PACAF: Francisco Showed Need for Northern Marianas Infrastructure

Super Typhoon Francisco didn’t hit Andersen AFB, Guam, last week with all of its fury. But the passing storm did once again highlight why the Air Force is looking to invest “substantial resources” in a location in the Northern Marianas Islands, north of Guam, where it could temporarily move aircraft from Andersen to avoid a tempest’s wrath, said Pacific Air Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Aaron Burgstein. Rapid escalation of typhoons in the region “stresses” the command’s “distant divert locations” like Alaska and Hawaii and thus requires “detailed coordination” to secure a suitable divert airfield, he told the Daily Report. That’s why finding a closer site to evacuate Andersen’s larger aircraft is desired, he said. In preparation for Francisco last week, airmen secured RQ-4 Global Hawks in Andersen’s hangars—as were Navy helicopters—while they loaded the B-52s and KC-135s currently operating from the base with fuel and secured them on the flight line to ride out the storm, said Burgstein. “The large aircraft were not evacuated because Francisco’s closest point of approach was not projected to hit Andersen with typhoon-strength winds,” he said. By Oct. 19, Andersen had returned to its lowest level of storm readiness, he said.