Range offers vast array of considerations

  • Published
  • By Samuel Nelson
  • Air Combat Command Range Operations and Requirements
What do red-cockaded woodpeckers, wild land fire management, wetlands management and joint direct attack munitions have in common?

Most people would find no correlation between these seemingly unrelated items, but those are just a small portion of the diverse issues that are rolled into the day-to-day management of an Air Combat Command air-to-ground bombing range near the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

More than 30 ACC Headquarter A3A, airspace, ranges, and airfield operation division and A7A asset management division personnel toured the Dare County Bombing Range to receive an overview of the range's current and evolving missions.

"ACC ranges like Dare are critical to ensure that our aircrew and battlefield Airmen are combat ready," said Col. Wayne Canipe, ACC Airspace, Ranges and Airfield Operations Division chief. "This trip was a great opportunity for ACC staff personnel to travel together and discuss issues that affect our training ranges. Our ability to provide relevant training ranges and remain good stewards of the environment is evident at Dare and reflect the team approach at the headquarters."

The mission of Dare County Bombing Range is to meet the F-15E training requirements of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. There are three primary training activities used for this range: air-to-ground bombing, gunnery and electronic combat. The range also supports several other users to include F-16s and A/OA-10s from various units such as Washington, D.C., F-18s from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., and F-18s from Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.

The range is categorized as a primary training range and is critical to the readiness of combat aircrews. Of all aircrew training, more than 60 percent is accomplished at PTRs like the Dare County Bombing Range. That makes the property and the training opportunities provided at Dare valuable and an asset not only to Seymour Johnson, but to other Air Force and Department of Defense units throughout the region.

The range encompasses a total area of 46,621 acres and contains two separate and independent weapon impact areas. The 4th Fighter Wing operates and maintains the Air Force impact area and target array on approximately 2,500 acres in the southern portion of the property. The Navy operates and maintains an impact area and target arrays on 2,500 acres in the northern portion of the range.

The remaining 41,621 acres are forested wetlands and are managed as a safety buffer zone. Within this area, there are the red-cockaded woodpecker and red wolf, which are federally endangered, and the American alligator, which is federally threatened.

"We work in partnership with A3A and 4th Civil Engineer Squadron to provide range-sustainable environmental conservation support at the Dare County Bombing Range," said Robert Barrett, Asset Management Division chief. "We support...cooperative red-cockaded woodpecker management with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission...to avoid encroachment and maintain land operational flexibility and capacity. We work daily to ensure mission capability and strive to be good stewards of the environment."