Ground broken on new hangar at DAFB

Dover Air Force Base officials and U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons join Col. Matthew Jones, 436th Airlift Wing commander, in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new fully enclosed hangar at the base on Friday. Upon completion, the hangar will allow maintenance work to take place away from bad weather on the C-5 Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster. (436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs/Mauricio Campino)

DOVER — It has been a project 20 years in the making, but Dover Air Force Base officials and local dignitaries finally broke ground Friday on a massive $41.2 million fully enclosed hangar that will allow maintenance on mammoth C-5 Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemasters during adverse weather conditions.

Col. Matthew Jones, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover, said the new hangar — scheduled to be completed in December 2021 — will improve efficiency of the air base’s global mission of air mobility.

“What makes this hangar unique is its ability to fully enclose the C-17 Globemaster or the C-5 Super Galaxy,” Col. Jones said, as rain fell on the north end of the base Friday morning. “I’ll highlight that this hangar is going to be a fuel cell hangar, which includes the increased standards of improved lighting, temperature control and ventilation.”

Fuel cell hangars are designed with special ventilation, allowing repairs to fuel intake systems. The hangar will have state-of-the-art fire, mechanical and electrical safety measures built in to ensure the safety of the individuals working on the aircraft.

“Why does this matter?” Col. Jones asked. “While we patiently waited during that time frame (for the hangar’s approval), our base lost over 7,800 hours, or 324 days, of mission capability. High winds in both hot- and cold-weather temperatures require that some projects can only be completed indoors. It’s easy for your local garage to do that, but Dover is home to (the Department of Defense’s) and America’s largest airplane.”

The colonel added, “(Friday’s) groundbreaking is more than just modernization, but truly equates to increased velocity, improved readiness and upgraded capability to our national security.”

Col. Matthew Jones, 436th Airlift Wing commander, speaks during Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a new hangar at Dover Air Force Base. The new hangar will service Dover AFB’s fleet of C-5 Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III jets. (436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs/Mauricio Campino)

The rain picked up as Friday’s ceremony went on. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said it was the perfect weather for such an event.

“I’ve been following the weather forecast for much of this week to see what kind of weather we’d end up with (Friday), and early on, they said, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and I thought, ‘Doggone it, that’s too bad.’

“But actually, it’s the perfect metaphor for why we’re building this hangar. There are a lot of days when we’d like to be working on C-5s and C-17s, and we can’t do it because of the wind, because of the rain, because of the snow, sleet, whatever. You lose time, and you lose readiness, and you lose mission capability.”

Planning for the fully enclosed hangar, which will be the fifth hangar to be built at DAFB, began in 2002, to increase the base’s hangar capabilities with a new single-bay, full-in, completely covered, fuel cell-capable aircraft maintenance facility for repairing both the C-5 and C-17.

Dover AFB already has two hangars capable of fully enclosing the C-5. However, one is fully committed to the C-5 isochronal inspection process and does not serve the fleet of C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The new hangar will serve both the C-5 and C-17, greatly reducing work hours lost due to weather restrictions.

“On average, we probably get 110 days when we experience work stoppages due to high winds or inclement weather,” said Maj. Brandon Ray, 436th Maintenance Squadron commander. “This new hangar gives us a more effective way to support the war fighter.”

The project is funded through the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District. The project was designed by Michael Baker and will be constructed by Archer-Western.

“I’d like to express what an honor it is to build a facility of such vital importance to the Air Force and the airlift mission here at Dover,” said Lt. Col. David Park of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The facility will be constructed on a 25-year life cycle prior to any major renovations being required and a 50-year (overall) life cycle.”

Lt. Col. Park noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a long history of working on construction projects at Dover Air Force Base.

“I was actually looking through the past history of some of our involvement, which dates back to 1940, when we received about $500,000 to build a new airport with two runways here at Dover,” he said. “Now, construction is a little bit more pricey these days, and somewhat more complex, however, a lot of things remain the same. For instance, it still takes a lot of collaboration and strong partnerships from a great team of dedicated professionals largely represented here.

“So, 80 years later, I could not be more proud to carry on the Army Corps’ tradition of supporting our partners here at Dover Air Force Base in the state of Delaware.”

Col. Jones said that of Dover’s hangars, the oldest was built in 1956 and the newest in 1983. The hangar being started now is the only active-duty airlift maintenance hangar under construction across Air Mobility Command.

“Since that wonderful year, 37 years ago, America’s premier airlift wing has generated air power from what you see today,” said Col. Jones. “It wasn’t until 2002 that Dover Air Force Base identified a new hangar as one of our shortfalls, and not until the calendar year 2010 that it became our base’s No. 1 military construction, or MILCON, priority.

“Today, this moment signifies a need 20 years in the making and our No. 1 priority for the past decade. I am personally grateful for the Air Force’s and the Air Mobility Command’s persistence in prioritizing this military construction and for our legislative branch for appropriating, reappropriating, reprogramming, even if above-threshold, to help us deliver this $42 million hangar.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said it was a monumental day for Dover Air Force Base.

“I cannot imagine a more perfect day for us to do the groundbreaking on this long-awaited, long-needed, fully enclosed hangar for Dover Air Force Base,” he said. “For 20 years, the tails of the largest aircraft in the entire inventory of the United States Air Force, the C-5, have been out in the rain, the wind, the snow and the cold.

“The men and women who service these great machines have been cut in their productivity because of a lack of a closed-in hangar.”

That is all set to change in late 2021.

Col. Jones said most modern hangars are often built to house new weapons systems, adding that “this hangar is the exception.”

“On behalf of all Team Dover, I am grateful that the investment is not always reserved for the new kid on the block, but today, the world’s reigning heavyweight champion of airlift,” he said.