Air traffic control tower construction project in full swing at Tinker

By Preston L. Chasteen, Tulsa District

Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer contractors place a portion of the newly erected air traffic control tower cab on top of the tower skeletal structure under construction at Tinker Air Force Base, July 13, 2018. The new, more modern 130 ft., tower will replace the old smaller 100 ft., tower that will be demolished once the new tower has been certified for functionality. Tinker is also home to the 507th Air Refueling Wing which currently flies KC-135’s aerial refueling aircraft and the 552nd Air Control Wing which flies the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft. (Released/Official U.S. Army Photo By: Kendrick Adams)

Construction of a new air traffic control tower takes shape on Tinker Air Force Base, as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District personnel work with Air Force partners to keep the project on track for completion in 2019.

In preparation for the project, Air Force Civil Engineering Center provided a scope of work to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, to construct a new 130 foot tower which will also include a 500 square foot air traffic control simulator facility. The new facility will be modern, efficient, and appropriately-sized to house system components directly supporting the mission.

Initial civil site layout on the tower began in January 2018, with the overall facility size established at 8,900 square feet upon completion.

Physical completion is expected to be early 2019. Once complete, the 85th Engineering Installation Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi will install all airfield communications, cable antenna, and translators needed to control aircraft approaching, departing, and transiting.

Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer contractors place a portion of the newly erected air traffic control tower cab on top of the tower skeletal structure under construction at Tinker Air Force Base, July 13, 2018. The new, more modern 130 ft., tower will replace the old smaller 100 ft., tower that will be demolished once the new tower has been certified for functionality. Tinker is also home to the 507th Air Refueling Wing which currently flies KC-135’s aerial refueling aircraft and the 552nd Air Control Wing which flies the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft. (Released/Official U.S. Army Photo By: Kendrick Adams)

“It’s exciting for the Corps to be able to build this control tower for Tinker Air Force Base. We had a lot of lessons learned on the Vance AFB tower and we were lucky to have some of the same personnel working on this project”, stated Kendrick Adams, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, project engineer, “This control tower will be the most modern structure possible and will closely resemble the tower that the Tulsa District recently completed at Vance AFB near Enid, OK.”

The new air traffic control tower will be equipped with a storm shelter which will be located on the 1st floor and may be of interest to many due to the fact Oklahoma sits in the heart of what is known as, “Tornado Alley.” The design meets sustainable requirements and provides for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “Silver” certification.

Final construction costs after executed modifications will be around $14.5M.

The existing air traffic control tower was designed and built in 1970 and provides less than 50 percent of the required space to support today’s mission. The tower cab, by today’s standards, is too small and cramped to accommodate all of the occupants. The old 100 foot tall tower and simulator building will be demolished after the new tower has been certified for functionality.

Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City employs more than 26,000 military and civilian personnel. The installation is the largest single-site employer in the state of Oklahoma with an annual statewide economic impact of $3.51 billion, creating an estimated 33,000 secondary jobs. The Air Force owns 4,048 acres, leases 810 acres and has 642 acres of easements with 458 total buildings.

The 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker provides base installation and support services for the headquarters, Air Force Sustainment Center, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and 45 associate units assigned to six major commands, including the largest flying wing in Air Combat Command.

Tinker is also home to the 507th Air Refueling Wing which currently flies KC-135’s aerial refueling aircraft and the 552nd Air Control Wing which flies the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft.

Tinker’s largest organization is the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex which houses depot maintenance for Air Force, Navy, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve aircraft.

This depot is the largest most expansive of three depot repair complexes in the Air Force Materiel Command and provides depot maintenance on the C/KC-135, B-1B, B-52 and E-3 aircraft, expanded phase maintenance on the Navy E-6 aircraft, as well as maintenance, repair and overhaul of F100, F101, F108, F110, F118, F119 and TF33 engines for the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Navy and foreign military sales.

Construction of KC-46A depot maintenance hangars underway at Tinker

After celebrating more than 60 years of KC-135 depot maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base the time has come to transition to the newest of the Air Force’s aerial refuelers.

In July 2016, the United States Air Force, alongside Oklahoma and Oklahoma City officials, formally broke ground on the Sustainment Campus for its incoming fleet of KC-46A Pegasus aircraft.

The Air Force ultimately intends to replace its fleet of aging KC-135 Stratotankers in a three-phased effort, beginning with the KC-46A Pegasus.

According to Boeing, the KC-46A aerial refueler boasts 62,000 lbs. of thrust with a wingspan of 156′ 1″, a165′ 10″ fuselage length, and height of 52′ 10″. Boasting 65,000 lbs. maximum cargo capacity the aircraft also has an impressive 212,299 fuel capacity.

Constructed on a Boeing 767 airframe, the Pegasus is taller, longer and has a larger wingspan than the 707-based airframe of the KC-135 Stratotanker. The larger, more sophisticated aircraft requires new hangars and facilities for depot maintenance.

In 2016, the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers embarked upon a multi-phase construction project to support the maintenance operations for the KC-46A at Tinker.

Construction is expected to run through fiscal year 2029, with final construction providing hangar space for 14 separate KC-46A aircraft.

“It’s a great opportunity to see an entire project build out all at once for a new platform having that complete campus as one progressive project being done phased throughout the fiscal years gives us a unique opportunity to build something from scratch,” said Isabelle Rico, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, resident engineer.

“Usually you’re trying to fit stuff in where you can and that has its drawbacks. Building in a consolidated area gives us synergy and gives us the opportunity to plan well and execute well. It’s nice to have a clean slate and it’s a faster, cleaner, more organized process,” added Rico.

As Rico puts it, “The sheer magnitude of the project brings something to the community from the standpoint of the labor it brings. I think anytime you bring a new platform to a community it adds to the surrounding economy.”

Currently construction is underway on one-bay and two-bay hangar facilities as well as a KC-46A systems integration laboratory.

Work on the one-bay maintenance dock began in September 2016, with an estimated completion date of February 2019.

Final cost on the single bay facility will be just under $35 million.

The two bay hangar currently under construction is scheduled to be completed in September 2019.

Total cost on this facility will be nearly $121 million.

The system integration laboratory is expected to have a total cost of more than $12 million and is projected to be completed in March 2019.