The Ramstein Air Force Base is a US Air Force (USAF) air base and a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) installation in the Kaiserslautern district, the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rheinland-Palatinate) in Germany. Ramstein is also the headquarters for the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE).
The air base is part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), the largest US community with armed personnel, Department of Defence (DoD) civilians, contractors and their families residing outside the US. The KMC houses about 47,000 (2008 figure) US citizens, including army and USAF service members, and dependants.
The base was designed by French engineers and constructed by Germans. The operation of the base by the US retains its tradition of international collaboration from the time its operations began in 1953.
Ramstein air force base history
The construction of the 3,000-acre Ramstein air force base near Kaiserslautern began in 1951 by French and German firms under Franco-American reciprocal agreement provisions. The Ramstein air base was built as two separate bases – the Ramstein and Landstuhl – and was completed by 1953.
Landstuhl was the operational fighter base with hangars, runways, ramps and air traffic control tower and related facilities. The Ramstein base was used as the headquarters of the NATO and the Twelfth Air Force. It had facilities to support family housing, commissary, base exchange (BX), schools and administration offices.
In 1957, however, the two bases were combined to form the largest NATO-controlled air base in Europe, known as the Ramstein-Landstuhl air base. It was renamed in 1958.
The Ramstein base was home to the 86th Fighter Interceptor Wing in 1954. The wing was later transferred to the Zweibrucken air base in Germany. In 1973, it returned to Ramstein as the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing (F-4 Phantom II) and became the division’s flight operations arm in 1985. A new 377 Combat Support Wing, also activated in 1985, was responsible for the administrative and logistic operations on the base. The 316th Air Division, activated as the centralising authority at Ramstein in 1985, was deactivated in 1991.
The 86th Tactical Fighter Wing deployed components to the Middle East during the 1990 Gulf War and performed operations until 1994. In October 1994, the wing was redesignated as the 86th Airlift Wing.
The headquarters of the USAFE was moved from the Wiesbaden air base to Ramstein by March 1973. USAFE started the expansion of the base as it became the largest American community outside the US.
Ramstein was designed as a NATO command base from the time of its inception. NATO operated an underground combat operations centre, called the Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) or Kindsbach Cave, in Kindsbach near Ramstein during the Cold War (1947–91).
Ramstein air force base design and construction
During 2004-6, the Ramstein air base underwent expansion and included the construction of a new passenger terminal, runway and taxiways, and two aircraft parking ramps. The expansion was part of $465m Rhein-Main Transition Programme, which started in December 1999. In December 2005, the Rhein-Main air base was closed for executing the programme and 70% of its operations were transferred to the Ramstein air base and 30% to the Spangdahlem air base.
A new Kaiserslautern Military Community Centre (KMCC) was constructed adjacent to the Ramstein air base’s main runway. It was built in three phases and opened in September 2009. The KMCC includes a 350-room, eight-story hotel and visitors’ quarters, sports lounge, movie theatres, restaurants, shopping spaces and a rooftop patio.
The Ramstein air base is home to the NATO Allied Air Component Command Headquarters (CC-Air HQ Ramstein). The 86th Airlift Wing is the host unit of the base. Commander of the wing also serves as the commander of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC).
The missions of the 86th Airlift Wing include airlift, airfield and aeromedical operations by operating C-130J, C-40B, C-37, C-21 and C-20H aircraft. Its operations also include providing expeditionary combat support and rapid mobility for military operations throughout the KMC.
The residents of Ramstein air base also include the 17th Air Force (US Air Forces Africa); Third Air Force (3 AF) headquarters; the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, USAFE’s first wing – supporting the battlefield airmen; and the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing – providing command and control, air transportation services and route maintenance support for strategic air mobility missions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The garrison also includes the 21st Theater Sustainment Command of US Army.
Ramstein air facilities
The Ramstein air base has two runways that are surfaced with asphalt – 09/27 of 2,347m and 08/26 of 2,195m. The base has hangars, ramps, an air traffic control tower and other air facilities. A C-130 J model hangar was constructed for new aircraft in 2008.
Air base protection / security
In May 2010, the USAF called for bidders to provide security at the Air Mobility Command’s passenger terminal at the Ramstein air base. The company will screen about 750 military and dependant travellers every day and will also be responsible for 24/7 monitoring of the alarm room, access control and surveillance. The current contractor for security at Ramstein is Pond Security Services.
Ramstein base technology
In January 2010, a $9.1m, three-year contract was awarded to Rockwell Collins for providing the field service support and maintenance of satellite communications teleport at the air base. The teleport is a hub of the Defence Information Systems Agency (DISA) and provides military communications.
Other air force base facilities
The facilities at the Ramstein air force base include a BX, post exchange (PX), restaurants, libraries, entertainment and recreation, banking and the largest AAFES shopping centre in Europe. The Department of Defence Dependent Schools (DoDDS) operates 11 schools in the KMC. Other educational facilities include five colleges and universities.
Ramstein has many recreational facilities, health and wellness centre, two fitness centres, an Aero Club, an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools and a skate park. The base also has NCO and Officer’s Clubs.
A new dormitory complex is being constructed at the base with 128 rooms and is scheduled for completion in April 2011. Works at the base also include the construction of new base housings at Vogelweh Air Station and Housing Area 7 North, and a joint mobility processing centre to support the military facilities. The USAFE logistics building is also undergoing interior renovations.