The Aerodromo Militar de Lanzarote.
We have visited the air base located on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands where is a unit which gives its support to the local Ejèrcito del Aire (Spanish Air Force) deployment operating base (DOB).
We saw the Aerodromo Militar de Lanzarote (Lanzarote air base) in a hot day of July. The airport is divided in two part, the military one in which it is located the Ejèrcito del Aire unit that we have seen now after we visited the civil part time ago. The base depends from Mando Aèreo de Canarias (MACAN) and it is located in the district of Las Palmas, near San Bartolomè. Placed in the east part of the island, it is linked to the civil airport of Arrecife, near the seaside of Guacimeta and in front of the Moroccan Shore.
The Lanzarote air field is born in 1935. In fact it was on April 30, 1936 that the construction of the runway began. The Ejèrcito del Aire gave its permission to build a military airport on Lanzarote in the half of 1940 to protect the Canary Islands, strategically based near the west part of the Sahara desert.
The Lanzarote airport became also a national and international civil airport on March 3, 1970 and it remained in the shadow until that year when it began an intense operational activity due to the war in the Sahara desert. On March 5, 1972 the military airport was extended of about 27.000 meters.
On September 21, 1974 a Dc 3 coming from Gando landed the first deployment of troops which have to protect the infrastructures of the airport.
On November 3, 1973 the Spanish Air Force General Staff created the Escuadròn Aerotàctico n° 1 on Lanzarote. At the beginning the unit consisted in a radar which could move from a place to an another of the island, then it became a radar station permanently placed on the higher part of Lanzarote, known as “Las Penas del Cachè” and this unit was called “Escuadròn De Vigilancia Aèrea Nùmero 22 (EVA N° 22). This unit today is the Ground Control Intercept (GCI) in the Canary Islands for the EF-18s in Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) service. The badge of the EVA N° 22 is a typical Lanzarote animal, the dromedary, while its call sign is “Scirocco” the name of the wind which blows in this area.
From 1975 this airport became more important for the Spanish Air Force playing a key role as deployment operating base and as alternate air base for the Spanish military aircrafts. The infrastructures realized by the Ejèrcito del Aire since 1970 made of Lanzarote a truly modern air field.
Two important inspections took place over the years, the first on November 14, 2004 when the Spanish Chief of Staff reviewed the unit and the second visit occurred on October 13, 2008 when His Royal Highness, the Principe de Asturias, officially reviewed the air base.
The badge of the airport consists in an eagle which flies over the vulcans along with these words: “viento”, “arena”, “mar y fuego”. These four natural elements (wind, sand, sea and fire) are typical aspects of Lanzarote: the steady winds which bring the sand from the near Sahara desert, the sea that surrounds the island and in the end the fire of its vulcans which with many craters and geothermic events still on-going made of this island a real lunar landscape.
Today the airport is divided in three different areas: the operational one, the service area and the residential zone. In The Aerodromo Militar de Lanzarote are deployed about 170 military personnel and most of them live here with their families. The Commander of the airport is the Col. Mariano Diez Clemente flanked by the Capt. Miguel Palacios.
During our visit a pair of helicopters were deployed here at Lanzarote: the first was an Agusta AB 212 while the second was an Eurocopter AS 332B1 Super Puma both part of the BHELCAN VI based at Tenerife. Their crews flied three search and rescue missions over the sea every day carring out also nigh activity, mainly in the south east area of the island. One Lockheed KC 130H Hercules from Zaragoza AB gave its support to these choppers. It is expected in September a deployment of several EF 2000 Typhoon coming from the Spanish continental air bases. It is also usually seeing Fokker F 27MPs flybys which are SAR (Search And Rescue) airplanes, belonging to the 802^ Escuadròn de Fuerzas Aèreas / RCC de Canarias that are employed in maritime patrol missions. This activity is required because the Canary Islands are affected by the illegal immigration. In fact several small boats lands here from the near Noth African shores trading on the days of calm sea waters.
A EADS CN 295, T-21 landed in the afternoon. This tactical cargo airplane, even if came from Gando air base, had its home at Getafe (Madrid) and it belonged to the Ala 35. It reached Lanzarote in a flight which lasted less that forty minutes flying at a speed of 230 kts, where it was awaited by military personnel and their families. After having disembarked the passengers and their baggage the CN 295 embarked some other people and lifted off towards Gran Canaria. From here the military personnel can return to Spain using bigger airplanes and the Casa 295s are perfect for this kind of shuttle service: in fact these twin turboprop are deployed in Afghanistan at Heart where they are used by the Ejèrcito del Aire in the same role. With a maximum take off weight of 23.200 Kg it has a capacity of 78 troops or 69 paratroopers. It has a range greater than 4.000 Km which can be improved by the air refueling.
Visiting this air base it has been really interesting. The Aerodromo Militar de Lanzarote benefits of a nice weather all over the year, like Decimomannu and like the Italian airport can host many aircraft during their deployment abroad. For the military personnel, when the flight activity is suspended, the downtime is guaranteed by a warm sun, a cooling sea and beautiful seasides.
Images and text by Diego Bigolin
Produced by Giorgio Ciarini