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    Río Hato Field (Río Hato Army Air Base, Río Hato Airport)  Panama

Location
Lat 08°22′33″N Long 080°07′40″W  Located at Rio Hata along the Bay of Panama, located 65 aerial miles southwest of Albrook Field. This property was owned by Dane, Asger Kierulff who operated an inn at this location. During the war known as "Rio Hato".

Construction
The US Army began leasing the property starting in April 1934, when the area was recommend as a gunnery range by the 16th Pursuit Group commander. Facilities were constructed including barracks and the gunnery range. During 1938, a permanent axillary base was established at Rio Hato. Also known as Río Hato Army Air Base.

By 1944, the single runway was 5,200' x 500' surfaced with macadam and the northern end with sand and sod. The southern end terminating at a cliff over the Pacific Ocean. The airfield included hangers, buildings, water tower and parachute tower. Several revetments were built on the east side of the runway. To the west was the Rio Parralon River.

Wartime History
Initially a gunnery range for the 19th Composite Wing. Later, the US Army Air Corps technical school for Panama was established at this location. During the war, APO 838.

American units based at Río Hato
37th PG, 28th PS (P-26), October 5 - November 13 1940
37th PG, 30th PS (P-26) October 5 - November 13 1940
37th PG, 31 PS (P-26) October 5 - November 13 1940
9th BG, 1st BS (B-18) November 13, 1940 - April 24, 1941
9th BG, 5th BS (B-18) November 13, 19430 - September 28, 1941
9th BG, 99th BS (B-18) November 13, 19430 - December 3, 1941
9th BG, 59th BS (A-20) January 1 - October 28, 1941
32nd PG, HQ January 1 - December 9, 1941
32nd PG, 51st PS (P-26, P-36) August 21 - December 10, 1941
32nd PG, 52nd PS (P-40, P-39) August 21, 1941 - March 23, 1944
32nd PG, 53rd PS (P-26, P-36) August 21 - December 12, 1941
6th BG, HQ France December 9, 1941 - January 14, 1943
6th BG, 3rd BS (B-18, B-24) Dec 8, 1941 - May 4, 42, Aug 26 - Dec 8, 44, Oct 19-Nov 1,46
6th BG, 25th BS (B-18) December 8, 1941 - January 21, 1942
6th BG, 74th BS (B-18, B-24) Aguadulce Dec 11, 41 - Jan 9, 42 returns Aug 7-21, 44 returns May 45, Nov 45
72nd Observation Group, 108th RS (B-18) January 14-19, 1942
6th BG, 395th BS (A-17, B-24) June 17, 1942 - June 16, 1943
6th BG, 396th BS (B-17, B-24) May 4, 1943 - April 7, 1944, Feb 6, 1945 - November 1, 1946
6th BG, 397th BS (B-24) May 4, 1943 - April 7, 1944, Feb 6, 1945 - Nov 1, 1946
6th BG, 25th BS (B-24) Sept 8 - Dec 8, 1944; Jan 27 - April 26, 1945; Oct 1945 - Nov 1, 1946

Postwar
Closed as an active USAF facility in 1948, but still used as an USAF axillary military landing field into the late 1990s for Howard AFB.

American units based at Río Hato postwar
4th TRS (CQ-3, PQ-14) August 20, 1946 - December 1, 1947
6th FW, 414th FS (P-61) March 24 - Sept 1, 1947
6th FW, 319th FS (P-61) September 1, 1947 - January 14, 1948

After closure, the Panamanian Air Force (PAF) amd Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) used occupied buildings on the former base.

During "Operation Just Cause" on December 20, 1989 Río Hato was also the first combat target for the new F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter bombed a barracks housing two companies of troops belonging to Battalion 2000, an elite unit known to be fiercely loyal to Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega. Dropping two large 2,000-pound Mark 84 bombs known as "the Hammer".

At 0100am US Army 2d and 3d Battalions, 75th Ranger Regiment (TF RED ROMEO) made a paratrooper jump from C-130s to capture Rio Hato and neutralize the 6th and 7th Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) Infantry Companies. Both PDF companies had been alerted, and fired on the C-130s with small arms. Despite PDF resistance, the battalion assembled, attacked the barracks and established an airhead. By morning, the Rangers accomplished all missions, captured 250 prisoners and cleared the airfield for future operations.

Today
In 2011 the Government of Panama gave the order to proceed for the project to rebuild the airport, rehabilitatiing the runway, the airport terminal, and construction of a tunnel for the Carretera Panamericana that currently crosses the runway. The award of this project, which has a cost of $53.2 million dollars, was done through a public bidding process, this project will be supervised by the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and is expected to last 14 months.

The new airport, will be named "Scarlett Martínez Airport" will free up Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport to accept more flights for business and connecting flights in an effort to secure Panama’s position as a hub for business and commercial activity in the region. It will serve to boost tourism along the Pacific beaches of Panama where several beach resorts and condo developments are located.

References
Alae Supra Canalem page 20 (map), 20-21, 186

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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