Hol­lo­man’s airspace to un­dergo changes

Ex­pan­sion or re­lo­ca­tion needed to ac­com­mo­date F-16 pi­lot train­ing flights

Albuquerque Journal - - NEW MEXICO - BY PAUL DAVEN­PORT

Hol­lo­man Air Force Base of­fi­cials say their ar­ray of flight train­ing ar­eas in south­ern New Mex­ico is out­dated and that some need to be ex­panded, re­shaped and re­lo­cated — changes that would have fighter jets fly­ing over sparsely pop­u­lated ru­ral ar­eas not now used for that pur­pose.

Air Force of­fi­cials re­cently sched­uled pub­lic meet­ings in Carlsbad, Truth or Con­se­quences and Las Cruces to re­ceive pub­lic in­put on pro­posed changes to airspace “avail­able for cur­rent and fu­ture pi­lot train­ing.”

The changes, which will be as­sessed in an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment, are be­ing con­sid­ered as F-16s now based at Hill Air Force near Og­den, Utah, are be­ing shifted to Hol­lo­man, near Alam­ogordo, to make room for new F-35s at Hill.

Hol­lo­man con­ducts ini­tial and re­fresher F-16 train­ing for pi­lots who are newly step­ping into the cock­pits of the front­line fight­ers or re­turn­ing to that duty.

A Hol­lo­man an­nounce­ment of the project says its goals in­clude max­i­miz­ing train­ing time, min­i­miz­ing tran­sit time for air­craft to fly to and from train­ing ar­eas and lim­it­ing im­pacts to civil avi­a­tion.

With the elim­i­na­tion of six op­tions deemed un­sat­is­fac­tory, two other op­tions that would make sub­stan­tial changes to Hol­lo­man’s cur­rent train­ing ar­eas re­main un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. A third al­ter­na­tive would leave things the way they are, but the Air Force says that wouldn’t meet its needs.

One of the two alternatives still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion would ex­pand an ex­ist­ing 2,125-square-mile flight area in the coun­try­side south of Roswell in south­east­ern New Mex­ico to add 1,581 square miles. That ad­di­tional airspace is gen­er­ally east of Arte­sia and south of Carlsbad.

The other al­ter­na­tive un­der ac­tive con­sid­er­a­tion has sev­eral parts. It would re­draw the bound­aries of an ex­ist­ing 3,082-square-mile train­ing area north­west of Truth or Con­se­quences in south­west­ern New Mex­ico, with some cur­rent airspace be­ing sub­tracted while new air space else­where is added. The se­cond op­tion also in­cludes cre­ation of a new train­ing area west of Hol­lo­man and White Sands Mis­sile Range.

A for­mal no­tice of in­tent pub­lished in the Fed­eral Regis­ter says Hol­lo­man’s cur­rent flight ar­eas date back more than three decades and were de­signed to “sup­port dif­fer­ent air­craft with sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent mis­sion pro­files and per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics” from the F-16s cur­rently op­er­at­ing from the base.

The no­tice says that the pro­posed changes would pro­vide sched­ul­ing flex­i­bil­ity needed to con­duct si­mul­ta­ne­ous train­ing mis­sions and that the Air Force could de­cide to im­ple­ment one or both alternatives or nei­ther, de­pend­ing on the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment’s find­ings.

The train­ing ac­tiv­ity would in­clude flights at both high and low al­ti­tudes and use of aerial flares and chaff — thin strips of me­tal — to con­fuse en­emy tar­get-seek­ing sen­sors such as radar.

The pro­posed changes would not af­fect sev­eral other train­ing ar­eas now used by Hol­lo­man, in­clud­ing part of south­east­ern Ari­zona.

STACY JONSGAARD/U.S. AIR FORCE

An F-16 pre­pares to take off from Hol­lo­man Air Force Base, near Alam­ogordo. Base of­fi­cials are hold­ing pub­lic meet­ings on plans to change the base’s airspace for pi­lot train­ing.

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