Military Wiki
Scarlett Martinez International Airport
Airport grounds
Sunwing Airlines inaugural flight
Airport type Public
Serves Rio Hato, Coclé, Panama
Location Coclé, Panama
Elevation AMSL 32 m / 105 ft
Coordinates 08°22′33″N 080°07′40″W / 8.37583°N 80.12778°W / 8.37583; -80.12778Coordinates: 08°22′33″N 080°07′40″W / 8.37583°N 80.12778°W / 8.37583; -80.12778

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Direction Length Surface
m ft
17/35 2,450 8,038 paved
Source: GCM,[1]

Scarlett Martinez International Airport (IATA: RIH, ICAO: MPSM), is in Río Hato, Coclé, Panama.

International airport

In 2011 the government of Panama gave the order to proceed with a project to rebuild the airport. The restoration work will include the rehabilitation of the runway and airport terminal and construction of a tunnel for the Pan-American Highway, which previously crossed the runway. The $53.2 million project was awarded through a public bidding process. The project will be supervised by the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and is expected to last 14 months. President Ricardo Martinelli said the new Scarlett Martínez Airport at Río Hato will bring benefits and opportunities for area residents. The airport would allow 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. President Martinelli confirmed that the airport will be used by charter companies from the United States, Canada, and Europe. In May 2013, it was indicated that the new airport was expected to open in September of that year.

The airport was officially opened by President Martinelli on 13 November 2013.

Operation Just Cause

During Operation Just Cause, The United States Army 2d and 3d Battalions, 75th Ranger Regiment (TF RED ROMEO), departed Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Georgia, at 18:00 on 19 December 1989. Its mission was to seize Río Hato and neutralize the 6th and 7th PDF Infantry Cos. At 01:00 on 20 December, the battalion jumped from C-130s onto the airfield at Río Hato. Both PDF companies had been alerted and fired on the C-130s with small arms and anti-aircraft guns.[2] Despite PDF resistance, the battalion assembled, attacked the barracks, and established an airhead. By morning, the Rangers had accomplished all missions, captured 250 prisoners, and cleared the airfield for future operations.

Río Hato was also the first combat target for the US Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter during Operation Just Cause. On 19 December 1989, a flight of eight F-117s lifted off from Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada. Their target was a large open field beside barracks housing two companies of troops belonging to Battalion 2000, an elite unit known to be fiercely loyal to Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. The plan was for the aircraft to drop two large 2,000-pound Mark 84 bombs, colloquially known as "the Hammer" (whose bombs, described as "the world's largest stun grenades", had a lethal radius of 400 feet and were capable of blowing out eardrums half a mile away), close enough to the buildings to stun the sleeping soldiers so that they could not respond to the nearby nighttime parachute landings by the 2nd Ranger Battalion and elements of the 3rd Battalion. The explosion of the bombs at a designated point of impact just 50 yards from the barracks would do just that, and fused to detonate after they had penetrated a few feet of earth, they would not cause many casualties.

Unfortunately, the fog of war was in the air. It also appears that, although the Pentagon brass understood the F-117A's accuracy, they did not fully understand what situation exactly the F-117A was suited for. As the two F-117As approached their target, the wind changed direction. Moreover, a last-minute change in the attack plan and confused communications resulted in the first pilot dropping his bomb where the second was to strike. The other pilot, thinking the attack had reverted to the original plan, dropped his bomb 325 yards wide.

Río Hato Army Air Base

Established in 1931, during World War II Río Hato Army Air Base was used by the United States Army Air Forces Sixth Air Force as part of the defense of the Panama Canal. It was closed as an active Air Force facility in 1948 but was used as an USAF auxiliary military landing field as late as 1990 as part of Howard Air Force Base.

Units assigned to the base were:

51st Pursuit Squadron, 21 August – 10 December 1941 (Boeing P-26 Peashooter, Curtiss P-36 Hawk)
52d Pursuit Squadron, 21 August 1941 – 23 March 1944 (P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra)
53d Pursuit Squadron, 21 August – 12 December 1941 (Boeing P-26 Peashooter, Curtiss P-36 Hawk)

3d Bombardment Squadron
8 December 1941 – 4 May 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
26 August – 8 December 1944; 19 October 1945 – 1 November 1946 (B-24 Liberator)
25th Bombardment Squadron, 8 December 1941 – 21 January 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
74th Bombardment Squadron
11 December 1941 – 9 January 1942 (B-18 Bolo)
7–21 August 1944; 1 May 1945 – 1 November 1946 (B-24 Liberator)
4 May 1943 – 7 April 1944 (B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator)
6 February 1945 – 1 November 1946 (B-24 Liberator)
4 May 1943 – 7 April 1944
6 February 1945 – 1 November 1946

Airlines and Destinations

Airlines Destinations 
Air Panama Charter: Panama City-Albrook
Air Transat Montreal-Trudeau, Toronto-Pearson
Sunwing Airlines Toronto-Pearson
Seasonal: Bagotville, Montreal-Trudeau, Quebec City


  1. Airport information for MPSM at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
  2. soldier

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

External links

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