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NAVAL STATION ROTA, SPAIN — The military will spend $10.5 million to make emergency repairs to Rota’s airfield, which took a heavy beating during the buildup to the war in Iraq.

The runway overhaul is believed to be one of the biggest since the original airfield was built nearly 50 years ago.

Parts of the taxiways, aprons and runway are cracking and chipping from the increase in traffic earlier this year.

Some portions are in such bad shape that entire sections will have to be demolished and replaced, said Navy Lt. Scott King, the Public Works Department’s program management officer.

The runway is safe for planes right now, King added, but if it is not fixed soon it could be a much bigger problem.

The Navy had planned on making improvements to the airfield before the buildup to the war in Iraq.

In January, inspectors from the Atlantic Division’s Navy Facilities Engineer Command in Norfolk, Va., reported that the pavement had deteriorated to the point that something had to be done soon.

The high volume of cargo planes that used the airfield leading up to the war made the problems worse.

The base was hub for military planes traveling between the United States and the Persian Gulf region.

The number of C-5 Galaxy cargo planes — the largest aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet and one of the biggest aircraft in the world — skyrocketed before and during the conflict. A quarter of all planes carrying cargo to the Middle East stopped at Naval Station Rota and Morón Air Base, southeast of Seville, according to the Air Force.

Between January and April, the base saw seven times more C-5 cargo planes than the previous year. In 2002, 255 C-5s stopped in Rota during the four-month period, airfield statistics show. In 2003, 1,856 of the planes landed at the base between January and April.

Adding to the increased traffic was the fact that the wide-body aircraft carried extremely heavy loads, transporting everything from Meals, Ready to Eat to flatbed trucks.

Last month, the Pentagon announced that the Arlington, Va.-based Kellogg, Brown & Root Services was awarded a $5.4 million contract to begin repairs to the airfield's runway, apron and taxiways.

Work should begin in December, and the entire project is expected to take less than a year to complete.

During a portion of the repairs, the airfield will have to be closed down for at least a week, King said. However, he said that air operations would continue as normal throughout most of the project.

The emergency repairs are among the many improvements being made to the airfield. Last year, work began on a $150 million project, which includes adding 16 more parking spaces for large cargo planes, fuel hydrants and a new air tower that will be used by both the United States and Spain.

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