Air Force awards runway extension contract for JBER, Alaskan geostrategic hub 

  • Published
  • By Mila Cisneros
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center is leading the largest Pacific Air Forces construction project awarded to date -- $309 million to extend a runway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District awarded the contract in late July to extend one of the base’s two runways. 

The large-scale project, which is led by AFIMSC’s Detachment 2 and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, will deliver critical infrastructure to strengthen global air mobility and mission capabilities for the base and its mission partners.

“Sustainable assets are essential to seamlessly execute the missions of Air and Space Forces,” said Lt. Col. Gary Moore, deputy director for AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate. “We work hand-in-hand with installations to improve infrastructure by providing timely and cost-effective design and construction solutions the missions need to become power projecting platforms.”

With completion of this runway extension, JBER will have dual 10,000-foot runways capable of handling the throughput capacity needed to ensure USINDOPACOM contingencies in the future laid out in the National Defense Strategy. This project will increase flight safety by reducing military traffic in the congested airspace shared with local civilian airports.

JBER supports missions that serve all branches of the Defense Department, and its strategic location protects U.S. interests in the Asian Pacific and Arctic regions, according to its unit fact sheet. JBER is home to several units, including the 3rd Wing, Alaskan Command and U.S. Army Alaska, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and 11th Air Force.

The Air Force’s investment in the airfield project at JBER is essential to sustain lethal and combat-ready forces and accomplish the mission and overall tactical goals of the DoD, Moore said.

The runway extension is a collaborative effort between AFIMSC, USACE Alaska District, JBER’s 3rd Operations Support and 673rd Civil Engineer Squadrons, and AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate. 

The project will extend the north-south 16/34 runway further north by 2,500 feet, making it the main arrival runway, said Henry Wong, design and construction project manager for Det. 2 and the lead for the effort.

Currently, JBER supports a wide range of missions and aircraft to include large C-17 Globemaster IIIs, KC-10 tankers and KC-135 Stratotankers, as well as a host of other aircraft routinely supporting joint and international exercises. The runway extension is needed to support heavier aircraft that require shallower climb because they can't gain altitude as quickly as lighter aircraft, Wong said. 

The base currently relies on the 6/24 runway, which spans east to west, as the main arrival runway.

“The north-south runway is only 7,500 feet long by 150 feet wide and risk of accidents increases for heavy aircraft due to its short length and steep climb,” Wong said.

That restriction results in a more frequent use of the east-west runway with its approach passing through the crowded Anchorage airspace. It causes significant safety concerns for the mission, taxiways delays, disruptions and jet noise over neighborhoods. 

The project also adds two supporting taxiways and new airfield infrastructure to include shoulders, grading, drainage and new lighting. 

“We will address all obstructions and weight limitations and boost operational efficiency for the base,” Wong said. 

Due to the site topography, extensive site preparation is needed. 

“The site excavation is necessary to reduce the climbing slope, and to accomplish that we’ll have to take down the hill,” Wong said. “Over 12 million cubic yards of earthwork operations will be required to extend and ensure the runway meets the runway surfaces criteria.”

Upon completion in September 2025, the AFIMSC project will relieve airspace congestion between JBER, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and other local airfield, reduce fuel waste by cutting down taxiway congestion and, “most importantly, enhance air traffic safety for JBER and its mission partners,” Wong said.