Johannesburg - Mthatha Airport, in the Eastern Cape, was handed over to Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on Monday for use by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
"We have our own operational needs as the SANDF... ranging from borderline security, particularly the challenging borderline with Lesotho," Sisulu said in a speech prepared for delivery.
"In our view, this is a strategic place."
Sisulu said there were development plans in place for a pilot school and the SANDF would help develop the airport.
It would also contribute to the King Sabata Presidential Revitalisation Project, which aimed to get funding and support for Mthatha and the surrounding areas.
The project was announced by President Jacob Zuma in his state of the nation address earlier this year.
"Most important... is that this facility, once finished, becomes a node for a transport network that must service the entire region," said Sisulu.
"This region with its heritage sights, beautiful, pristine coastal areas and many other attractions must develop into a tourist attraction."
Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet formally handed the airport to Sisulu on Monday, a move approved by Cabinet on May 16.
Sisulu said the SANDF would make its contribution to creating infrastructure.
"Whether it's the movement of books for the schools or building of bridges, we are at your service. The terms can always be negotiated," she said.