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USAF Plans $400M Pacific Island Airport Upgrade for Military Missions

The US Air Force plans a $400 million upgrade of a Pacific island airport to allow the operation of military aircraft.

An initial planned investment of $96 million is part of the fiscal 2025 budget request for the extension of the Yap International Airport runway, Air and Space Forces Magazine reported, citing budget documents.

Additional investment includes enhanced aircraft parking capacity and improvement in access to the runway.

The Upgrade

If approved, construction is expected to start in August 2025.

“An adequate and safe runway is required to accommodate larger aircraft to land and take-off in support of training, operations, and humanitarian missions at the Yap airport,” the outlet quoted the documents as saying. 

“The extended runway is required to enable increased capacity of the runway by allowing larger aircraft to land and take-off quickly and safely,” it added.

“This increased capacity supports provisions for a command-and-control capable infrastructure for multi-service forces in the rapid establishment of operational capabilities in various locations.” 

MQ-4C Triton
An MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System taxis after landing on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Image: US Navy

Agile Combat Employment

The upgrade is part of the US Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept that seeks smaller and dispersed overseas air bases for maneuver as increasing adversary capability has challenged the air force’s ability to project power from larger locations.

From 93 air bases during World War II, the US Air Force now has 33 permanent overseas air bases, a reduction of 65 percent.

Pacific Islands Infrastructure Upgrade

Part of the Federated States of Micronesia, Yap comprises a land area of 100 square kilometers (38.7 square miles) and lies between Guam and Palau, some 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) southeast of China.

The US Air Force has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in capacity expansion in Guam and Tinian in the Marianas. Additionally, the US Army helped build a basic airstrip in Palau.

“Yap Airport is capable of being an important divert location for aircraft transiting the Indo-Pacific area,” Air and Space Forces Magazine quoted the US Air Force budget documents as stating. 

“However, the runway is too short to adequately support military aircraft operations and lacks other critical required facilities such as aircraft arresting systems capabilities.”  

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