North Auxiliary Airfield North, South Carolina –
Team Charleston marked the completion of runway repairs to the 3,500-foot runway, known as the assault landing zone (ALZ) at North Auxiliary Airfield in North, South Carolina, Dec. 8.
North Auxiliary Airfield, a training facility geographically separated from Joint Base Charleston, is used for various types of flight training.
“What’s crucial about Northfield is we train there every day and night,” said Nathaniel Watts, 437th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager. “Northfield is strictly for training. We drop cargo and have a landing zone to simulate being down range.”
The ALZ, originally constructed of asphalt, had been deteriorating. The crumbling pavement created an increased risk of foreign-object damage necessitating repairs. Approximately 21,000 tons of asphalt from the old runway was repurposed as the foundation below the new concrete.
“Concrete is much stronger and will provide an improved platform for the C-17s to train on,” Rob Crossland, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron base pavements engineer. “The original landing zone was asphalt and over time the two layers of asphalt separated, deteriorated and began creating a foreign-object damage risk.”
The construction project also included adding 66,000 linear feet of wire, a new runway lighting system and more than 36,000 square yards of asphalt shoulder to the landing zone.
Assault landing training prepares pilots for real challenges. The 3,500-foot runway is used to train pilots to land in austere locations with unfinished or shorter runways.
“Imagine we are in a warzone somewhere and there are limited resources available to build a runway,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Caleb Morris, 14th Airlift Squadron pilot. “Say the Army needs troops, equipment or a tank immediately and in a very small space. They can give us a call here at Charleston.”
Assault landings require the aircraft to touch down on the runway within 500 feet and come to a complete stop on the remaining 3,000 feet. The purpose is to land in a small zone quickly.
“In the real world we want to have the skills and the confidence to land the aircraft, with any cargo, in a very small, precise space,” said Morris. “That is why we practice.”
Having the ALZ provides JB Charleston pilots the opportunity to train on a realistically sized runway. The training can be simulated on a full-size runway by marking the abridged distance with chalk but Morris said it isn’t quite the same as landing on an authentic 3,500-foot runway.
"This runway is vital to our training and we're excited to have our assault strip fully operational again," said U.S. Air Force Col. Jimmy Canlas, 437th Airlift Wing commander. "Thank you to everybody who was a part of the repair project, in particular the 628th Contracting Squadron and the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron. Their work was instrumental in getting the work completed ahead of schedule and the assault strip looks better than ever! The assets here at North Auxiliary Airfield are an essential part of keeping our aircrews ready to provide safe, precise, and reliable rapid global mobility in a moment's notice."