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Last updateFri, 18 Aug 2017 12am

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    Wednesday, August 16, 2017-6:54:12A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Saipan is military’s choice for divert airfield

THE commonwealth government says Tinian should be the site of the proposed Pacific Air Forces Divert Field, but Saipan is the better alternative from the perspective of the United States military.

Rear Adm. Tilghman D. Payne, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, and Commander Joint Region Marianas, speaking at a meeting of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce yesterday said that the Air Force considers Saipan a more attractive and better option for the divert field compared to Tinian.

Tilghman Payne

He said the military’s presence on Saipan won’t interrupt commercial flights bringing tourists here because the Air Force will not conduct training all year round.

The Air Force plans to use the facility from four to eight weeks a year, he added.

“Military training doesn’t take priority over commercial traffic, and we can alleviate that to solve that problem but then again we need to understand your concerns,” Payne said.

The infrastructure on Saipan, he added, is much more advanced than on Tinian and for the Air Force — Saipan is attractive because it will cost the Air Force less.

He said the military will build parking space for KC 135 tankers as well as fuel tanks, storage and other infrastructure needed at the airport that will be available to the Commonwealth Ports Authority during the rest of the year when the military is not using them.

Payne said on Tinian, the military would still have to improve the harbor so they could bring in fuel. They would also have to build fuel storage tanks at the harbor and at the airport and they would have to improve the runway, he added.

“There are lots of other things that make Tinian a less attractive option,” Payne said.

If the divert field is located on Saipan, the estimated cost will be about $29 million and improvements can still include Tinian, he added.

Payne said the Record of Decision for the Pacific Air Forces Divert Field is expected to be out early next year.

It states that Saipan is the better option but “the book is not yet closed,” he said.

“We are still working through consultations now, and we need to hear from the people. We want to know your concerns. We need collaboration, communication and openness. Let’s sit down and have a discussion to come up with a win-win solution for everybody.”