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Hardwood Air-to-Ground Weapons Range

Hardwood Air-to-Ground Weapons Range (R-6904), near Finley, WI., is one of fifteen Air National Guard (ANG) ranges located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The entire facility is under the operational control of the Air National Guard as part of the Combat Readiness Training Center, Volk Field ANG Base, WI. The mission of Hardwood Range is to provide training for combat aircrews, through presentation of a variety of realistic target arrays, for air-to-ground weapons delivery.

The first aircraft began using the range in 1955. Since that time, Hardwood has continued to expand to meet the flying requirements of the ANG. Its day-to-day users include ANG units from Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Air Force Reserve units from Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Regular Air Force bomber units from throughout the United States also use Hardwood Range, as do Army, Army National Guard and Reserve, Navy, Marine Corps, and occasionally Canadian Forces aircraft. The range is used on a priority basis by flying units deployed to Volk Field for training. Special testing for the F-15E "Strike Eagle" fighter, plus a special Department of Defense Joint Camouflage, Concealment and Deception (JCCD) evaluation were conducted at Hardwood Range.

As a Class A Range, Hardwood is manned, has a scoring capability from the ground and a Range Control Officer (RCO). The range is supervised by a Range Operations Officer. He is responsible for the supervision of range management, planning and maintenance. The RCO is responsible for management of all range operations with regard to the control of aircraft and ground personnel. A small staff is assigned to maintain the range and targets. Range personnel can be contacted at (608) 427-1555 or DSN 946-3555.

Hardwood Range is two statute miles (SM) wide by six SM long and the surrounding area is heavily wooded. The associated restricted airspace is eight by nine nautical miles and is reserved to an altitude of 17,000 feet.

The range support facilities and main control tower are located at the center of the western end of the complex. Two flank towers are located on the north and south ends for scoring. There are two drop zones, located north and south, for airdrop missions by C-130 and C-141 aircraft.

The targets are displayed in three areas north, south and east of the support facilities. In addition to a conventional bomb circle, an array of simulated tactical targets has been acquired and built that include vehicle convoys, a SCUD missile launcher, aircraft, a mobile command post, fuel storage tanks, a refinery complex, bridges, radar installations, and an anti-aircraft site. A laser target is located on the main tower, which is eye-safe, portable and activates target identification equipment on properly equipped aircraft for teaching aircrew proficiency with laser equipment.

Munitions employed at the range are inert or practice ordnance. High explosive and white phosphorous are not authorized. Practice ordnance are 25 pound BDU-33 or BDU-48 bombs having a spotting charge that releases a cloud of smoke on impact. Mk-82/BDU-50, 500-pound and Mk-84, 2,000-pound bombs are also used on some targets. These inert "heavyweight" bombs are dropped either with a parachute for "High Drag", or "Slick", which has no drag device. In either case, their weight creates enough "splash" or dirt spray, to be easily spotted without using an explosive charge.

Bombs and rockets are scored visually using spotting scopes located in the flank and main towers. The flank tower observer relays the observed scores to main tower, where the coordinates are entered into the computer and the score calculated in meters and degrees from the target. The score is relayed to the pilot for immediate reference and recorded for delivery to the pilot's unit.

Forward-firing ordnance from aircraft include 7.62mm and .50 Cal. machine guns and 20mm or 30mm cannons. All use non-explosive ammunition. These may be scored optically or acoustically.

Hardwood Range is capable of providing a range of simulated threats to aircrews. The range has two radar threat emitters that emit electronic signals simulating different threats such as surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and radar tracking devices. Two Smoky Sam simulators are also available. These are launch platforms for Styrofoam rockets, which give a visual impression of a surface-to-air missile fired at the aircraft.

For night missions, the conventional bomb circle on the south portion of the range is illuminated using propane lanterns or smudge pots.

Hardwood Range is designated as Restricted Area R-6904 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and only authorized aircraft are permitted to fly in the airspace when the range is "hot", or in use. During operating periods the airspace is reserved from surface to 17,000 feet. Aircrews using the range normally enter via one of the associated low-level routes.

Safety is the prime concern at Hardwood Range for using aircrews, range personnel, and the neighboring public. Flying safety and noise abatement restrictions include a stringent safety program, entry and exit limits to avoid civil airfields, restriction of use of afterburners, restrictive departure altitudes and restriction of overflight of wildlife refuge areas. Close control of all on range aircraft is maintained for safety purposes.

An open house is held every two years for the public and affords the opportunity to increase awareness of the range and its activities. Visitors are welcome to observe activities during operating hours and an online map is available to guide you to the range.

Initiatives include Hardwood's further integration with the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) state-of-the-art electronic training system. Currently, the No Drop Weapons Scoring system and the threat emmiters are being upgraded. The range control officer currently has a real-time remote display of ACMI instrumented aircraft which will soon be augmented with a display provided by local area radars. A proposal to expand the range by approximately 7,929 acres is now in the environmental assessment process. The expansion would allow for a greater variety of aircraft approaches, reduce noise concentrations in the area and allow a wider margin of safety. Finally, thermal targets are being developed for infrared acquisition weapons.



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