Alaskan civil engineers build super structure

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Robert Orrill
  • 611th Civil Engineer Squadron
A team from the 611th Civil Engineer Squadron here deployed recently to the Indian Mountain Long Range Radar Station to construct a 2,500 square foot Super K-Span storage facility.

Indian Mountain is one of 18 remote Alaskan radar sites and is located several hundred miles west and slightly north of Fairbanks.

A group of 15 craftsmen worked 25 days to finish the project.

"It takes a team of dedicated professionals to accomplish projects like the Super K-Span at Indian Mountain," said Maj. Brian Pollock, 611th CES engineering operations flight commander. "We provided a needed storage facility to the site, and at the same time we got our new folks trained on a unique war-time contingency task."

K-Span buildings are huge, corrugated metal arch structures that are used as aircraft hangars, warehouses and industrial shops. The facility at Indian Mountain was specifically designed to withstand Alaska's harsh environment, specifically snow and wind.

"I designed this particular building to withstand winds in excess of 100 mph," said Steve Farmer, 611th CES project planner. "Sometimes we have to make an educated guess with the snow load. Historical weather data only dates back so far at most of these sites."

Like most remote Alaskan radar sites, access here is limited to C-130 Hercules, C-12 Hurons and small commercial aircraft. The runway is a gravel strip only 5,000 feet long and literally runs up the side of a small mountain.

Weather is always a factor when traveling to the radar sites.

"Sometimes it takes our folks three or four tries just to get to the job site," said Farmer.

In all, more than 3,000 line items of material weighing 60 tons was shipped to the site for this building.

"Detailed planning is critical to our operation," said Ron Lurk, 611th CES chief of operations. "I have some seasoned people working for me who know how to get things done. We planned it down to the last nut and bolt."

The amount of equipment and number of vehicles needed to build such a large facility are daunting.

"All of our vehicles and equipment are air transportable," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Lopez, an equipment operator. "The crane we used to build the K-Span was specially designed for transport on a C-130."

The heart of the Super K-Span building system is the Ultimate Building Machine 240.

"It's a high-tech metal fabrication system," said Farmer. "It takes about a day to set up and around four hours to calibrate." The UBM takes a four-ton roll of steel and forms it into a U-shaped panel. The sections are lifted into place using a crane and then seamed to adjacent sections. Once all the sections are connected, the end walls are attached.

Next, an overhead door and two personnel doors are installed. Cement is poured to lock the base to the foundation. Finally, a complete electrical service with lighting gives it a finishing touch.