Camp Bastion ‘fifth busiest UK airport’

The UK MoD claims that Camp Bastion Airfield in Helmand Province in Afghanistan is now the fifth-busiest UK-operated airport.

August 23: The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) claims that Camp Bastion Airfield, the main handling airfield for UK operations in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, is now the fifth-busiest UK-operated airport.

Figures released by the MoD show that Camp Bastion handled nearly 12,000 movements in July, compared with 16,000 at London Stansted, just above it in fourth place in the ‘league table’. London Heathrow tops the table with nearly 40,000 movements for July.

Camp Bastion’s record is remarkable for the swiftness of the build-up of the facility – just three years ago it was little more than a dirt strip with no more than three movements a week. On April 10, 2006 a two-man control team from the RAF Tactical Air Traffic Control Unit activated the dirt track landing strip with the first aircraft landing just 90 minutes later. Today it is a vital military hub, with combat operations, medical evacuations and logistics sustainment flights all operating around the clock, all controlled by the Royal Air Force’s 904 Expeditionary Air Wing from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

In late 2007 a concrete runway became operational, with movements rising to 5,000 a month by the end of 2008. Squadron Leader Steve Smith, Senior Air Traffic Control Officer at Camp Bastion, explained: “The air traffic control team are handling on average 400 aircraft movements per day – unlike UK airfields, Bastion Air Traffic Control has the challenge of dealing with large numbers of jets, helicopters and drones, all operating from different locations – a unique challenge.”

The airfield has been upgraded with a brand new, state-of-the-art, Mobile Visual Control Room and an airfield approach radar system. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has provided a precision approach radar to guide aircraft on to the runway in poor weather conditions.

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