The United States will establish a new air base on the strategic Mariana Islands in the face of the Chinese threat

With the growing threat from China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea, the Pentagon is looking for new air bases and expanding existing ones in the Asia-Pacific region. One of his next goals is to reactivate an air base on Tinian Island for the US should Guam, the main military aviation facility in the Mariana Islands, be incapacitated by an attack or a natural disaster.

As a result, the US Department of Defense is advancing plans to formally build a replacement airfield on Tinian Island, which is just 100 miles north of the major air base and highly strategic Guam facility officially known as the Air Force Base, or AFB (Air Force Base) Andersen.

Washington has always been aware of the importance of this archipelago, named after the Spanish Queen Marana of Austria (wife of Felipe IV), who belonged to the Spanish crown until the end of the 19th century. In 1898 it occupied Guam as part of the Spanish-American War and in 1944 the rest of the islands in World War II (World War II), including Tinian, which had been under Japanese control since 1914.

The plan is part of a broader Pentagon strategy aimed at upgrading / expanding the airfields, and even creating new ones, during a hypothetical peer-to-peer showdown that is, with China, in the vast Asia Pacific region could be used. . All of this is part of a new strategy of distributed combat that is likely to focus on both survival and advantage over the enemy, at least in the initial stages of a hypothetical conflict. AFB Anderson is so important to Washington’s strategy that the very possibility that a natural disaster could destroy flight operations even in peacetime necessitates an alternative in the region.

While Guam is not as threatened by enemy attack as the US military bases in Japan and South Korea, Guam is able to continue operating with ballistic missiles in the face of an increasingly capable and far-reaching Chinese attack, the best case scenario is very questionable and an alternative to the Using other airfields nearby and in the distance is absolutely critical to sustained war effort.

Wake Island Airfield, located 1,500 miles east of Guam, is the largest facility of its kind that could serve to continue flight operations. However, given the remoteness of this base, it would have more of a rearguard role to have reinforcements from the continental United States and organize air power as the conflict intensifies, not just in dealing with undermined air power in Guam in the early stages of a theoretical attack. This is where an alternate base on the aforementioned Tinian Island comes into play.

Although the Pentagon is not starting from scratch, the Americans built several aviation facilities on this island, on which an airfield was already in use by the Japanese, after the Marines occupied the island in the summer of 1944. After the end of the Second World War, the large parallel runways, platforms and support structures of the airfield in the north of the island were no longer used and were mostly in poor condition. However, it remained a strict airfield, used only for training tactical transports like the C -130 Hercules. In recent years the airfield has been partially rehabilitated to carry out operational exercises, but the facility is unable to accommodate fighter jets, bombers or large support aircraft, as is common at the relatively nearby AFB Andersen.

There is also another airfield in the central part of the island, the current Tinian Airport, also known for being called “West Field” during World War II, and although it is too small, it can accommodate fighter jets. Small groups of fighter-bombers have been used occasionally at this facility, particularly by the Marines who have used their F / A-18C / D hornets multiple times. The Air Force or USAF (United States Air Force) has also recently sent some F-15 Eagles to the airfield for deployment and distribution. However, it was found again that this small airport lacks the infrastructure to keep military aircraft operating for an extended period of time. Under the circumstances, the United States will build a complete alternative operations facility on Tinian.

It will be able to accept deviating aircraft formations and even start combat operations if AFB Andersen is decommissioned, even if this is temporary. This new AFB will make further improvements to the island and its infrastructure necessary to accommodate aircraft formations and their means of supporting transit, and even launch an extended aerial campaign. As far as is known, the initiative will focus on expanding the aforementioned airport, the use of which has been reserved by the Pentagon after signing a 40-year lease with Tinian civil authorities, which was signed in 2019. The runway and platform will be expanded significantly and new facilities will also be built. Negotiations on the agreement have been brewing for years, but now the project to launch a large alternative airport to Andersen is officially progressing very quickly. (Julio Maz Sanz).

Photo: One of the Marines F / A-18D landed at West Field airfield during its first deployment in 2012. (USMC Photo)

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