Work is nearing completion on four-family townhouses like these at Misawa Air Base, Japan, where construction projects totaling $383 million are changing the face of the base.

Work is nearing completion on four-family townhouses like these at Misawa Air Base, Japan, where construction projects totaling $383 million are changing the face of the base. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Millions of dollars in current and planned construction projects here are changing the face of this northern Honshu air base.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to program and receive money for government of Japan-funded projects comparable to larger U.S. forces bases like Kadena in Okinawa,” said Maj. Monte Harner, the 35th Civil Engineering Squadron’s engineering flight commander.

Two planning documents are used to steer projects and gauge anticipated base growth, he said.

Three times a year, Harner said, Air Force managers here convene a facility board to discuss and place priorities within new submissions for Japanese-funded projects.

“That gives us a short-term vision,” he said.

For the longer range, Harner said the base comprehensive plan looks ahead 20 and 50 years.

“You need to plan facilities that far in advance because those built here in the ’80s will reach the end of their usefulness after 50 years,” he said. “It’s a living document updated as we go — Misawa’s blueprint for the future.”

Harner said the last detailed comprehensive plan was done seven years ago, and contractors are now meeting with military planners to develop a new one by next April.

“Because of the rate of construction, we basically outbuilt the old plan,” he said. “We needed a new vision, and that new comprehensive plan will also take into account the needs of the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces here, too.”

Harner said $41 million worth of new projects were completed at Misawa during fiscal year 2002, paid for under the Japan Facilities Improvement Program.

Keys were turned over for a new headquarters building for the Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing, a war-readiness materials warehouse and 20 family housing units consisting of three- and four-bedroom homes for noncommissioned officers on main base.

To date in fiscal year 2003, Harner said completed projects include a new veterinary clinic, furniture management warehouse, a small arms range and a warehouse for use by the 35th communications squadron.

“We’re currently managing $383 million in projects now under way, and 29 projects are in the pre-design stage totaling $348 million for a grand total of $731,” he said. “That’s a huge amount of construction for Misawa.”

Of $383 million figure, $269 million is earmarked for 21 projects now under way, $54 million for a quartet of projects in the design stage, and $60 million for five projects in the pre-design stage.

Projects now under construction include 40 units of townhouse-style family housing on the main base for field grade officers, a medical annex adjacent to the base hospital, a new airman leadership school, an aircraft fuel systems maintenance hangar and a separate fuels management facility.

On the Security Hill corner of the base, work is nearing completion on a tri-services administrative building, and at Ripsaw bombing range, 12 miles north of the base, a new range safety tower and a garage are about to be completed.

While Japanese funding pays for a substantial amount of infrastructure, Harner said 158 U.S.-funded projects are under way with a price tag of $47 million.

Nearing completion later this year is a $17 million Defense Logistics Agency project for bulk fuel storage tanks.

In the design phase are 19 projects totaling $35 million including a $29 million hydrant-type refueling system for wide body aircraft schedule for a fiscal year 2005 completion date.

Harner said the new refueling system is not indicative of an increase of Misawa’s military mission.

“It’s an enhancement that will allow for more efficient refueling of larger aircraft that come through Misawa,” he said.

Now, it takes between four and six hours to refuel wide-body aircraft using tanker trucks. That will be reduced to just one hour with the new hydrant system.

“It is expected to save us $570,000 annually,” Harner added.

Also in planning stages is an $8.2 million expansion of parking areas for transiting military aircraft, and a $2.3 million irrigation system at Gosser Memorial golf course to be paid with non-appropriated funds.

Last month, Misawa’s runway was closed to operations for nine days while degraded sections were repaired.

During 2004, what is expected to be the final closure for runway repairs will take place during the summer on dates to be determined, said Louis Torres, chief of Civil Engineering’s construction elements office.

“That will be the fifth and last phase for runway repairs and will include improvement of 1,800 linear feet costing $1 million,” he said.

Family housing units in portions of the base’s 800 housing area — wood dwellings built in 1958 and updated during succeeding decades — have already been demolished to make way for new townhouses expected to be completed in phases between 2004 and 2007, said 1st Lt. Allen Monroe, host nation construction element chief.

Initial completion of 72 three-bedroom units for enlisted troops is expected in December 2004.

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