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169th Fighter Wing hosts second airfield repair demonstration

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jim St. Clair
  • 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 169th Fighter Wing hosted another U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) led runway repair demonstration Aug. 16 to Sept. 1. During this iteration, lessons learned from the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) held at McEntire Joint National Guard Base (JNGB) four months ago were incorporated into a Military Utility Assessment (MUA) this time around.

“What you’re seeing here today is the culmination of four years of work for the program. We were here in April for an interim check and this event here is the culminating capstone event,” said Mr. Kawakahi Amina, Deputy Operational Manager for the JCTD from USINDOPACOM J46X.

Over the past two weeks, U.S. Air Force civil engineers, including several from the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron, teamed up with U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S. Marine Corps engineers to field test the ‘just enough, just-in-time’ repair capability of a damaged runway. This new repair concept is known as Expedient and Expeditionary Airfield Damage Repair (E-ADR).

“As our concepts are evolving, we’re learning that speed and agility and flexibility are some of the most important factors that are affecting our ability to respond. We thought we’d have months to repair and those months are now days. [E-ADR] is one method to help reduce that tyranny of distance and time,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christian Dietz, Operational Manager for the JCTD from USINDOPACOM J44.

AFCEC’s E-ADR concept uses locally sourced materials and reduced manpower and equipment in order to expedite a temporary runway repair designed to support tactical and mixed load combat operations until a permanent repair can be made.

The MUA concluded Tuesday with a distinguished visitor’s day designed to showcase the new runway repair concept from start to finish. On DV Day there were 10 stations for the visitors to walk through from the very beginning of clearing debris around a crater to the end where the temporary cap is anchored to the concrete over the repaired hole. Senior military and Department of Defense officials spent several hours observing the joint engineer teams in action while subject matter experts briefed the DVs during a docent-led walking tour through each of the demonstration stations. Some of the demonstrations included damage assessment, cutting of concrete with diamond-tipped saws, breaking and excavation of the damaged area, backfill processing and compacting and finally the capping of the repair with fiber reinforced polymer matting. 

For the MUA, the U.S. Air Force engineers hailed from mostly U.S. Indo-Pacific Command bases including Kadena Air Base, Misawa Air Base and Yokota Air Base in Japan, Andersen Air Base, Guam; Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; Joint Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; plus Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. and finally the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron. The U.S. Navy Seabees travelled from the Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Miss. while the U.S. Marine Corps engineers came up from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.

“We’re the only Guard unit here. We’re right here on the front and cutting edge of something that’s evolving and something that’s going to effect the entire joint force and how we employ combat airpower. And not just the Air Force. We have the Navy here, the Marines here and you have the Army here. The entire joint force has a play in recovering from airfield damage,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Tim Dotson, 169th Mission Support Group commander.

Just like last time in April, the first week started with the blasting of 18 craters in the old runway. Then the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps engineers were divided into two teams to tackle several capabilities to be tested. After receiving some classroom instruction, the two teams travelled to the field site where they proceeded through several graded and timed objectives. The objectives included the rapid cut out and removal of debris in the craters, filling and compacting the craters with materials, capping the craters and performing a quality assessment of the repair.

What makes this round different is the lessons learned from April were incorporated into this MUA.

“Operationally it’s the same. We’ve tweaked the [equipment] kit based on the things that we learned the first time back in April. There are some TTP (tactics, techniques, procedures) modifications, hardware modifications and tools that are different based on what we learned the first time. We’re trying to go leaner, leaner, leaner and more expeditionary. The idea is that we refine the tool kit down to what’s necessary for the mission,” Amina said.

What the E-ADR concept offers versus traditional runway repair operations is a light footprint in personnel and materials. Essentially E-ADR is a downsized version of the existing Runway Airfield Damage Repair (RADR) concept currently in use albeit with much leaner logistics. Each temporary repair has to withstand the weight and stress from tactical and cargo aircraft potentially dozens of times before a permanent fix can be made later on.

“The equipment you’re going to see is much smaller than traditional airfield damage repair. It’s intended to be lightweight and expeditionary. It’s intended to align to emerging warfighting concepts that get us away from main operating bases,” Amina said.

Whereas the traditional RADR concept might require dozens of C-5 Galaxy aircraft to transport the material and equipment for a runway repair, the E-ADR concept has been pared down to just four C-130 Hercules aircraft worth of equipment and material, explained Dr. Bobby Diltz, E-ADR Technical Manager, from AFCEC. And instead of having weeks or months to work with to repair a runway the goal for E-ADR is ready to go within 48 hours according to Diltz.

In a wartime situation, the ultimate goal is getting back in the fight as soon as possible. That’s what makes E-ADR so appealing.

“The savings is the logistics. It’s not a big logistics footprint. We can use materials on site with the expectation of getting planes back in the air as soon as we can,” Dotson said.

During the DV day, the USINDOPACOM and AFCEC representatives expressed their appreciation for the support and assistance provided by the 169th Fighter Wing over the past year.

“I’ve got to say thank you to Col. Akshai Gandhi the wing commander here and also Col. Tim Dotson the mission support [group] commander. I am grateful to both you gentlemen for your support. You really did embrace us,” Diltz said.