BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The first phase of a major runway project on the Department of Defense’s busiest runway is scheduled to be completed here Aug. 10.
“The Bagram Airfield runway project is a repair project to fix the primary landing surface of runway 03/21, or the main runway,” said Capt. Richard Hallon, 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron and Air Force CE center representative.
Phase I included the repair and resurfacing of the old Russian runway, built in 1959, to allow it to become a temporary runway while the primary runway is repaired. Soon after, the contractor will start phase II work on the primary runway, which will last four months.
“The project will have a huge impact operationally and, thus, there has been coordination and planning going on all year to be ready for the changeover to Zulu operations,” said Capt. Dave Friedel, 455 Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations Liaison Officer.
All operations will shift to Taxiway Zulu when phase II of the project begins so the main runway can be resurfaced starting next month.
“Due to the high tempo of aircraft traffic, to include some of the heaviest aircraft in our inventory, it would be impossible to make section repairs while keeping the runway operational,” said Hallon, who has served nine years as an active duty CE officer and is native of Miami, Fla.”Therefore this project has been divided into two main phases.
“If you were able to fly over the airfield you would see the main surface of the old runway has been paved with new asphalt from Taxiway Echo to Alpha,” said Hallon. “The contractor is working around the clock to finish the main surface from Taxiway Golf to Echo and bring this temporary runway into operation.”
Some of the operational challenges the project has faced have included:
- Using a temporary runway that is more than 2,000 feet shorter than the current main runway, creating issues for heavy aircraft that previously had more distance to operate
- Devising new taxi plans for all aircraft
- Informing all pilots and airfield operators of the upcoming changes, and
- Implementing new instrument approach and departure procedures to the temporary Zulu Runway.
One of the biggest challenges involves the controlled movement area.
“This is where flightline drivers must be in radio contact, and have clearance from air traffic control to operate,” said Friedel, who is 17-year Air Force veteran and native from Cleveland. “It currently includes just the main runway, but will expand over twice its current size and include Zulu and Taxiway Juliet to the west. Once operations are on Zulu, the CMA will be extremely busy.”
One of the most critical areas has been the coordination of work of this magnitude inside the restricted areas of the flightline.
“By using a force protection team of more than 55 military and civilian personnel, all trained escorts capable of moving inside the flightline, we have been able to open two haul routes at each end of Taxiway Zulu,” Hallon said. “They allow the contractor to work night and day, hauling out concrete rubble and thousands of tons of dirt, and bringing in base course and up to 1,800 tons of asphalt daily.”
The main runway is projected to become operational by Dec. 8.