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Updated December 22nd, 2023 at 20:45 IST

US plans to recommission Pacific airfield that was used to conduct atomic bombing against Japan

Amid the brewing tensions in the Pacific, the US Air Force is planning to reclaim the Pacific island airfield it used to launch atomic bombs against Japan.

US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping
US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping | Image:AP
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Amid the brewing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, reports are emerging that the US Air Force is planning to reclaim the Pacific island airfield it used to launch atomic bombs against Japan. During an interview with Nikkei Asia, Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of Pacific Air Forces said that Washington is planning to bring the island into commission with an aim to broaden its basing options to counter any hostilities from China. Wilsbach said that the North Airfield on the island of Tinian will become a strong facility once work is completed to remove the jungle that has grown over the base. The Airfield was last abandoned by the US Air Force units in 1946.

“If you pay attention in the next few months, you will see significant progress, especially at Tinian North,” Wilsbach told Nikkei Asia this week. He added that the US Air Force is constructing facilities at the Tinian International Airport which is located at the center of the airfield. It is important to note that Wilsbach did not give a timeline on when the airfield will be operational and the Pacific Air Forces are yet to give any sort of confirmation on this matter. 

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History of the Airfield

Tinian along with the islands of Saipan and Guam has a long history of the United States Air operations. After the island was captured by the United States from Japan. it became home to fleets of B-29 Superfortress bombers which were used to bombard the Japanese homeland. During this relentless bombing of Japan in 1945, the North Field on Tinian became the largest and busiest airport in the world. The North Field of the island registered its name in the history books after it was used by a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay which ultimately rolled down the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the incident that killed 70,000 people. 

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Three days later, another B-29 bomber named Bockscar, would take off from Tinian to ultimately drop an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Tinian is part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands which is a US territory in the Pacific, located some 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) west of Hawaii. While Wilsbach's claim is yet to be confirmed by Washington, the Air Force’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request showed that $78 million has been sought for construction projects on Tinian Island, CNN reported.  

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Published December 22nd, 2023 at 20:44 IST

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