The US Air Force (USAF) has selected Tinian as the preferred alternative for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) divert activities and exercises initiative.
The initiative is aimed at establishing additional divert capabilities to support training activities. It will also ensure the capability to meet mission requirements in the event access of limited or denied access in Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, or other western Pacific locations.
USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James said: "We believe this initiative will provide critical strategic operational and exercise capabilities for US forces and provide economic benefits to the local community."
The Tinian airport infrastructure will also be upgraded to support up to 12 tanker aircraft and associated support personnel for divert operations, as part of the initiative.
Pacific Air Forces commander General Lori Robinson said: "In addition to enhancing our national defence, the expansion of the airport on Tinian will enhance US Pacific Command’s disaster relief and humanitarian assistance capabilities in the region."
The USAF plans to undertake periodic exercises up to eight weeks per year at the Tinian airport.
USAF chief of staff general Mark Welsh said: "The divert initiative in CNMI will create the only divert airfield in the Western Pacific and provide the US Air Force the capability to conduct either temporary or sustained refuelling operations from an additional location in the region.
"It will also give us another location to use when supporting contingency or natural disaster responses in the region."
The USAF selected Saipan and the Hybrid options remain reasonable alternatives.
Upon completion of final environmental impact statement scheduled this spring, the USAF expects to decide on the final selection.