Fort Drum plans drone hangar expansion

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: April 12, 2013

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — The post’s drone activity could be increased with $4.7 million allocated for a drone hangar expansion at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield in the Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2014 budget.

The budgeted expansion would provide two additional bays to a two-wing hangar under construction for the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing, Syracuse, along with the development of a widened taxiway between the hangar and the airfield.

“It’s just going to give us the complete facility that would enhance our ability to provide the training resources that are needed to keep our schoolhouse running effectively,” said Maj. Jeffrey Brown, the unit’s public affairs officer.

Defense officials included the item after they had said no construction would take place on the post in 2014.

No other military construction is listed for the post in the 2014 fiscal year.

In September, Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, garrison commander, told the audience at a Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization meeting the post did not plan any military construction that year but would work on projects in 2015 and 2016.

The Air National Guard unit uses the airspace around the post to train pilots who operate in a remote cockpit setup at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.

Unit members started using live munitions at the post’s ranges in December. Pilots fly the MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely piloted aircraft, and fire 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.

Maj. Brown said the unit is operating in a temporary structure first used in January 2012 after previously borrowing a space at the airfield from the division.

The hangar under construction was supported by allocations of $5.2 million in the 2010 and 2011 fiscal year military budgets. Officials expect it to be finished in August.

Post officials are still working with the Department of Defense to support the construction of projects approved for the fiscal year’s budget, which included $95 million for a new aircraft maintenance hangar, $25.9 million for a new missile defense data terminal complex and $17.3 million for a new specialty care clinic.

In an email message, James W. Corriveau, the post’s director of public works, said the funding was approved during the recent passage of a continuing resolution to support defense spending. However, he said the Army is asking the Corps of Engineers to review all fiscal year 2013 projects for a final approval before the Corps is given the authority and funding to proceed to contract awards, a process Mr. Corriveau believes will take some additional time.

He expressed hope the ground would be broken for the three projects during the summer.

Mr. Corriveau said $2.9 billion of military construction has taken place on the post from fiscal years 1986 to 2013.


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