Friday, October 17, 2008

Guam building booms to support new aircraft

By Erik Holmes - Staff report
Posted : Friday Oct 17, 2008 6:12:01 EDT
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, is in the early stages of an eight-year, $1.8 billion buildup that will bring a permanent presence of unmanned aerial vehicles, bombers, fighters and tankers to the Pacific island.

Andersen has hosted a continuous bomber presence since 2004, with bombers rotating through from various stateside units, but the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Strike — or ISR/Strike — concept seeks to augment that with a broader range of air assets.

By the time the concept is fully implemented early in the next decade, Andersen will host four permanently based Global Hawk drones, as well as 12 tankers, 48 fighters and six bombers on a rotational basis.

Most of the $1.8 billion in projects to support ISR/Strike are scheduled to be built between 2010 and 2014. The first, a $53 million Global Hawk hangar, began construction during summer 2007 and will be completed in May 2009, with the aircraft arriving later in 2009. Projects to be completed between 2010 and 2014 include maintenance facilities, composite repair ships, covered facilities for aircraft ground equipment, infrastructure such as roads and utilities, a fire station and dormitories for personnel rotating through the island with the aircraft.

Andersen was once an Air Force backwater, but Col. John Cawthorne, Pacific Air Forces’ deputy director of installations and mission support, said “the way the world has developed” — presumably meaning friction between the U.S. and Pacific nations such as North Korea, Russia and China — has led the Air Force to place greater importance on Guam.

“One of the things that we’re seeing at Guam is it’s a boom town now,” Cawthorne said.

Andersen is one point in the Air Force’s strategic triangle in the Pacific, he said; the other two are Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Guam’s primary draw is its location, about 2,500 miles from Beijing and 2,100 miles from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Hawaii is more than 5,000 miles from Beijing and 4,500 miles from Pyongyang.

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