US military builds largest clear-span building in Middle East – a helicopter hangar

US military builds largest clear-span building in Middle East – a helicopter hangar

5-Aug-2010 Source: US Forces, Iraq

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region District (GRD) is managing the construction of the largest clear-span building in the Middle East, here at Taji Air Force Base.

This MI-17 helicopter hangar spans 76 meters long (more than 240 ft.) without any intermediate supports and stands at 15 meters tall (50 ft.). It will house six MI-17 maintenance bays with back shops and office space to accommodate 1st and 2nd line maintenance and management functions of a central aircraft maintenance organization.

In the 80s, following the Iraq-Iran war, the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) grew to be one of the largest air forces in the Middle East. In the 90’s the Persian Gulf War took its toll on the IqAF leaving the Iraqi government struggling to bring it under control, and in 2003, with the invasion of Iraq, the IqAF completely collapsed. Today, the United States and the USACE continue to assist Iraq in bringing the IqAF up to standards.

In addition to the aircraft hangar, the Corps is also managing the construction of an air traffic control tower, a bulk fuel station and a squadron operations building that will contain an MI-17 simulator, all located at Taji Air Force Base.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Charles Dossett, the project engineer here, says these four Corps projects, totaling $21 million, are providing the essential training, operational and maintenance functions needed to make the IqAF base fully-functional.

“The goal is to provide the Iraqi Air Force with a fully operational air field here at Taji,” Dossett says. “Each of these facilities will enable the Iraqi Air Force to conduct full scale rotary missions, maintenance, and training for their squadron.”

Currently, the IqAF here is working out of a very small hangar that can only fit one helicopter at a time. All additional critical maintenance is being conducted on the tarmac which can be a hindrance due to the amount of aircraft the IqAF has at the air base here.

According to Dossett, there are approximately 20 MI-17 and 20 Huey helicopters at Taji and the IqAF is expected to receive more in the future, making this project even more critical to the rebuilding and re-strengthening of the Iraqi Security Forces.  The six-bay hangar will provide the space needed for the IqAF to conduct all its maintenance in proper working conditions.

Additionally, the current air traffic control tower stands only seven meters tall (23 ft.)  and is fitted with outdated equipment.  Once the new hangar is built, the line of sight of the old air traffic tower will be blocked, making the tower ineffective.

“Standing at 15 meters tall, the MI-17 hangar is so large and tall, the air traffic controllers will have 40 percent of their line of sight blocked once it is completed, thus the need for the new tower,” Dossett said. “Once the new tower is completed, it will stand 30 meters tall and will provide the IqAF with a state-of-the-art facility and 100 percent line of sight so the controllers will be unhindered.”

Building the Middle East’s largest clear-span building has met with minor complications, as design issues and the need for a special, extra-long truss to span the hangar have delayed completion slightly.  The project is expected to be completed in October, with three other support facilities planned to open in the beginning of 2011.

“It took a while to get the designs right, but I firmly believe we are providing the IqAF a top-notch facility,” Dossett said. “We always do everything we can to get our projects completed on time and in budget, that’s the best situation; unfortunately, though, unexpected situations arise and we just have to adjust to those situations and keep on moving forward to get the project complete. But, we will be here to ensure that the project is seen through to completion and is built to the same quality standards that we would build in the U.S.”

Now that the project is off the ground and work is progressing like it’s supposed to, Dossett says that he couldn’t be more pleased with the quality of work being done.

“The project couldn’t have been accomplished without people like our quality assurance representative Allan Nelson who mentors the contractors and ensures that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “This is a large project and in order to make it happen it’s critical that we have quality workers on site. The Corps doesn’t want to put its name next to something that we wouldn’t be proud to stand by.”

The contractor for the MI-17 hangar, air traffic control tower and squadron operations building is Almco Limited.  The contractor for the bulk fuel station is Middle East Engineering.

The Gulf Region District was activated July 7, 2009 as the enduring district following the deactivation of the Gulf Region North, Central and South Districts. With the responsible drawdown of troops in Iraq, GRD will close its doors around the end of 2011.

Note: LaDonna Davis is a public affairs specialist with the Gulf Region District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iraq. For more information, contact LaDonna Davis at (540) 678-2963 or e-mail requests to For more information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, visit

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