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Clark Air Base
Clark Field

Clark Air Base has 2 10,000+ foot long runways and at least 8 helipads that it shares with Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. It is located about 15 miles northeast of Basa Air Base and about 45 miles north of metro Manila. (Coordinates: 15o11'09.6 N, 120o33'37.1 E)

The facility began as a simple airstrip constructed outside the US Army's Fort. Stotsenberg. The fort had existed since 1899 and the airstrip was constructed between 1917 and 1919. The airstrip and its support facilities were named Clark Field. Clark Field was upgraded several times until 1941, at which point it had 6 runways of various sizes, with several associated runways close, but not technically associated with the facility. Clark Field was one of the largest American overseas bases in the world at the time.

On 8 December 1941, the Japanese bombed and heavily damaged Clark Field, destroying many American aircraft, including several B-17's, and critically damaging US air defense capabilities in the Philippines. Japanese ground forces overran the facility the following month and used it as a military air base of their own until January 1945 when the US recaptured it. Clark Field served as a major base for US warplanes until the end of the war.

In January 1946, the 13th Air Force transferred to Clark Field, and in May 1949, Clark Field and Fort Stotsenberg were merged together to form Clark Air Base. This facility was turned over to the control of the newly created US Air Force. During the Cold War, Clark AB grew into the largest overseas US military facility, with 15,000 base inhabitants and an elaborate infrastructure covering over 150,000 acres. Clark AB hosted US fighters and was a major transit hub for planes supporting the Vietnam War.

While the 1947 Military Bases Agreement between the US and the Philippines had originally called for American bases to remain in the country for 99 years, the bases generated controversy from the start. The Agreement was renegotiated several times over the years. A critical amendment to the document was made in 1959 and allowed the Philippines to take over all American bases from 1991 onwards, so long as it gave a year's notice before doing so. Starting in 1990, the US began negotiations to extend the lease on Clark Air Base and the other major American installations in the Philippines, including the Subic Bay Naval Base. The 2 sides were unable to reach agreement on new terms and it became increasingly clear that the US would be asked to hand over the bases.

In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo experienced a massive volcanic eruption that devestated the surrounding area with ash. The area was simultaneously hit with a tropical cyclone. Clark Air Base, only 12 miles east of the volcano, was barely evacuated in time and suffered serious damage, being buried under thousands of tons of soot that would take months to remove. During September 1991, the Philippine Senate opted to evict all US forces from their Philippine bases. Clark Air Base was formerly transferred to Philippine control on 26 November 1991.

From the start, the Philippine government intended to use the large facility primarily for civilian and economic purposes. After major cleanup efforts to remove the ash and repair damage, Clark Air Base was reopened and renamed the "Clark Special Economic Zone" in 1993 as a tax-free area meant to encourage an influx of business and economic growth. The airfields and directly related buildings were renamed "Clark International Airport" and were put under the management of the government-run "Clark International Airport Corporation" and reopened for traffic in 1995. In 2003, Philippine President Arroyo renamed the airport "Diosdado Macapagal International Airport" in honor of her father, who had also been president.

Though the air facility principally handled civilian air traffic (it was planned to replace Ninoy Aquino International Airport as metro Manila's primary airport), the Philippine Air Force maintained a presence there, and part of it was still known as Clark Air Base. The primary uses of the facility became a mix of demostartions, staging for deployments, and special operations activity. As of 2009 the 410th Maintenance Wing, 4212th Revolving Fund Squadron, 600th Air Base Wing, 710th Special Operations Wing, and the 5051st Search and Rescue Squadron were based there. Only the 5051st SAR Squadron flew aircraft. The rest of the units were support related or focused on ground special operations activity Clark Air Base also housed the PAF's old F-8 Crusaders in open-air storage, and was though to possibly also store for the country's mothballed F-5 fleet.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:07:33 ZULU