Major Airfield Modernization Underway at Wake Island Airfield

The U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) is executing $87 million in critical airfield construction at Wake Island Airfield, one of the most isolated Air Force installations, to enhance operational and defense capabilities for U.S. forces.

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.

The airfield 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 increased 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 JB Elmendorf-Richardson, AFCEC is engaged in multiple projects to modernize the airfield infrastructure and supporting facilities on the island.

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 the 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 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 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.

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.

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