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NEWS | June 28, 2024

BAAF improvements benefit military, civilian operations

By Spc. Rhita Daniel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The Blackstone Army Airfield, co-located with Allan C. Perkinson Airport, has undergone significant enhancements over the past four years. Managed by Walter Tisdale, the airfield now hosts new facilities and improved infrastructure to support military and civilian operations. 

Since Tisdale took over as manager in 2020, Blackstone Army Airfield has seen several significant upgrades.

"Some of the new additions we've had at the airfield in the last four years include a new fire station, which has really enhanced our fire rescue capabilities," said Tisdale. "We also have a new Airfield Operations Building, a $1.3 million upgrade from our previous cramped facilities, which were essentially temporary World War II buildings."

The vertipad for Unmanned Aircraft Systems operations is a notable addition.

"We're the first in the United States to have an actual vertipad licensed by an entity, which is a big accomplishment for Virginia," Tisdale said.

These improvements will positively impact the local community and attract more Department of Defense use.

As the first licensed vertipad in the United States, the airfield is positioned as a UAS innovation and training leader. This strategic infrastructure development improves the operational capabilities of unmaned systems and attracts cutting-edge technology and research initiatives. The vertipad supports future-oriented defense strategies and civilian applications, making it a crucial asset in the evolving landscape of aerial technology.

"The airfield is part of the Assured Autonomous Mobility Initiative, which is focused on UAS operations involving military, civilian, academic, and corporate partners," Tisdale said. "This initiative aims to advance UAS operations, share knowledge, and attract high-tech training and projects to the airfield."

Shaver added, "Our goal is to position Blackstone Army Airfield as a leading hub for UAS operations in the United States. The new vertipad is just the beginning."

Tisdale also envisions the airfield becoming a leading hub for UAS operations in the United States.

"Having the first vertipad in the U.S. is important because it pushes us towards the future," he said. "We're also expanding our special use airspace with the FAA, which would allow higher altitude artillery training and attract more military units."

Another project, a runway overrun extension, completed with the help of the Department of Public Works and the Virginia Air National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, was initiated to increase aircraft safety further during landings.

Col. James C. Shaver Jr., the Fort Barfoot garrison commander, also highlighted these developments.

"The new fire station has been a game changer for us, significantly improving our fire rescue capabilities," Shaver said. "The new Airfield Operations Building provides much-needed space and facilities for our operations."

"The new fire station will improve fire rescue capability for all aircraft, including those from the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard," said Tisdale. "The new Airfield Operations Building provides a classroom, a VIP lounge, and flight planning areas, which are essential for the visiting units."

The improvements at Blackstone Army Airfield are designed to support various branches of the DoD.

"These enhancements mean better support for all military branches that utilize our facilities," he said. "Having a dedicated space for VIPs and flight planning is crucial for efficient operations."

The airfield upgrades also benefit the local community, according to Tisdale.

"As the airfield improves, our facilities improve, and that brings in more notoriety to Fort Barfoot," Tisdale said. "Units that come and have a good experience here will return, which helps the local community because they visit stores, restaurants, and sometimes stay in local lodging."

Shaver agreed. 

"The positive impact on the community cannot be overstated. More military presence means more business for local establishments,” he said. 

Blackstone Army Airfield operates as a joint-use facility, serving both military and civilian needs.

"We work closely with our civilian partners, including the town of Blackstone, to ensure that improvements benefit both military and civilian aircraft operations," Tisdale said. "Although the military has priority, this joint-use nature fosters community engagement and mutual benefit."

Community engagement has been fundamental to the planning and execution of the airfield's improvements.

"Both entities have a vested interest in the improvements that the airfield makes," Tisdale said.

Shaver also stressed the importance of the collaborative effort.

"The cooperation between military and civilian sectors has been fantastic. It ensures that the airfield meets the needs of all users," he said.

Looking ahead, numerous projects are planned to develop Blackstone Army Airfield further.

"We have a new air traffic control tower under construction, which should be completed in Fiscal Year 25," Tisdale said. "Other projects include new lighting, airfield signage, pavement improvements, and a precision approach path indicator system for better navigation."

These developments are part of a broader vision to position Fort Barfoot's airfield as an attractive destination for military operations and training.

The recent improvements at Blackstone Army Airfield are a continuing effort to support the Virginia Army National Guard and other DoD entities while benefiting the local community.

"Our goal is to provide good assets and facilities so that units return and the community thrives," Tisdale said.

Shaver concluded, "The enhancements we've made and the projects we have planned will ensure that Blackstone Army Airfield remains a key asset for military training and operations for years to come."





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