Melrose Air Force Range (AFR)
Melrose Range in New Mexico is the primary training range for the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon AFB. It supports daily air-to-ground and electronic combat training for approximately 3,400 F-16 wing sorties annually. The Melrose Range is also used by the New Mexico Air National Guard, based at Kirtland AFB, and other US and allied aircrew accounting for an additional 1,400 sorties annually.
Cannon AFB is responsible for the operation of Melrose Range and it is their primary air-to-ground training resource. Melrose also provides an Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) facility for advanced training. Some flights involve supersonic speeds, but those flights are at or above 30,000 feet to minimize any potential environmental affects. Cannon AFB pilots in approved areas, such as Melrose Range, also conduct night Vision Goggle (NVG) training.
Cannon's training airspace is close by and extends up to 50,000 feet in some areas. No night supersonic flight is permitted. Melrose Range has restricted airspace to 26,000 feet and does permit the use of chaff and flares over government lands. The range hosts users from several units. Night operations are conducted at Melrose but aircraft must remain lighted. NVGs are used for night training on the range.
Melrose Range is 25 miles from Cannon - only about a five-minute flight. Having a training range in close proximity to the installation allows the Cannon-based aircrews to maximize training time by reducing the time it would take to fly to more distant ranges for training.
The Melrose Range is approximately 66,000 acres in total. The remainder of the property is used as safety buffer zones. Approximately 59,000 acres of the range is air force-owned real property. The remaining portions of the range, approximately 6,700 acres are public lands under the jurisdiction of the BLM. A portion of the impact area itself is part of the BLM land holdings. The lands under the jurisdiction of BLM are distributed in non-contiguous parcels across the range. Consolidating all parcels on the range under the control of the Air Force would address safety concerns, minimize potential liability to the US Government, and reduce potential land use conflicts.
The acquisition of lands for the Melrose Range was authorized by the Military Construction Authorization Act of 1967 (Public Law 89-568). Pursuant to this authority, the Air Force requested the assistance of the BLM to remove 6,634 acres of State-owned lands and 80 acres of private lands (a total of 6,714 acres) through an exchange from within the range boundaries. The BLM accomplished these exchanges in 1970 and 1973. In 1975, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, on behalf of the Air Force, filed an application for withdrawal and reservation of these lands with the BLM.
Melrose Range, including the BLM acquired parcels, has been in continuous use since the initial Air Force lease of lands from the State of New Mexico and private land owners in 1952. The Air Force has been responsible for natural resources management on these lands during this same period. The BLM has not exercised natural resources management on the lands it acquired for the Air Force within this active training range. The six parcels which the BLM acquired for the Air Force include 1,811 acres within the bomb impact zone; the remaining acres are within the range safety buffer.
One Federal Endangered Species Act candidate animal, the black tailed prairie dog, has been documented on the acquired lands. Management for the species is currently under development by the Department of Defense in association with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. There are no other threatened, endangered or sensitive species known on the acquired parcels.
The September 2001 Defensive Training Initiative would permit the use of chaff and flares in existing
airspace contiguous to the Melrose Air Force Range (AFR) so that combat-condition training could
occur in response to available simulated ground-based and aircraft threats. Currently, pilots can use
defensive countermeasures to avoid these threats only in the restricted airspace over Melrose AFR.
The 27 FW, as the proponent for this action, proposes to conduct defensive training using chaff and
flares in the following existing military airspace: Pecos MOA/ATCAA; Sumner ATCAA; and
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