Ready, aim, fire!

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alex Miller
  • 357th Fighter Squadron

Barry M. Goldwater Range in southern Arizona has contributed to our nation’s defense since WWII and is commonly referred to as a national treasure.

By continually strengthening its importance in the overall involvement to the U.S. military aviation program, BMGR has become a premier training site in the country.

“The BMGR has been in use since the early 1940’s,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brandon Liabenow, 357th Fighter Squadron commander. “It consists of four conventional ranges and three tactical ranges. The range is owned and operated by the 56th Range Management Office at Luke Air Force Base, though aircraft from all services and of all types, fixed and rotary wing, can use the range.”

America identified the importance of air superiority after the conclusion of WWI. Although the development of aircraft and implementation of aviation tactics were in their infancy, military aviation would become a key component of future conflicts and victories.

The United States Army Air Corps was established in 1926. Over the following 10 years, the air corps doubled in size. The outbreak of WWII accelerated that growth, and it continued doubling in size each year from 1939 to 1941.

This rapid growth created a need for training locations for the emerging force. With the concentrated populous of the United States on the eastern and western seaboards, the need for open area with consistent weather and complementary terrain for flight operations pushed the search inland.

With over 300 days a year of optimal flying weather and access to significant land for the development of ranges and unrestricted air space, Arizona proved to be the ideal location to establish air corps training sites.

The BMGR was stood up in 1947 and, in today’s fight, the 357th FS uses the range to mold the next generation of A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter pilots.

“The BMGR provides air and ground crews protected airspace and land to practice combat skillsets,” said Liabenow. “The range allows aircrew to practice employing the same weapons that they would in combat. Employing weapons from an aircraft can be an extremely complex endeavor which requires the correct environment for pilots to train. The BMGR is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s training space for our aircrew to practice those skills and hone their craft.”

Today, the range is not only one of the largest in the world, but also one of the most technologically up-to-date facilities, and is often the first stop for new technologies outside of the laboratory.

“After the initial phases where students are learning the basics of flying the A-10, a vast majority of their training sorties occur in the BMGR,” said Captain Joel Russo, 357th FS instructor pilot. “As part of this training, students engage the gun, drop training bombs, and shoot white phosphorous rockets on nearly every sortie. Students also execute training sorties where they exercise live munitions such as air-to-ground missiles, laser-guided bombs, and GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions.”

The range’s 1.9 million acres of relatively undisturbed Sonoran Desert and 57,000 cubic miles of airspace allows pilots to practice air-to-air maneuvers and engage simulated battlefield targets on the ground. The training site is roughly the size of Connecticut, and the complex allows for simultaneous training activities on nine air-to-ground and two air-to-air ranges.

“The range is the final step in the education process for our students. They spend hundreds of hours in academics and the simulator, learning all that is required to be an expert in employing all of the capabilities of the A-10,” said Liabenow. “The last and most important step to mastering a task in the A-10 is for the students to get in the airplane and execute what they’ve learned in lectures and the simulator. There is absolutely no substitute for shooting live rounds or dropping a live bomb on a target on the range.”The 357th FS pilots are learning their role in the joint fight as the wing continues to build a more lethal and rapidly ready force that leads the Air Force in operational readiness.