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    Río Hato Field (Cap Scarlett Martínez Airport) Coclé Province Panama
Location
Lat 8° 22' 33N 80° 7' 40W  Río Hato Field is located at an elvation of 105' above sea level east of Rio Hata (Río Hato) bordering the Gulf of Panama 65 aerial miles southwest of Albrook Field. This property was owned by Dane, Asger Kierulff who operated an inn at this location. Also known as "Rio Hato Army Air Field" or "Río Hato Army Air Base". Postwar known as Rio Hato Airport. Today known as "Cap Scarlet Martinez Airport".

Construction
In April 1934, the U. S. Army began leasing this property 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 this location.

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 U. S. Army Air Corps technical school for Panama was established at this location. During World War II, designated Army Post Office 838 (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
Río Hato continued to be used by the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) then by the U. S. Air Force (USAF) until closed in 1948, but remained in use as an USAF axillary military landing field for Howard AFB until the late 1990s.

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) and Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) occupied the area.

On December 20, 1989 during "Operation Just Cause" Río Hato was also the first target for the newly introduced F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter tasked with bombing a barracks housing two companies housing Battalion 2000, an elite unit known to be fiercely loyal to Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega. The F-117 dropped two large 2,000 pound Mark 84 bombs dubbed "the Hammer".

At 1:00am, the U. S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalions (TF RED ROMEO) made a paratrooper jump from C-130s to capture Rio Hato and neutralize infantry from the 6th Panamanian Defense Force (6th PDF) and 7th Panamanian Defense Force (7th PDF). Both infantry 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 their mission, captured 250 prisoners and cleared the airfield for use by the U. S. for future operations.

Today
In 2011 the Government of Panama gave the order to rebuild the airport, rehabilitate 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 named "Cap Scarlett Martínez Airport" was dedicated on November 13, 2013 by President Martinelli as a small airport with a single runway oriented 34/16 measuring 4,380' x 164' surfaced with asphalt. Airport codes: IATA: RIH, ICAO: MPSM. The new airport helped reduce traffic at Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. It will serve to boost tourism along the Pacific beaches where beach resorts and condos are located.

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

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Last Updated
December 21, 2019

 

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