News Article

IN PICTURES: New runway takes shape at Camp Bastion

An Estate and Environment news article

27 Jul 07

A small team of Royal Engineers is managing an ambitious ten month project to build a second runway at the Task Force Helmand logistics hub, Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.

Laying the runway

The top layer of runway is laid set and smoothed with careful precision
[Picture: Corporal Chris Hargreaves RLC]

The new 2,350 metre runway, due to be completed in December 2007, will enable the RAF's C-17 Globemaster aircraft to fly direct to Camp Bastion from the UK, greatly increasing the speed of the onward distribution of freight and supplies throughout the Province.

The C-17 Globemaster is the latest addition to the RAF's fleet of transport aircraft and is capable of rapid, strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main or forward operating bases anywhere in the world.

The new runway will replace the temporary gravel landing zone constructed by 39 Engineer Regiment in March 2007. Currently C-17 aircraft can only land at Kandahar Airfield because of the gravel runway at Camp Bastion, so Hercules C-130 aircraft are used to ferry freight between Kandahar to Camp Bastion. The Hercules C-130 aircraft will also benefit from the new runway as they will be able to carry more weight on landing – be it troops or supplies.

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"Building a runway which is 2,350 metres long and 28 metres wide, out here in the Afghan desert in just ten months, is quite a feat of engineering but we are working closely with the contractor to ensure the deadline is met. We will feel a real sense of joint achievement once it is completed."

Warrant Officer Class 2 Dave Markland


The construction project is being overseen by soldiers from 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) based at Waterbeach Barracks, Cambridge and 530 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Materials) based at Chilwell Barracks, Nottingham.

Military Plant Foreman, Warrant Officer Class 2 Dave Markland, is the supervising site officer who looks after the project's day to day running. WO Markland has vast experience of horizontal construction and was part of the original team who built the temporary landing zone:

"The creation of this new runway will benefit Camp Bastion quite tremendously," he said. "The C-17A has the capacity to transport larger items and increased amounts of supplies direct to Camp Bastion from the UK, reducing the burden on the C-130 and the overall logistics chain operating throughout Afghanistan."

Three Construction Material Technicians complete the team. Their primary task is to carry out quality assurance on the materials being used with the aid of a deployable laboratory. This is the first time such a laboratory has been deployed in an operational theatre and ensures that the products and materials used by the local contractor, Contrak, reach British industry standards and specification. Samples are taken and tested prior to and after being laid.

Cpl McGichen prepares concrete cube

Corporal Neil McGichen, aged 27, prepares a concrete cube for quality testing
[Picture: Corporal Chris Hargreaves RLC]


Where the sample fails to meet the required standard, the team brings it to the attention of the contractor and the identified section of runway is then lifted and replaced:

"On-site testing is carried out in the Construction Materials Technicians' lab, which has been devised specifically for mobile operations such as this," WO Markland continued. "It is quite remarkable, considering we are in such a harsh location, that we are able to utilise our own specialist testing capability."

Most of the materials have been manufactured and supplied locally and the majority of the workforce comes from western Afghanistan. Contrak even has its own concrete mixing plant to the north of Camp Bastion.

The Afghan labourers work through the night when temperatures are a lot cooler starting at about 2000 hours and finishing at 0500 hours the following morning. The contractors work fast – they have exactly 90 minutes from when the concrete leaves the mixing plant to seeing it lay set. Work on the new runway began in May 2007 and the project's progress is all the more impressive, considering the Camp's remote desert location.

WO Markland acknowledges that the December deadline for completion is a little tight:

"Building a runway which is 2,350 metres long and 28 metres wide, out here in the Afghan desert in just ten months, is quite a feat of engineering but we are working closely with the contractor to ensure the deadline is met. We will feel a real sense of joint achievement once it is completed."



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