Bonn International Center for Conversion

Keith B. Cunningham & Andreas Klemmer


Hahn Air Base was located in the Hunsruck region of the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, specifically in the small community of Kirchberg (pop. 4,000). Largely rural and undeveloped, the Hunsruck is situated roughly between the urban centers of Mainz to the east, Luxembourg to the west, and Cologne to the north.

Before the French forces founded an air base on the site in 1951 the area was farmland, and most of the area surrounding the base remains farmland to this day. In 1952, the United States took over the installation and began to erect the seventh largest US Air Base in Europe and the second largest in Germany. At the end of the Cold War, the base supported more than 13,000 people and three squardrons of F-16 fighter jets (Vest. 1994).

Situated away from the front line of the Cold War, Hahn was a major part of the United States close-knit, continental European air power center. The United States other major German Air Bass of Zweibrucken, Ramstein, Sembach, Bitburg and Rhein-Main are all within 60 miles (100 Kilometers) of Hahn. Beyond their location in the heart of US troop concentrations, these Air Baes were well situated to reach all locations within Europe and the Mediteranean region.

When the Cold War threat of an invasion of West Germany subsided, the United States was left with a huge excess capacity of expensive air fields. In 1991, the Air Force announced it would make major reductions at Hahn. The Desert Storm conflict provided an excellent transition fo rthe fighter aircraft at Hahn, and F-16s assigned to the Persian Gulf returned straight to the United States after completing their mission. The soldiers departed Hahn two years later. On September 30, 1993, most of the facility was returned to civil German authorities. The United States continues to operate a very small ammunition dump, two radio stations, and some recreational facilities in one corner of the sprawling base, but the ammunition dump will close in 1995. Although Hahn officials voiced optimism that the radio stations and recreational facilities would also be returned in 1995, the United States has not yet officially announced its intentions.

Community Response

As with most US facilities in Germany, what began as an occupation force was transformed into a friendly relationship extending to German communities. Thousands of American families lived outside the base in a variety of neighboring villages. the symbiotic association reached its peak in the early 1990s, when Hahn schools began accepting German students. The base's economic effects were even more important than its positive social effects. Through the purchasing power of more than 13,000 Americans and the employment of more than 800 Germans, Hahn was easily the largest single economic force in Rhein-Hunsruck. (Lindermann, 1993).

Though the positive relationship and the economic vitality the base brought with it made Hahn's closure a severe disappointment to the surrounding region, the state regarded the closure more positively. With five of the eight military airports in Rhineland-Palatinate closing, the state viewed Hahn as the most easily converted. As Kirchberg and the other surrounding villages were too small to handle the conversion of the massive base, the state took the lead from the very beginnng.

Scope of Facilities

Unlike US Army Military Communities, US Air Bases tend to be more rural and centralized. The main site at Hahn is 1,396 acres (565 hectares) in area, with a 8,025-foot runway and additional space for rollfields and taxi-ways. The base also contains 283 buildings of various type (Operation Hahn Take-Off, 1994).

Most of the buildings were constructed in the mid-1950s, but US investment continued throughout the life of the base. For instance, the huge-commissary, the base chapel, and parts of the high school were build in the 1980s, the new kindergarten was completed in 1990, and the new Burger King restaurant was only open for several months before the base closed.

Most of Hahn's buildings and infrastructure were well-maintained. A visual inspection of the base revealed that the family housing units were particularly well preserved by the US Air Force; the United States even left the kitchen and laundry appliances intact in each of units of the large Hahn Family Housing complex. The older buildings are powered and heated by coal, which will cause significant redevelopment problems, while the newer buildings are powered by oil. All of Hahn's utility infrastructure is still operational, including a modern bio-composting plant. Moreover, the huge jet-fuel storage tanks have currently valid German operating licenses.

Although Hahn has a complete internal network of well-maintained roads, the external access to Hahn is less favorble. The base is connected to a secondary line of the German rail system, but the single track does not allow two-way transportation. The two lane road connecting the installation to the federal highway system is 22 miles (35 kilometers) away from Mainz, and is not suitable for heavy traffic.

Hahn Today!

Sign, By Former Front Gate, Reads:
'Air Industrial Park Hahn'


Rheinland Palatinate's master plan for the future of Hahn Airport centers on the continual development of the airstrip, all of the base's administrative area, and even some of the F-16 hangars are designated for airport development. It also focuses on a division of the base into different sectors, airport, education, sports and leisure, trade and industry and commerce.


Cover Photo: Returning Home. Private Amoldo Sota-Cuevas of the 11th Arnored Cavalry Regiment at the Fulda Military Closing on October 8, 1993.

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