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Chik-do Range

The Ckik-do (Chik Island) range is located on the island off the coast of the Republic of Korea near the city of Kunsan. Kunsan and its associated Air Base are bordered on the west and south by the Yellow Sea. The terrain immediately to the north and east is rugged, consisting of numerous hills reaching heights of 90 feet (27 meters) to 120 feet (37 meters). Although these hills are not very high, they can cause cloud formation due to orographic lift. Hills and mountains cover about 75 percent of Korea, with the remainder covered by scattered lowlands. Most of the rivers are short, swift, and shallow due to topography, narrowness, and sand deposits within the river. There are two small mountain ranges within 49 miles (91 km) of Kunsan. About 102 miles (55 km) north, lies an east-west oriented range, with heights approximately 1,970 feet (601 meters) above sea level. The second range is higher, about 2,950 feet (899 meters), and is 40 miles (74 km) east of Kunsan AB. Its orientation is north-south. The small range to the north is high enough to have significant effect on air moving over Kunsan from the north. Farther east is the Sobaek Range, which forms a north-south interior divide on the Korean peninsula. These mountains have a general elevation of 3,530 feet (1,076 meters), but have little effect on the weather at Kunsan.

In the waters near the Chik-do training range off the coast of Kunsan City North Cholla Province, 3 fishermen were reported killed when previously undetonated ammunition went off while they were pulling them up. Thousands of undetonated explosives have been left along the seabeds near approximately 20 offshore bombing and firing training ranges.

The site began being used by the USAF in 2005, though it had been used before then by the ROK military, and by the US Army, who had found training areas at the Rodriquez Range at the Korea Training Center to be too short for HELLFIRE missile training. The US Army continued to use Chik-do for this purpose after the USAF came to the range.

The Koon-ni Range was previously the location for 45 to 50 percent of 7th AF bombing sorties. Due to the high turnover rate of air crews (most serving one-year tours) it was especially important for pilots to train at the basic training environment of Koon-ni Range. Before pilots could fly at the other 2 ranges (Chik-do and Pilsung), they needed to train at Koon-ni.

When the Koon-ni range was closed in August 2005, upgrades were planned for the Chik-do range to make up for the loss in training capability offered at Koon-ni. Those upgrades were planned to be completed by Summer 2006, and combined with upgrades to the Pilsung range, would offer a long-term combined solution to the closure of the Koon-ni range. The largest element of the upgrade was a $3 million electronic Weapons Impact Scoring System (WISS), similar to the setup that had made Koon-ni invaluable. This was the major capability lost with the closure of the Koon-ni range, and the Republic of Korea had agreed to shoulder the burden for paying for this upgrade, in addition to providing a replacement training site.

However, by August 2006, conflicts between the ROK government, the local government of Kunsan, and Kunsan citizen organizations over the expansion of the training site led to a delay in installation of the WISS system. This major capability, led to threats from US military leaders in Korea and at the Pentagon, that without the facility they would likely be forced to relocate USAF assets to bases in Japan where such training could be conducted. Under this pressure the local authorities in Kunsan agreed in September 2006 to the use of the facility, but Chik-do remained under their jurisdiction leaving open the potential for future discussions. The WISS system had still not been constructed by that time.

In the end the WISS system was completed in September 2007, but authority over the range remainded under the control of the local authorities in Kunsan who had been promised an aid package in return for their agreement on the expansion of operations at the range. They threatened to shut down the facility if the ROK government did not fufill its promises on the aid. The entire facility still remained subject to an enviornmental evaluation, but eventually USAF began operations. However, the size and nature of the Chik-do facility meant that the USAF was still seeking additional range space and potential alternatives.



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