By Breanne Humphreys
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) —
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center has the greenlight to move forward with major construction work to support the beddown of a new aircraft and training mission at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
The Air Force signed a record of decision (ROD) recently after completing an environmental impact statement for major construction work to deliver the infrastructure needed to support the T-7A Red Hawk. The fifth-generation jet trainer will replace Air Education and Training Command‘s aging fleet of T-38 Talon fleet with advanced technology for the next generation of fighter and bomber pilots.
“The T-7 Red Hawk arrival at Randolph is part of a critical capability to provide an advanced training platform to U.S. Air Force student pilots. The instructors at Randolph will develop the aircraft and its ground training system to deliver the highest caliber pilots to fly, fight and win,” said Brig. Gen. Eric Carney, AETC director of Plans, Programs and Requirements.
The aircraft will be delivered to the 12th Flying Training Wing, which is responsible for four single-source aviation pipelines including Instructor Pilot Training.
The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a primary subordinate unit of AFIMSC, oversees environmental impact assessment processes to ensure Department of the Air Force projects comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.
The Environmental Impact Statement is the most stringent tier of NEPA impact analysis, said Nolan Swick, AFCEC NEPA division program manager.
“Bedding down a new mission, especially a new aircraft, is a large-scale project,” he said. “There’s usually significant construction work, so we look at impacts to all environmental resources, such as natural and cultural resources, we consult with our community partners and tribal nations, and we work with regulatory partners to find ways to support mission requirements and mitigate impacts to the environment.”
AFIMSC’s Detachment 7 and AFCEC’s environmental team are working with AETC to analyze potential impacts for five installations expected to host the new trainer and one depot location; JBSA was the first to complete an EIS for T-7A recapitalization. As publication, a draft EIS is underway at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; the team is in early planning stages at Laughlin AFB, Texas; as well as the future T-7A Depot at Hill AFB, Utah, and initial planning for Vance AFB, Oklahoma, and Sheppard AFB, Texas, is slated for 2023.
For JBSA, the approved ROD means AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate can move forward with plans to renovate 13 facilities and construct six new facilities to support 62 T-7A aircraft, the first of which are set to arrive at the installation in 2023.
The estimated cost for delivering T-7A infrastructure at JBSA over the next 5-10 years is $72 million.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District is scheduled to award the first three military construction projects over the next six to eight months, said Howard Steck, AFCEC project manager.
“We expect to award around $45 million in design and construction contracts over the next several months,” Steck said. “A project of this scale requires effective planning and solid teamwork — and we have both.”
AFIMSC is providing AETC with an enterprise view of Red Hawk training mission beddown requirements beyond JBSA. In February, AFIMSC’s Installation Support Directorate completed a capacity analysis of hangar spaces, aircraft maintenance operations and support facilities, base support services, real property data and facility category codes at Columbus and Laughlin AFBs. This information helps AETC and AFIMSC support teams ensure planning, programming, construction designs and cost estimates comply with authorized requirements.
Enterprise-wide, AFIMSC anticipates spending more than $562 million to deliver the infrastructure needed to support 350 aircraft.
“The work we’re doing today is transforming our installations for the next generation of air superiority,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Slominski, AFCEC built infrastructure executive director and chief of the facilities directorate. “We’re delivering design and construction solutions that optimize training capabilities, increase installation resiliency and give tomorrow’s Airmen and Guardians a competitive advantage against our adversaries.”