The American military operates hundreds of bases around the world and dozens more in the United States. One overseas base is vastly larger than others outside U.S. borders. It is so large that its footprint is bigger than the entire city of New York, including the five boroughs set in place in 1898: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Together they cover 303 square miles.
To maintain its global presence, the United States operates more than 500 military bases on foreign sites across every continent except for Antarctica.
These facilities are used for training and troop deployments, for maintaining and testing weapons systems, for research and education and for aircraft testing. Given the space these exercises often require, the physical size of these installations can be considerable.
24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of America’s 50 largest military bases overseas. The facilities are listed in order of physical size, according to data from the Department of Defense’s Base Structure Report — Fiscal Year 2018 Baseline. The report provides characteristics of bases overseas as of Sept. 30, 2017, including base size by acreage and the cost of replacing the base in terms of today’s construction costs and standards.
Many of the bases on the list were initially established as a practical wartime necessity. Of the 50 installations on the list, 18 are in Japan, and many of those are on the island of Okinawa, a legacy of the intense fighting there during World War II. Nine bases are in South Korea, as the United States and South Korea partnered to defend against an attack from communist North Korea following the Korean War. Here is a look at the costliest wars in U.S. history.
Thule Air Base in Greenland covers 233,034 acres, which is about 364 square miles. The base cost $4.7 billion to establish. This base is not only the largest military base overseas by physical size. It also enjoys another superlative: the northernmost base of any U.S. installation, 750 miles from the Arctic Circle.
Thule Air Base, headquarters of the 821st Air Base Group, is one of the most isolated bases in the world. It originally was built for defense purposes during the Cold War. Because of saber-rattling from North Korea and renewed concerns over Russian territorial ambitions, the United States recently completed an overhaul of missile defense systems there. Its radar system got a $40 million software upgrade.