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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Büchel airbase of the Luftwaffe, Germany.
The former Hahn Air Base, Germany.

An airbase (sometimes referred to correctly as an airfield, military airport, or Royal Air Force Station or Air Force Station) is a military airfield that provides basing and support of military aircraft.

They are different from civilian airports in that they do not provide for large volume of passenger transits, and cargo handling is not processed by the customs and immigration facilities. Some military air forces combine use of civilian airports with the hosting of military units.

However, military aircraft usually use substantially different support equipment, and require facilities sufficiently isolated from civilian operations due to issues of aviation safety involving the weapon ordnance they use.


Organization of an airfield

While some airfields provide facilities very like civilian airports, for example RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England which has a terminal which caters for passengers for the Royal Air Force's scheduled flights, e.g., the TriStar to the Falkland Islands, most do not. Most military airfields are located remotely from populated areas due to the ever-present potential of in-flight accidents that may cause a crash and significant infliction of damage and casualties on civilian population.

However, due to growth of urban centres, many military airfields built during the Second World War are now located on the outskirts of large cities, and lack of required remoteness has cause constraints on flight operations to be introduced due to the noise pollution generated by the operation of military aircraft, such as night flying restrictions.

The airbase operation is generally organised around its operational areas divided into the air command operations, air traffic control operations which are either towered or non-towered based, runways, taxiways, and ramps used in military operations to dislocate troops to be airlifted, or to stockpile cargo for loading. Refuelling is conducted in the pre-flight and inspection area.

More substantial maintenance and repair is conducted in the squadron maintenance operations, usually in or close to their squadron hangars which are usually Hardened Aircraft Shelters to protect individual aircraft from air strikes. Maintenance is also carried out in the intermediate maintenance operations or the depot maintenance operations areas, the latter usually concerned with more substantial structural work such as changing an engine, crash repair, or field upgrades. A large part of the airbase surface is devoted to the maneuvering area used by aircraft to move around the different areas as they return from an air mission or prepare for one.


Station Security

Military flight operations often require a higher level of airbase security, and in recent years, many countries have adopted higher levels of security due to threats of terrorist attacks. This security in wartime is augmented by basing of air defence systems and their units, usually on the periphery of the airbase, which use anti-aircraft weapons such as surface-to-air missiles and their fire control radars, to protect from air attack. Other units located at the military airbase may be runway repair troops.

Some airfields are built underground, such as Željava Air Base in the border of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

National airfield

United Kingdom

In the UK of GB, the Royal Air Force (RAF) simply call their stations Royal Air Force Stations, followed by the station name. This is often abbreviated into "RAF" - then the name, such as RAF Marham. They are generally named after the closest railway station (because historically, in the early days of the RAF, rail travel was the only means of transport available to service personnel), although there are exceptions.

For example, the former RAF Coltishall should have been named "RAF Buxton" after the small local rail station, but this would have caused confusion with the larger town of Buxton in Derbyshire, and was therefore named after the nearest village. Many RAF stations have long since lost their local railway station. (Thanks to Dr Beeching)

For those RAF stations without any rail head, they were simply named after either the local village, or used the name of the relevant building which they resided in, such as RAF Bentley Priory, or country RAF Belize. There is no difference in nomenclature for non-flying RAF Stations, and overseas RAF stations have followed the same principles.

The aviation division of the Royal Navy (RN), the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) generally follow the same principles of naming as the RAF, but are instead prefixed with Royal Naval Air Station, or RNAS for short, such as RNAS Yeovilton. However, in maintaining the maritime link, all Royal Naval Air Stations are additionally named in the same manner as the Navy's ships - in Yeoviltons' instance, it is also called HMS Heron.

For the British Army aviators, the Army Air Corps, they have previously used the term "Airfield", preceded by the local name, for example Wattisham Airfield. However, as the majority of current Army airfields are actually ex RAF stations, they now follow the same nomenclature methods as the RAF and RN, and precede the locality name with "Army Air Corps" (often abbreviated to AAC). For example, the former RAF Station Middle Wallop is now AAC Middle Wallop. Unfortunately, some AAC airfields may also be known by the Garrison name!

The British Coast Guard, Her Majesty's Coastguard, generally do not have their own dedicated airfields. Most Coast Guard aircraft are usually operated from a "host" airfield, which may be either military or civil.

United States

Lajes Airbase in the Azores islands, Portugal.

The United States Air Force, and its components (Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard) call their bases Air Force Bases, Air Reserve Bases, or Air National Guard Bases; most of them are named after a person of military or governmental significance (e.g., Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan; Edwards Air Force Base, California; General Mitchell Air Reserve Base, Wisconsin).

Those with very little or no flight activity are called Air Force Stations (e.g., Jackson Barracks Air Guard Station, Louisiana; Onizuka Air Force Station, California).

Air Force Bases located in other countries are called Air Bases, and are usually named after the city or region where they're located (e.g., Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany).

The United States Army calls its air bases Army Airfields, and, like the Air Force, names most of them after a military figure (e.g., Polk Army Airfield, Louisiana; Biggs Army Airfield, TX).

The United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard call their air bases Air Stations and generally name them after the area where they're located (e.g., Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida; Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, North Carolina; Kodiak Coast Guard Air Station, Alaska).

Road airbase

Road airbases are highways constructed to double as auxiliary airbases in the event of war. Nations known to utilise this strategy are Sweden [1] (vägbas, literally meaning "road base"), Finland (maantietukikohta), Germany (NLP-Str - Notlandeplätze auf Straßen, emergency airfields on roads) and Poland (DOL - Drogowy Odcinek Lotniskowy, lit. "road airfield section"). In the case of Finnish road airbases, the space needed for landing aircraft is reduced by means of a wire, similar to the CATOBAR system used on some aircraft carriers.[2]

Aircraft carrier

See also: Unsinkable aircraft carrier

An aircraft carrier is a type of naval ship which serves as a seaborne airbase, the development of which has greatly enhanced the capabilities of modern air forces. They are now a key part of the military, allowing for military aircraft to be staged much nearer the theatre of conflict. Aircraft carriers were vital in the United States during the Battle of Midway in 1942 and in the United Kingdom securing victory in the 1982 Falklands War. A recent example of their use is the Iraq war.

See also


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