Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, arrive at Andersen AFB, Guam. The 9th EBS is taking over U.S. Pacific Command’s continuous bomber presence operations in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

It is from this base on diminutive Tinian Island, called North Field, that two B-29 bombers, modified to carry atomic bombs as part of Operation Silverplate flew separate sorties that would comprise the only operational uses of nuclear weapons to date.

Some 75 years later, the island has garnered new attention — the US Air Force is now looking at it as a backup to Guam, should that base be destroyed in an attack.

According to reports, the Department of Defense is moving ahead with plans to formally build an air base on Tinian, located just 100 miles to the north of Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base, The War Zone reported.

It is all part of an emerging distributed combat operations strategy that will likely be as much about survival as about getting an advantage on the enemy, at least during the opening stages of a potential conflict in the Pacific Theater.

Analysts say taking out two airfields that are defended by missile interceptors with medium-range ballistic missiles is costlier and harder to execute than just one, The War Zone reported.

Anderson AFB is so key to US strategy that the possibility that a natural disaster could knock out flight operations in the entire region is also a driving factor. 

While Guam isn’t as at risk of adversary missile attacks as America’s military outposts located in Japan, or even South Korea, its ability to continue operating during a barrage of deadly Chinese ballistic missiles is highly questionable at best, The War Zone reported.

Wake Island, which is located 1,500 miles east of Guam, is the largest such installation.

The crew of the Enola Gay on Tinian Island, awaiting arrival of nuclear weapons travelling aboard the USS Indianapolis, circa 1945. Credit: Handout.

However, that base on Wake Island will be more about staging airpower as a conflict heats up, not just with dealing with dislocated airpower in the opening stages of an attack.

Tinian, which is now part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, a US territory, was seized from the Japanese by US forces in the summer of 1944, The War Zone reported.

Following the end of World War II, the airfield’s big parallel runways, aprons, and support structures largely fell into disrepair, but it remained an austere airfield capable of receiving tactical transports.

Another airfield located in the central part of the island, Tinian’s actual airport, but also known by its World War II designation “West Field,” on the other hand, can support combat jet types.

Now, the US is going to build a full-on alternate operations facility — capable of accepting formations of diverted aircraft and even launching combat operations, The War Zone reported.

It’s believed this initiative is centered around a 40-year lease deal that was signed in 2019 and will leverage the aforementioned Tinian International Airport and its existing 8,500-foot runway and small apron, and expand upon it.

Right now, just the sprawling America’s Robert E. Kamosa Transmitting Station (REKTS) shortwave radio relay installation, which transmits Voice Of America, Radio Free Asia, and Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts in this part of Pacific, is the only major manned facility that occupies this portion of the island.