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Second runway increases Bagram capability

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

After months of planning and construction, the wing expanded its ability to support flying missions throughout the region with the addition of a second operational runway.  The ancillary runway provides an alternate site for aircraft taking off and landing should the primary runway be damaged or closed.

The need for an additional runway was first recognized during the third quarter of 2014 and quickly became a priority for several agencies throughout the wing.

“Last fall, the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group held an exercise simulating the closure of the primary runway,” said Lt. Col. Shelly Mendieta, 455th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander. “In this scenario aircraft needed to land at Bagram before the runway could be re-opened. The 455 EOG, 455 EOSS, 455 ESFS [455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron] and the 455 AEW [455th Air Expeditionary Wing] Safety Office secured Taxiway Juliet while 455 ECES [455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron] Barrier Maintenance strung expeditionary cable across the taxiway.  Once complete, Bagram Tower was able to use the Juliet Emergency Landing Surface.”

Though the solution sufficed, 455 AEW leadership sought to save time, mitigate risk and reduce manpower needed to prepare and secure an alternate landing site. Once all the options were examined, Taxiway Zulu was selected for runway conversion.

“After the exercise, we wanted to find a way to decrease the risk of landing on a secondary surface and minimize the time and manpower needed to sterilize and prepare the taxiway for landing,” Mendieta said. “Additionally, we wanted a way to decrease or eliminate effects on Air Tasking Order operations during runway closures.  Converting Taxiway Zulu to a runway meets those goals.”

Once the determination was made, organizations collaborated to transform Taxiway Zulu to runway 03L/21R.

“The first step was accessing the pavement evaluation report determining types of aircraft and stress loading the new runway could handle,” Mendieta said. “Then 455 EOSS and 455 ECES developed an action plan ensuring the runway was properly painted, mandatory signs were installed and coordinated additional airfield waivers with AFCENT [Air Force Central Command].”

“Lastly, and the most difficult challenge, 455 ECES transplanted the Mobile Aircraft Arresting System from Taxiway Juliet to Runway 03L,” Mendieta continued. “Barrier Maintenance personnel often go through their whole career without installing a new barrier system and 455 ECES executed it perfectly as demonstrated by an F-16 engaging the system at 100 knots.”


As wrinkles in the planning phase were ironed out behind the scenes, Airmen assigned to the 455 ECES began construction on the flightline.

“My team did all the painting to get Zulu in regulations to include Visual Flight Rules hold lines, centerlines, edge lines, leading taxiway lines, runway identifications and more,” said 1st Lt Agustus Harilall, 455 ECES Operations Flight commander. “We were also tasked to move the MAAS off Juliet Taxiway to Zulu Taxiway. Repairs were done to the pavement to make sure it was safe for aircraft movement. All Federal Aviation Administration/User Flow Control signage was fabricated and ordered to make 03L/21R fully operational. Expeditionary Airfield Lighting Systems were also installed.”

With planning, construction, and operational checks complete, 03L/21R has been christened an active runway.

“Bagram is the busiest airfield in Afghanistan, so adding the capability of a second runway allows us to continue to support contingency operations 24/7, 365 days a year,” Mendieta said. “In the event that the primary runway is closed due to an emergency, damage, or normal maintenance, Bagram Air Traffic Control can now use 03L/21R as the active runway.  Bagram Airfield will still be able to provide airpower to the Combatant Commander.  Whether the tasking is a planned ATO mission or an immediate response, the field will be prepared.”