthwork grading of the infield areas, replacement of the aircraft control tower roof, expansion of the hot cargo pad, and the demolition and replacement of several miles of asphalt concrete roads leading to the runway.

   Additionally, members of the civil engineer heavy equipment shop got in on the action. They garnered valuable on-the-job training using a paver borrowed from neighboring Osan Air Base to repair the shoulder of the northern end taxiway and perform concrete work on one of the aircraft arresting system barriers. As this type and magnitude of work is generally done through IDIQ contracts, this was a once-in-a-career experience for many of the Airmen.  
It was a monumental logistical effort by all parties involved. The unpredictable South Korean weather and continuing fighter wing exercises added to the challenges of completing the work on time.

   Dozens of trucks delivering concrete, asphalt, tools, materiel, equipment and personnel passed through the main gate, dodging early morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic, as well as changes in force protection conditions. Planning and coordination with security forces, airfield operations and maintenance ensured around-the-clock construction could be executed.

   This partnering resulted in the runway work repair time to be cut in half, a reduction of 496 days from the contract period of performance, thereby ensuring a war-ready airfield to welcome the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons, along with our host nation partners, the 38th Fighter Group, back to Kunsan AB.