Building a new airfield

Discussions on WW2 in the Pacific and the Sino-Japanese War.
Fatboy Coxy
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Building a new airfield

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 01 Aug 2019 22:22

Hi All

In the past I've read of airbases being built in the UK, around 1940-43 as taking anything up to a year to complete, but when I read of air warfare in the South-East Asia or the Pacific, it seems airfields were constructed a lot quicker. I get that by 1943, the SeeBee's, who were well equipped with mechanised machinery, and the Marston Map, could be quick, and maybe weather and terrain were an advantage for them. However, earlier, both the British and Japanese seemed to be able to knock out an airfield in a couple of months, admittedly grass, but this still seems quite impressive. And again in the Guadalcanal campaign, airfields seem to come on line pretty quick too. Now the fighters could operate of grass, but how well did the twin engine bombers operated off it, and the heavy American bombers, Fortresses and Liberators, surely must have operated off concreate?

And the second part to that is, its not just a runway, but maintenance sheds, dispersal areas, pens and just general accommodation for everyone had to be provided too. The servicing of engines, repair of airframes, the storage of fuel and ammo, food, water, and general supplies all took organising and maintaining. Is there a difference in time builds?

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Kingfish
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Kingfish » 02 Aug 2019 15:25

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
01 Aug 2019 22:22
And again in the Guadalcanal campaign, airfields seem to come on line pretty quick too.
At Guadacanal the Japanese benefited from starting off with a relatively flat and clear field from which to carve out an airstrip, but it was not quite "on line" when the Marines landed on August 7th. It would take them a further 10 days before the field was ready for the 1st Marine air wing.
Now the fighters could operate of grass, but how well did the twin engine bombers operated off it, and the heavy American bombers, Fortresses and Liberators, surely must have operated off concreate?
B-17s used Henderson field when it was covered with airfield matting. What restricted their use was not the condition of the runways and taxiways so much as was the limited bomb handling and refueling capabilities. Of course, the almost nightly lobbing of 14", 8" and 6" HE shells from the IJN certainly contributed to their limited deployment.
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Larry D.
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Larry D. » 04 Aug 2019 12:53

From 1943 to the end of the war, the Russians built thousands of "operational airfields" (Feldflugplatz in German, field airstrips in Allied terminology). These consisted of a rolled 1000 x 80 meter runway, taxiways, 20 to 30 blast bays for parking aircraft, a few prefabricated sheds and bunkers. All of this was accomplished in 1 to 5 days, depending on the weather and the amount of equipment that could be brought to bare. The tenant units provided their own accommodations, i.e., tents.

fwiw,

L.

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Takao
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Takao » 09 Aug 2019 17:30

It mostly depends on what the strip would be used for.

Bomber bases in Britain required concrete 6-8 inches thick. Grass fighter bases could be constructed in considerably less time.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Aug 2019 08:21

Corsica was occupied by the Allies in November 1943. In January 1944, aprox 60 days later a bit over 1000 Allied bombers and fighters were operating off the former Axis and new Allied air fields.

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Kingfish
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Kingfish » 11 Aug 2019 12:37

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
10 Aug 2019 08:21
Corsica was occupied by the Allies in November 1943. In January 1944, aprox 60 days later a bit over 1000 Allied bombers and fighters were operating off the former Axis and new Allied air fields.
Another point in favor of a Sicily /Sardinia /Corsica line of advance
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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 12 Aug 2019 19:19

Kingfish wrote:
11 Aug 2019 12:37
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
10 Aug 2019 08:21
Corsica was occupied by the Allies in November 1943. In January 1944, aprox 60 days later a bit over 1000 Allied bombers and fighters were operating off the former Axis and new Allied air fields.
Another point in favor of a Sicily /Sardinia /Corsica line of advance
Unlike the southern Italian airfield Cosrsica placed France & Austria in range of the Allied medium bombers. Supplementing the heavy bomber wings and adding to the weight targeting the interdiction and industrial targets in those regions.

LineDoggie
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by LineDoggie » 12 Aug 2019 20:29

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
01 Aug 2019 22:22
Hi All

In the past I've read of airbases being built in the UK, around 1940-43 as taking anything up to a year to complete, but when I read of air warfare in the South-East Asia or the Pacific, it seems airfields were constructed a lot quicker. I get that by 1943, the SeeBee's, who were well equipped with mechanised machinery, and the Marston Map, could be quick, and maybe weather and terrain were an advantage for them. However, earlier, both the British and Japanese seemed to be able to knock out an airfield in a couple of months, admittedly grass, but this still seems quite impressive. And again in the Guadalcanal campaign, airfields seem to come on line pretty quick too. Now the fighters could operate of grass, but how well did the twin engine bombers operated off it, and the heavy American bombers, Fortresses and Liberators, surely must have operated off concreate?

And the second part to that is, its not just a runway, but maintenance sheds, dispersal areas, pens and just general accommodation for everyone had to be provided too. The servicing of engines, repair of airframes, the storage of fuel and ammo, food, water, and general supplies all took organising and maintaining. Is there a difference in time builds?
Not just USN Seabees, the USAAF had 51 battalions of Engineer Aviation Battalions that could even be glider landed with Mini Dozers

https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit ... e-tractor/
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Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 21 Aug 2019 17:58

Thanks guys

LineDoggie, your link was interesting, Broadway, a 5000ft landing strip built in 24 hours!

I guess I'd have to differentiate between light and heavy aircraft, the heavy ones needing steel matting at the very least, or concrete, while single engined aircraft could manage on grass. And also on whether they were temporary landing strips, or permanent air stations.

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 07 Oct 2019 05:11

Pre-war and early war, the cheaper runway would be the grass one, and I assume the quickest, however having cleared and levelled the ground, provided drainage etc, we have to provide the grass. Did they sow seed, or turf it, and how soon before doing this could it take the heavy traffic of aircraft landings?

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Fatboy Coxy

Tomg44
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Re: Building a new airfield

Post by Tomg44 » 11 Oct 2019 10:58

There is some information here on building airstrips in Europe - Page 17 +.
https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documents/ ... nal-51.pdf
There is plenty of film on youtube showing their construction in all theatres - search "Building Airfields WW2". The equipment and techniques seem to have been universal.

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