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Iwakuni’s heavy-duty runway to open May 29

By ERIK SLAVIN AND HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 18, 2010

TOKYO — A long-delayed new runway at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni that will eventually underpin an expanded defense role for the base is slated to begin daily operations May 29, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense and Marine Corps officials.

The heavy-lift runway will extend a kilometer more than the old runway, said Iwakuni base spokesman Master Gunnery Sgt. John Cordero on Friday.

“It was constructed for safety-related issues and to reduce noise over the city,” Cordero said.

The project positions Iwakuni’s runway so that jets won’t have to bank quickly after takeoff to avoid a nearby petrochemical plant. For residents, that means less noise: When the jets bank, the sound is cast directly into the city where mountains contain it.

A military C-12 will test digital airport surveillance radar and tactical navigations by flying about 500 feet above the runway in the daytime between April 26 and April 29, Cordero said.

The C-12 then will test approach path indicators and radar from May 10 to May 14, followed by landing trials May 17 and 18, according to a Ministry of Defense news release.

The Federal Aviation Administration will conduct its own tests from May 24 to May 26.

The old runway will close, officials said.

The $2.4 billion heavy-lift runway project began in 1997 and has suffered several delays.

Iwakuni’s air station will gain Naval Air Station Atsugi’s carrier wing, multiple KC-130s and about 5,000 new residents by 2014 under the 2006 bilateral force realignment plan.

The expansion has caused local outcry but has not raised the same controversy as the proposed relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa.

Japanese officials reaffirmed in February that the Iwakuni plans would go on as scheduled.

The runway’s opening also frees the Japanese government to move ahead on plans to build a commercial runway at the base.

A commercial runway could increase options for traveling servicemembers, who often must commute to Hiroshima, Fukuoka or other far-off airports to catch flights.


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