Japan Engineer District recently completed a $36 million Landing Helicopter Dock military construction project at U.S. Marine Corps’ Ie Shima training area, providing a capability for the first time outside the continental United States.
LHD training is a USMC requirement for all vertical take-off and landing aircraft pilots prior to deployment throughout the world. Up to now in the Pacific, training occurred at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA constraining USMC forces forward deployed to Japan, South Korea and Australia to support contingency operations.
With foresight and understanding of the deployment of the F-35B, it was determined a LHD was needed forward in the Pacific to maximize and enhance pilot training and readiness without reducing capability and capacity by rotating crews to and from MCAS Miramar. The construction project was executed over a two and half year time period, constructing over 1.1 million square feet of training surface consisting of high temperature concrete, fiber concrete pavement, asphalt, landing light system for reduced visibility, and control tower replicating conditions of a LHD amphibious assault ship deck at the same time providing a safe training environment to certify VTOL pilots and crews.
Furthermore given the availability and location of the LHD, training can be expanded to incorporate interoperability scenarios increasing the proficiency of both those pilots and crews. During the construction, JED removed 17,406 inert training munitions from a post-World War II inert munitions training range formerly used to certify pilots deploying to the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam. The overall success of the project can be attributed to the strong partnerships of Marine Corp Installations Pacific, the professional and timely work of Nippo Construction, and the support of the Okinawa prefecture and Japanese governments.