Nellis Range Complex
Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR)
The 99th Range Group (ACC) operates, maintains, and develops four geographically separated electronic scoring sites, an instrumentation support facility, and the 3.1-million-acre Nellis Range Complex, including two emergency/divert airfields. It formulates concepts and advocates requirements to support Departments of Defense and Energy advanced composite training, tactics development, electronic combat, testing, and research and development. Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) is formally referred to as the Nellis Air Force Range.
The 99th Range Squadron (ACC) operates, maintains, and develops the Nellis Range Complex, comprising 3.1 million acres and 12,000 square miles of airspace. It supports advanced composite force training, tactics development, and testing. It coordinates operational and support matters with MAJCOMs, Departments of Defense, Energy, and Interior, as well as other federal, state, and local government agencies to meet a broad spectrum of range user requirements. The 99th Range Squadron commands two detachments: Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, which manages Nellis' Southern Ranges, and Tonopah Test Range Airfield, which manages Nellis' Northern Ranges.
The 99th Range Support Squadron (ACC) operates, maintains, and develops four geographically separated electronic scoring sites at Belle Fourche, SD; La Junta, CO; Dugway, UT; and Harrison, AR, as well as an instrumentation support facility located at Ellsworth AFB, SD. It coordinates operational and support matters to meet advanced composite force training, tactics development, electronic combat, and testing program requirements. It acquires and manages contract support for operations, maintenance, instrumentation, and communications systems.
The Nellis Range Complex (NRC) has been designated a Major Range and Test Facility by the Department of Defense (DoD), providing threat simulators in combat-like environments. The 99th Range Group also acts as the ACC lead range advocate to provide centralized expertise for the development of ACC test and training ranges as directed by HQ ACC. The Range Group carries out its charge through the efforts of some 600 contractors and nearly 300 military and civil service personnel. In short, the 99th Range Group is a team of professionals providing the world's premier integrated battlespace environment. Table of Contents
The five geographical areas of the Nellis Range Complex consist of: Restricted Areas R-4806, primarily used for testing and munitions training; R-4807, used for electronic combat and munitions training; R-4808, used by the Nevada Test Site; R-4809, used primarily as an electronic combat range; and the Desert Military Operating Area, used for air-to-air training.
The Nellis Range Complex is located between Las Vegas and Tonopah in Southwestern Nevada and consists of five adjacent geographical areas. The ground is mostly barren, consisting mainly of flat, dry lake beds, dry washes, desert vegetation, and rugged, mountainous terrain. The land occupied by the NRC is more than 3.1 million acres, combined with more than 12,000 square miles of airspace. The 99th Range Squadron, which controls the range, is located on Nellis Air Force Base, approximately eight miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The NRC overlays large portions of Clark, Lincoln, and Nye counties in southern Nevada and small portions of Iron and Washington counties in southwest Utah. Land uses in this area include the military land use area of the Nellis Air Force Range [NAFR].
The NAFR consists of approximately 3 million acres. The majority of the NAFR consists of lands withdrawn from the BLM. Withdrawn lands refers to land which is set aside for a specific use. In this case, it is land that has been set aside for military use that is not available for public use. It remains under the jurisdiction and management of the agency that is responsible for the land. The Air Force must comply with all uses, policies, programs, federal requirements as mandated and administered through BLM. The 389,420-acre Nevada Wild Horse Range is included in the NAFR and is administered by the BLM. Approximately 816,400 acres of the NAFR have been withdrawn from the Desert National Wildlife Range (DNWR). The Air Force and USFWS jointly manage this area.
The Nevada Test Site, administered by the DOE, is contiguous with the NAFR in the southwestern part of the NRC. Public access to the NAFR and the Nevada Test Site is highly restricted, although some areas support grazing leases. The NAFR is used for training, testing, and weapons evaluation operations for the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, National Guard, Navy, DOE, and reserve forces. Target complexes with bombing circles and triangles, and simulated runways, airfields, and convoys are situated on parts of the NAFR.
The major land uses beneath the remainder of the NRC area are managed by the BLM and are primarily used for the production of cattle and other livestock. This rural area is scattered with widely separated small communities, farms, and ranches. Limited private land area also occurs within this portion of the NRC. Communities within the area include Pioche (population approximately 800), Alamo (400), and Caliente (1,100) within Nevada, and Modena (35) in Utah (Rand McNally and Company, 1996; U.S. Air Force, 1994a). Portions of the Humboldt National Forest in Nevada and the Dixie National Forest in Utah are also situated within this area. Some areas are controlled by the state of Nevada, including several state parks (Beaver Dam, Cathedral Gorge, and Echo Canyon).
State parks and BLM recreational sites support recreational land uses. The Humboldt National Forest area within the boundaries of the NRC includes the Quinn Canyon and Grant Range wilderness areas. Approximately 18 wildlife resource areas and national wildlife refuge (NWR) system units are either totally or partially beneath the NRC. These areas are administered by three agencies: the USFWS manages approximately 1.26 million acres, the U.S. Forest Service manages approximately 57,000 acres, and the BLM manages 927,503 acres, totaling approximately 2.24 million acres, or approximately 17 percent of the total NRC . The two major NWR system units are the DNWR, partially overlapping with the NAFR and the Pahranagat NWR.
The Nellis Range Complex maintains the most realistic integrated threat simulator environment in the world. In addition to the wide assortment of SAMS, AAAs, and acquisition radars operated by Range Squadron personnel from 39th Intelligence Squadron, maintain and operate a variety of radar and communications jamming equipment. Coupled with the Nellis Red Flag Measurement and Debriefing System (RFMDS), these assets provide superior year-round training to U.S. and allied aircrews in both competition and training exercises.
Should real-world contingency require certain configurations for training, targets can be built or changed quickly. During the Persian Gulf war, for example, range contractors transformed a runway configuration from a typical former Warsaw Pact country's configuration to one based on what allied aircrews would see in Iraq using data gathered from intelligence reports and photo reconnaissance missions.
The Nellis Range Complex supports numerous Red Flag and Green Flag Exercises and USAF Weapons School exercises each year. In addition, a number of threat simulators are deployed to Cold Lake, Canada, once a year in support of Maple Flag. The NRC also hosts the Gunsmoke competition every two years. Operational Testing and Evaluation missions on the NRC are supported by upgraded Television Ordnance Scoring Systems (TOSS) and state-of-the-art Kineto Tracking Mount documentation and Time Space Position Information (TSPI) data. Additional capabilities include support for: Operational Flight Programs (OFP), Qualification Operational Test & Evaluation (QOT&E), Tactics Development & Evaluation (TD&E), and Flow-on Test & Evaluation (FOT&E).
Detachment 1 of the 99th Range Squadron is responsible for supporting all ACC activities at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field and the Southern Ranges of the NAFR. They direct support of DoD, Department of Energy (DOE) research, development, and testing programs. The detachment also supports recovery of emergency/ divert military aircraft involved in major aircrew training exercises, such as Red Flag.
The ranges offer a wide variety of targets for inert and live munitions for test and training missions. Examples of missions performed on the Southern Ranges include strafing and employment of cluster bomb unit drops, aircraft-mounted rockets, laser-guided bombs, and general-purpose bombs. Although various forms of testing are done throughout the NAFR, Det-1's Range 63 is configured to provide real-time data for operational testing and evaluation missions. This is accomplished through a variety of means, including upgraded Television Ordnance Scoring Systems (TOSS), state-of-the-art Kineto Tracking Mount optical documentation, ballistics data reduction, and Time Space Position information (TSPI) data.
Detachment 2 of the 99th Range Squadron is responsible for, and directs, all ACC activities at Tonopah Test Range Airfield and the Northern Ranges. Like their southern partners, the detachment directs support of DoD, DOE research, development, and testing programs and also supports recovery of emergency/divert military aircraft involved in major testing and aircrew training exercises. The Northern Ranges offer unique test and training targets such as airfields, missile sites, trains, and bunker formations and a wide variety of threat simulators, uniquely tailored to individual mission requirements. Det-2's mission includes providing sophisticated training, testing, and weapons evaluation for various defense and other federal agencies, as well as allied nations.
To support aircrew training and testing, the Northern Ranges are further divided into the Tonopah Electronic Combat Range and the Tolicha Peak Electronic Combat Range. The detachment coordinates operational and support matters with Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal, state, and local government agencies. Within its boundaries, the Northern Ranges include the Nevada Wildhorse Range--the first wild horse area established in the United States. A superb host-tenant relationship exists between Det-2 and Sandia National Laboratories, which operates a specific portion of the Tonopah Test Range.
The NAFR is one of, if not the most, sophisticated, versatile, and complex training and test range in the United States. The often varied and complex nature of the NAFR represents many safety challenges that are addressed on a daily basis at Nellis AFB. Safety considerations are addressed in the early planning stages of test and training missions as well as in the daily operations of the personnel who constantly access the range, either in the air or on the ground. During the planning stages of test and training missions, the users of the NAFR are required to coordinate their mission with the 99th Range Squadron to determine the need for a Range Safety Approval (RSA) and availability of range facilities and airspace. Tests and selected training exercises involving armament, weapons delivery systems, or laser systems missions not previously approved required an RSA signed by the commander. The RSA is prepared by the Air Warfare Center's Range Safety Office (HQ AWFC/SEY). The preparation of the RSA involves a team effort between the user, the range squadron, and the Range Safety Office and results in the identification of all significant hazards associated with the mission as well as the assignment of an overall risk rating. Any RSA assigned a risk rating greater than an acceptable or low rating will identify the reason for the moderate or high risk rating as well as a recommendation to the range squadron commander for approval or disapproval. The range squadron commander is responsible for assessing the risks and accepting or rejecting those risks associated with test or training operations.
The original Nellis Air Force Range was established by President Roosevelt in 1940 and was originally referred to as the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range. It consisted of nearly 3,560,000 acres. In 1942, Executive Order 9019 returned approximately 937,730 acres to the control of the Department of the Interior. Approximately 554,037 acres of this land was part of what was to make up Area A. This portion of Area A, which came from the former Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range, had no specified designated targets. Later, in 1953, the Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range relinquished approximately 154,584 acres to the Department of the Interior. These two tracts of land comprise Area A, approximately 708,621 acres. There was no documentation found to identify specific target locations for the land which came from the Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range.
The former Nellis Air Force Range, Area A, is located in Lincoln and Nye Counties north and northeast of the present-day boundaries of the Nellis Air Force Range complex north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The site consists of approximately 708,621 acres. Although the majority of the area is used for wildlife conservation and is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), some areas are leased to ranchers for cattle grazing. The remainder of the land is owned by various private landowners using the land for cattle ranching and farming.
The majority of Area A is still used today as a Military Operations Area (MOA) for flyovers by the pilots from Nellis Air Force Base. This area consists of airspace use only and is not part of the active firing ranges of Nellis Air Force Range.
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