The US Rhine-Main Airbase's last flight is scheduled to take off from Frankfurt on Friday, bringing the base's closure into the final stages. An official ceremony handing the facility over to German authorities will take place Oct. 10. Known as the "gateway to Europe," Rhine-Main, which at one time was the largest airbase outside the US and supported some 3,000 military and civilian employees, was in operation since the end of World War II and used as a major hub for deployment of US forces to Afghanistan and Iraq. The closure is part of US plans to move strategic airlift capability to Ramstein and Spangdahlem airbases in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where about 405 million euros ($487 million) were spent on renovations to these two facilities. The move also fits in with the US strategy of replacing Cold War-era bases in western Europe with a network of logistics hubs, smaller bases, and lightly manned operating locations. In 1999, US Air Force and German authorities agreed to close the base and return it to Germany by Dec. 31.