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Civil engineers prepare to 'close the gaps' at Bagram

by Capt. Catie Hague
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/15/2005 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN)  -- Bagram's 9,800-foot runway will undergo major repairs beginning at the end of March to maintain operations in and out of the busiest airfield in Afghanistan.

Airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron said they plan to spend 16 weeks replacing 28 shattered slabs of concrete using a runway repair method last used by the Air Force in the 1970s.

"Severe damage due to airfield operations and limited runway maintenance forced us to look for an immediate solution," said Maj. Bobbie Moore, the squadron's commander. The answer was precast concrete -- concrete poured and cured in an alternate location, away from the runway, and put into place when ready.

The runway here cannot be shut down for an extended period of time because of mission requirements, said Col. Warren Henderson, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.

"And since the concrete takes 21 days to cure to full strength, precasting was the only real option" Major Moore said.

The civil engineers said they believe the precast concrete method was last used by the U.S. Air Force in Germany in the 1970s.

By March 10, all 28 slabs had been poured. They are now in the process of curing. Each slab is 12-feet long, 13-feet wide and one-foot deep, weighing about 23,400 pounds, officials said.

The plan is to remove the damaged concrete on the runway just before placing the new slabs, Major Moore said. A flat-bed truck will bring the slabs to the flightline, and a 120-ton crane will lift and position them into place. The runway will be useable as soon as the slabs are sealed.

This 16-week project has been broken down into three phases. The first will focus on 13 shattered slabs at the south end of the runway. The second will replace 13 in the middle and north end of the runway. And the final phase will focus on two slabs toward the north end of the runway. In addition, the engineers will repair major cracks and seal joints during all three phases.

"Bottom line: The flightline has deteriorated significantly over the last several years, and in order to support heavy aircraft and increased traffic, critical repairs must be made both on and near the centerline," said Col. Rita Meyer, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander.

"This is the most critical repair project done on (Bagram) to date," she said. "The current mission can't continue, even in the short-term, without full-slab replacement and extensive (crack) repair. While various repairs have been conducted on the airfield over the past three years, those repairs have not been enough to turn the overall condition of the airfield around. In fact, the structural capacity of the airfield has continued to deteriorate."

The runway itself was built by Soviet workers in the 1950s.

"Huge chunks of concrete have come loose and pose a risk to our aircraft and continued operations," Colonel Henderson said. "This situation required immediate attention."

The runway repair project will keep Bagram's flighline operational until a new runway is complete in June 2006, officials said.

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