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(Taichung, May 3; Chou, Sheng-Wei, Military News Agency)
The Air Force Command is always looking to improve the capability to repair airfield runway rapidly and this year the training exercise of “airfield runway and taxiway repairs” was carried out at Qingcuangang Air Force Base by introducing how the US Air Force do in their training exercises. The idea is to improve air force ground crew in their ability to repair battled-damaged airfield runway through lectures, hands-on practice and real-life scenario training, hoping they will perform the jobs smoothly in the time of war. In this training exercise, the Air Force Command deployed seed trainers from the “2013 airfield runway repair training program” in the US and lieutenant colonel Tsai, Che-Hsuan, who visited the US for the exercises in this practice, was there to “share his experience.” The exercise consisted of “wargaming,” “damage survey,” “crater repair,” “MOS marking” and “repair kit installation” to improve ground crew’s response and proficiency.
The idea of “emulation” in the US exercise was adopted in this exercise. Army bomb squad was brought in to set and detonate 40 pounds of TNT to create a crater to simulate battle damage in airfield runway and taxiway. The participating crew stayed 420m away to experience the power of explosion at a safe distance. As countdown came to the end, the explosion shot debris 3 stories high into the air and everyone was impressed by the awesome power of TNT. This crater was different from the ones they used to dig with excavator. Led by the instructors, training crew went down to the bottom of the crater for a survey. On the way to the crater, they saw rubbles in all sizes scattered on the ground. The crew had to remove the debris with steamroller, sweeping truck and bulldozer with full personnel FO.
Divided into groups, the crew started survey with level and yardstick and map out the extent of damage. The jobs consisted of “measurement of lips along the edge of crater,” “fiber glass repair kit installation” and “crater refill and compacting.” An MOS (minimum operating strip) of 5,000ft long and 50ft wide had to be built in the shortest possible time to allow planes to take off and land for the preservation of the combat energy of the Air Force. Lieutenant colonel Tsai said that how quickly a damaged runway is repaired back to operational depends on the proficiency of the crew. Therefore, by adopting the runway and taxiway repair experience of the US military, the SOP and practice of the Air Force runway and taxiway repair were modified and unified. It is now required to repair a crater in 2.5 hours as opposed to 4 hours to repair one or two large bomb craters in the past.
“It all comes down to speed to repair a damaged runway when war comes.” Sergeant Chan, Tzi-Yi, who was one of the instructors in this exercise, remembered the experience of repairing airstrip shared by a USAF sergeant who had real combat experience in Afghanistan when he was trained in 2013. When the MOS was being marked, the US personnel just placed the cones that measured distance in place very quickly by adopting the idea of “one step equal to 2.5 feet” as opposed to the checks and double-checks during training, and the centerline of the runway was established in literally minutes. Sergeant Chan was impressed by the idea of racing against clock.