AWACS dispersed to FOBs & FOL: Operations continue as runway restoration begins
With the departure of E-3A tail-number 455 on May 8, 2014, the E-3A Component's NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft fleet has been fully dispersed to its forward operating bases and location as runway restoration begins at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany.
"With 455 taking off to FOB Konya, restoration work on our 3,048 meter (10,000 feet) runway can now begin," explained Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, Component commander. "This restoration project will resurface the top portion of our 30 year-old runway with 30 centimetres of asphalt."
The E-3A Component Commander, Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, talks with aircrew personnel before they fly May 8, 2014, from NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, to Forward Operating Base Konya, Turkey. This effort will eliminate the concrete surface which has begun to deteriorate over the past several years. The original runway was constructed in the early 1980s and was only expected to last about 20 years. Patch-work has been completed to extend the life of the runway, but the time has come for complete resurfacing.
The runway restoration project is planned to be completed using eight work cycles consisting of 11 work days and three fly days – a total of 16 weeks. To achieve the completion within the planned construction cycles, contractors will be working extensively, including weekends and holidays with some work also being conducted during nightshifts.
"The whole runway restoration project will be quite demanding; especially, to always have the runway operational after 11 days," said Thorsten Wahl, a senior engineer and head of the Component's Infrastructure Division. "The contractor and engineering office agreed and both of them are confident this restoration plan is feasible."
While the runway will be open for three days every two weeks to allow for aircraft to fly in and out of Geilenkirchen, the majority of the Component's fleet with operate out of Turkey, Greece, Italy and Norway throughout the restoration project. The Component's organic ability to function from these locations will allow NATO AWACS to sustain its ongoing missions to include Operation Afghan Assist and, more recently, flights over Poland and Romania.
"Supporting operations from these locations is something the Component envisioned and has been resourced to do since 1984, so I am certain our Component members at the FOBs and FOL are ready to sustain our outstanding mission success rate," stated General Mueller.
While dispersing all of its operations from the MOB is a first for the Component, the general is confident the success rate will continue.
"Like every other mission we have accomplished over the past year, I am certain we will maintain our mission success during the runway restoration project," he said.