New Air Combat Capability – South East Runway Extension

Tetra Tech delivered the first major upgrade to a Defence-operated airfield in Australia in nearly 50 years.


  • Client: Department of Defence – Estate and Infrastructure Group
  • Completion date: September 2016
  • Location: RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW, Australia
  • Value: Part of $1.47B for R8000 - Facilities and Infrastructure Requirement for the New Air Combat Capability
Delivering a multifaceted and highly strategic project

This multifaceted project included an additional 340 metres (m) of runway pavement; new taxiways, and an aircraft safety point (apron) that includes a 150m-long, 8m-high revetment wall and acoustic barrier.

Aeronautical ground lighting equipment was installed including a significantly upgraded High Intensity Approach Lighting (HIAL) system. A new generation instrument landing system that is the first of its kind in Australia, a jet blast deflector and an aircraft arrestor systems with modern communication systems that will provide a precedent for future systems across Australia were all installed.

In addition to the primary infrastructure, supporting infrastructure including major services upgrades and access roads were also coordinated to sustain the new works.

Our Project Management team worked closely with a multitude of stakeholders across each of these elements to see a major milestone achieved in the anticipated arrival of the F‐35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter with the opening of the 340m South East Runway extension.

Managing major construction works while maintaining operations for a busy airfield

The construction methodology was shaped by numerous unique site constraints including undertaking the works while maintaining full operation of the airfield for Defence and civilian aircraft. In addition to risks of aircraft flying overhead, the project overcame a high water table and a myriad of in ground infrastructure services   such as the main water supply and sewer lines.

Our team worked closely with the client and additional Defence stakeholders as well as many external parties—including Newcastle Airport, aviation authorities and specialist airfield safety contractors—to ensure a safe and operational airfield while meeting project objectives.

The work element was successfully commissioned and handed over to Defence in September 2016, with aircraft fully utilising the area soon after.

Conducting extensive stakeholder management

The nature and expanse of the work external to the Base required significant coordination with myriad external stakeholders, including:

  • Indigenous Custodians (Worimi)
  • Other government bodies (National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW, CrownLand)
  • Local council (Port Stephens Council)
  • Aviation authorities (CASA)
  • Commercial aerodrome users (Newcastle Airport)
  • Road authorities (RMS)
  • Water authorities (Hunter Water)
  • Energy authorities (Ausgrid)
  • Local groups (Scouts Australia)

Our team actively engaged with stakeholders from the early phases of the project to cultivate robust relationships that would enable effective problem solving during challenging phases of the works.

The ongoing successful management of this complex stakeholder group was developed by early stakeholder identification and analysis and the upfront creation of stakeholder working groups with appropriate representatives. We maintained open and relevant communication and information disclosure. The team were agile in their approach—allowing for planned and unplanned consultation as it was required.

In the event of a challenge this framework of established relationships allowed the project to collaborate with stakeholders in a way that allowed the team to proactively work through challenges while maintaining project objectives and time frames. There are several success stories attributed to this approach including:

  • Approval to acquire land required for installation of HIAL
  • Approval of easements on land required for south east runway equipment installation
  • Approval of designs requiring stakeholder input
  • Support and endorsement to conduct project works as required