8th Fighter Wing to relocate during Kunsan runway work
The roar of jets on the runway at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea soon will give way to the rumble of dump trucks and cement mixers as the base closes its runway for major repairs.
Meanwhile, the F-16 fighter planes of Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing will have flown to another air base in South Korea, where pilots and support troops will live and train while their home runway is repaired, said 1st Lt. Michelle Estep, a wing spokeswoman.
“They are being moved to another location on the peninsula and they’ll return here when the runway’s complete,” Estep said, declining for security reasons to name the other base.
“We’re going to conduct our everyday operations and we’re going to maintain our readiness. We’re just not going to have any flying going on” at Kunsan.
She said she could not divulge, for security reasons, what would become of a squadron of F-117 Night Hawk warplanes. The Night Hawks, more commonly known as stealth fighter-bombers, have been at Kunsan since July. They’re on a temporary deployment from the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
Repair work is to begin Monday and end Nov. 27, said 1st Lt. Sang Lee, chief maintenance engineer with the wing’s 8th Civil Engineer Squadron.
The $7 million project will replace worn concrete slabs, remove skid-like layers of rubber formed when aircraft tires touch down, repaint lines, and repair “spalling” — loose concrete fragments that create pitting or potholes.
“Over time, as you can imagine, the planes are coming down pretty fast and pretty hard and when the rubber meets concrete, the rubber peels. We have to remove it because it covers up the markings, and rubber has less traction than a concrete surface will,” Lee said.
Also scheduled is replacing the “threshold lights” on each end of the runway, extending the approach lights and installing or repairing airfield signs.
Those replacing concrete slabs likely will have their hands full. The slabs measure 25 square feet and can range from 13 inches to 18 inches thick, Lee said.
“To replace one whole pad — we’re talking a lot of concrete,” he said.
But the replacements are crucial.
“If you have a severe crack that goes along the length or width of it, it’s not supporting the load now,” Lee said of cracked slabs. “We consider it a critical failure.”
Fresh sealant also is important, he said: “It’s the synthetic material that’s between. Wherever those slabs meet, you want to create pretty much a water-tight seal because you don’t want water getting between the concrete slabs. If you have water between the cracks, when the weather gets cold and you have the freeze-thaw cycle, it’ll just destroy the concrete.”