With the joint effort of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) of the Far East District (FED) and the Republic of Korea, 20 newly constructed third generation hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) will be ready for use by the summer of 2020 at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accomplished the joint final inspection of the new aircraft shelters on May 15. The Far East District is currently in the process of transferring the facilities to the installation. To mark the completion of the new shelters, a ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for July 2020.
“The completion of the third generation hardened aircraft shelters provides the Wolf Pack with additional capability,” said Col. Tad “Wolf” Clark, 8th Fighter Wing commander. “Thanks to the continuous efforts of everyone involved, our team will be better equipped to conduct our mission for years to come.”
The completion of the 20 HAS is the first three of nine phases for a ROK funded construction program at Kunsan AB, located on the west coast of Korea. The first three phases involved the construction of 20 HAS while also demolishing 20 existing aircraft shelters in need of renovation. The construction of two latrine facilities, storm drainage, connecting taxiways, and on-site vegetation was also part of this initial effort.
The next section of this project, phases four through six, began in the Spring of 2019 and will construct 18 additional aircraft shelters. Design for the project began in April 2013 and the construction contract was awarded in March 2016 with a performance period of 51 months.
“On-time delivery of projects of this size are almost unheard of,” said Karey Park, USACE Resident Engineer. “Timely delivery of this project would not have been possible were it not for the close teamwork and collective efforts of the Far East District, U.S. Force Korea, 7th Air Force, the 8th Fighter Wing including 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, host nation representatives and the construction contractor, Han Hwa Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd.”
Like all projects of this size, teamwork is crucial to success, and the project delivery team employed diligent coordination to overcome challenges that surfaced during construction.
“This project could not have been completed on time without the full support of the Far East District,” said Park, Seung-San, Quality Control Manager for Han Hwa E&C. “This project was a challenge for myself and for my company, and we put in our best effort to achieve our goals. We hope to have a chance to construct future facilities for the Far East District.”
Also, the FED’s strong working relationship with the ROK was key to the completion of construction. The construction contract was awarded by the Korean Ministry of National Defense, in accordance with international agreements. Along with the FED, USFK Engineers worked toward the ultimate goal of providing the on-time delivery of high-quality facilities built to U.S. standards and design criteria. The 8th CES and the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center was integral to the project, who were involved with the systems acceptance testing.
Dan Novotny, FED project manager, said the COVID-19 travel restrictions currently imposed throughout the globe provided a challenge to completing the project on time.
“There was also close coordination with Kunsan Resident Office and Pacific Air Forces’ Fire Protection Engineer (FPE) to test and approve Fire Protection systems in the newly built shelters. This became challenging during travel restrictions for COVID-19 and the PACAF FPE could not come to Korea to view and approve the final tests,” said Novotny. “Through dedicated coordination between FED, 7th Air Force, and PACAF, it was approved for FED's own FPE to supervise the tests and have the PACAF approval done remotely.”
These facilities are outfitted with fire suppression systems, which required witness by AFIMSC. The shelters also provide the ventilation and engine exhaust systems to safely allow engine start-up to be performed inside the shelters with the hangar doors closed.
Constructing these facilities in a flood-prone area was another challenge as it typically requires some degree of ground improvement, to ensure the facilities will not gradually settle over time. This project required a staggering 474,000 cubic meters of fill material, which is enough to cover 300 football fields in a one foot deep layer of dirt. Additionally, some improvements were made to the storm drainage system during construction, in order to prevent rainwater from draining into unapproved drainage features outside the installation.
Kunsan Air Base is home to the 8th Fighter Wing, known as the “Wolf Pack,” comprised of over 2,700 active-duty personnel, four groups and 13 squadrons, including two F-16 fighter squadrons. Adequate hardened aircraft shelters are necessary to protect combat fighter aircraft, air crews, and sortie-generation maintenance personnel.
Together, these projects will continue to improve Kunsan Air Base’s ability to execute the mission, providing much-needed protection for the Wolf Pack’s fighter jets, and most importantly provide a safe working environment for Airmen.