Duluth Air National Guard Base
The 148th Fighter Wing is located at Duluth International Airport in St. Louis County, Minnesota, seven miles northwest of downtown Duluth. The main base occupies 153.3 acres on the northeast corner of the airport. Additionally, the munitions storage area (physically separated from the main base) occupies 16.71 acres north of Runway 09/27. The base has a total of 37 buildings; 18 industrial and 19 administrative. Normal base population is 320 personnel but surges to 1100 occur once each month during drill sessions. The 148th currently flies the F-16 ADF Fighting Falcon. Its mission is to "Provide the best Air Defense, Service, and Support to the State and the Nation in times of peace and war.
The City of Duluth purchased the original property for the airport in 1929 from St. Louis County. The airport was constructed on 640 acres of land with two 2650-foot sod runways. Subsequently, in 1930, the airfield was dedicated as a public airport. The airport was called the Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport until 1963 at which time it was renamed Duluth International Airport.
After World War II, the U.S. Air Force constructed permanent and semi-permanent facilities on land leased from the City of Duluth. Beginning in 1948, The Minnesota Air National Guard built permanent facilities on the east end of the field. The USAF has since phased out its facilities, but MNANG continues its operations.
In 1942, the three existing runways were paved. Each runway was 4,000 feet long, 150 feet wide, and at nearly equal angles from each other, 30, 90, and 130 degrees. They were identified as runways 3-21, 9-27, and 13-31 respectively. The Corps of Engineers extended runway 9-27 and Runway 3-21 to 5,699 feet in 1945. The USAF extended Runway 9-27 to 9,000 feet with a 1,000-foot overrun in 1951. Runway 9-27 was completely rebuilt in 1956 and further extended in 1966 to 10,152 feet in length.
The original terminal building was built in 1954, south of Runway 9-27, on the west side of Runway 3-21 and served the airport for nearly 20 years. The terminal floor area was 14,200 square feet with 280 parking spaces.
In 1974, a new Terminal Building and U.S. Customs, International Arrivals Building, were completed east of Runway 3-21 and open for operation. Runway 13-31 was shortened to 2,578 feet to accommodate construction of an addition to the International Arrivals building. This resulted in Runway 13-31 being closed as a runway due to obstructions. Runway 13-31 was subsequently re-striped in 1980, decreasing its width to 75 feet, for use as a taxiway only. In 1989, the new Terminal building and the adjacent structures were connected to form one enclosure. The original terminal building was then converted for use as offices for general aviation, the FAA, and the U.S. Weather Bureau.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Duluth International Airport Air Guard Station, MN, by retiring the 148th Fighter Wing's F-16s (15 aircraft).
The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $2.1M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $0.2M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $0.8M with a payback expected in five years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $7.8M. DoD claimed that this recommendation would not result in any job reductions over the 2006-2011 period in the Duluth, MN-WI, Metropolitan Statistical economic area.
Secretary of Defense Justification: Duluth (136) ranked low in military value. The reduction in F-16 force structure and the need to align common versions of the F-16 at the same bases argued for realigning Duluth to an ASA site using aircraft assigned elsewhere and operating from Duluth on rotational basis as tasked by US Northern Command. The 148th Fighter Wing's expeditionary combat support will remain at Duluth supporting the air sovereignty alert (ASA) facility.
Community Concerns: The community of Duluth stated DoD should not strip a unit with 103 percent endstrength of all its aircraft while retaining other units' aircraft with weaker recruiting and retention. It highlighted its unobstructed airspace for flight training, an ongoing $26 million renovation building the military's newest aircraft maintenance hangar, and a new $3.5 million Naval Reserve Center as reasons to reject the DoD proposal.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that the Department of Defense recommendation to realign Duluth International Airport Air Guard Station did not accurately assess the base's military value. The Commission found that the military value calculation for Duluth did not give proper credit to new construction, ranges, airspace, low level routes, munitions storage capacity and runway length. The Department of Defense identified Duluth as retaining an air sovereignty alert facility after its realignment, thus the Commission retained F-16s at Duluth.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 2 and 4, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Duluth International Airport Air Guard Station, MN. Distribute the 15 F-16 aircraft assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing (ANG) to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
Establish 15 PAA F-16 aircraft at the 148th Fighter Wing (ANG), Duluth International Airport Air Guard Station.
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.
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