Pinecastle Impact Range
The Navy's Pinecastle Impact Range in the Ocala National Forest is the only place on the East Coast where the Navy can do live impact training. The Navy drops nearly 20,000 bombs a year at the site, a few hundred of which are live. The Navy has used nearly 6,000 acres of the 382,000-acre forest for target practice for 50 years under a special use permit from the US Forest Service.
The Ocala National Forest is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi and contains the largest forest of sand pine in the world. Located near Orlando, Florida, the Ocala National Forest receives more visitors than any other national forest in the Sunshine State. Millions of visitors annually escape to this forest, which is one of central Florida's last remaining traces of forested land.
The word Ocala is thought to be a derivative of a Timucuan Indian term meaning fair land or big hammock. The Ocala's vegetation lives up to its name, as you will discover towering palms, large live oaks and scrubby sand pines dominating forest's scrub oak ecosystem. Native to the Ocala, the sand pine is the only tree capable of growing to a usable timber size in this forest's dry, sandy soil. The Ocala's sand pine scrub ecosystem is the world's largest continuous forest of this type.
The Pinecastle Bombing Range is an un-fenced 5,760-acre area, with the eastern edge of the range located about 2 miles west of State Road 19 and the Camp Ocala campgrounds, and one-half mile west of the Farles Lake campground. F-18 jet fighters and other aircraft take off from Jacksonville Naval Air Station, fly low over the Forest, and drop their bombs in the middle 450 acres of the range.
The Pinecastle complex is a day-night, live and inert ordnance delivery area located approximately 80 NMI south of the NAS Cecil Field TACAN, Channel 88 in the Palatka One MOA. R-2910 extends from the surface up to FL230 (normally limited to 11,000-feet MSL unless otherwise requested). All air-to-ground exercises using conventional ordnance up to and including 500-pound MK 82 bombs and five-inch Zuni rockets are authorized. Napalm and High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) are prohibited. Live ordnance is restricted to the Live Ordnance Impact Area; inert ordnance is used on all other targets. Pinecastle targets have been certified for laser operations. The Pinecastle complex is normally available Monday through Friday from 0800 to 2300.
There are nine targets within the Pinecastle complex:
- Live Ordnance Impact Area. Targets in impact area consist of vehicle hulks, arranged to form a "T" and scored by WISS. Maximum 500 pound general purpose or explosive equivalent, ball ammo up to 30mm, rockets up to five-inch, and practice bombs are authorized.
- Main Bull (Special Weapons Bombing Target). The Main Bull consists of four concentric circles of 300, 600, 900, and 1200-feet radii, encompassing a bull's-eye constructed of two 75-foot poles and two 90-foot poles with two radar reflectors and top mounted banners. The center of the bull's-eye is clear of vegetation out to 450-feet from the center pole with two rings of tires at 50 and 200-feet radii from the center pole. Additional radar reflectors are located on the 317° run-in-line, 6000-feet short of and 3800-feet beyond bull's-eye. Elevated black and white Initial Point (IP) markers are situated on the 317° run-in-line at 6000-foot intervals from 36,000-feet short to 6000-feet beyond target center.
- Day/Night Conventional Dive Bomb/Rocket Target. The target consists of a surplus military vehicle bull's-eye and four concentric tire rings of 50, 100, 200 and 300-feet radii. This target is equipped with an integral lighting system for night bombing exercises. Twelve radar reflectors are placed in clock positions at 400-feet. Only practice bombs are authorized on this target.
- Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Site Target. This target resembles a hexagram with a circular service road encompassing the radar and surrounding missile launcher pads. This target is not scored. Practice bombs, inert MK 80 series bombs, and inert rockets up to five-inch are authorized.
- Strafing Target. The strafing target consists of tow banner material suspended on the face of a berm. Ball ammo up to 30mm is authorized.
- Inert Ordnance Runway. This target consists of a mock runway situated 040° from Tower No. 2, and 3600-feet 205° from the Main Bull. Practice bombs, inert MK 80 series bombs, and inert rockets up to five-inch are authorized.
- Red Box Target. This target consists of four red tanks positioned to form a square with a radar unit in the center. The target is located 1700-feet 233° from the Main Bull. The square of tanks is within a 200-foot radius circle. Practice bombs, inert MK 80 series bombs, and inert rockets up to five-inch are authorized.
- Mini-Convoy. This target consists of various small vehicles situated approximately 800 meters 150° from the Main Bull, 750 meters 020° from spotting Tower No. 1.
- Laser Target. This target is a 50-foot by 50-foot billboard with a painted black crosshair. This target is located 3000-feet north of Tower 1. A laser sensor is positioned in the center of the crosshair. Continuous automatic scoring is available on frequency 380.8 MHz. Cassette tape scoring results are available with a 15-minute advanced notice. This target provides no-drop Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) training.
The Navy's current special use permit would have expired December 1999. The Navy conducted a preliminary analysis of alternatives, including the plausibility of moving training operations to other military ranges in the southeast United States. These alternatives did not meet the Navy's operational criteria, thus were eliminated from detailed analysis. The preferred alternative would renew the Navy's authorization to use the range. Unanticipated delays in the process hindered the Navy's completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Forest Supervisor Marsha Kearney extended the current permit to allow adequate time for the Navy to finalize the EIS and for her to then make a decision on the future of the range. The Navy had hoped to win permission in July 2001 for a 20-year renewal of that activity. Another extension to July 2002 was needed to adequately address public comments and complete additional studies needed to finalize the EIS. The Forest Service set the new deadline of 31 July 2002 for the Navy to prove that its use of the Pinecastle Range doesn't harm the forest's ecosystem.
In order to evaluate the U.S. Navy's request to renew their special use permit, an environmental analysis of Pinecastle Range located on the Ocala National Forest is in progress. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released for public review in January 2001. Several meetings were held to receive public input during the comment period that ended on 20 February 2001. The Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice is the only group pressing the matter. Other environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club and Audubon Society, have backed away from this issue.
Between 2 August 1951 and 15 April 1985, the Navy acquired 5,895 (including 5,765 acres of former site acreage) acres by use permit from USDA for an impact range since developed and known as Pinecastle Impact Range. Development includes an administrative site, a tracking station, remote radar sites, towers and markers, and targets. The Navy acreage is located in what was the center of the former range and includes the former Army North Bomb Target (Area #5). The Navy site has been under the jurisdiction of Jacksonville NAS and most recently, Cecil Field NAS.
The War Department (WD) acquired 40,587 acres for the former Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range in the early 1940's. On 27 June 1941, the WD acquired use of 23,167 acres for an Army bombing and gunnery range by means of a temporary use permit from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). By two Memoranda of Understanding with the USDA, the Army acquired more land in the same area: 3,354 acres by transfer and another 14,066 acres by conveyance bringing the total to 40,587 by 11 January 1943.
During World War II, the Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range was utilized by the United States Armed Forces Command and was under the jurisdiction of Pinecastle Army Air Field and the Orlando Army Air Base. The site was also known as the Ocala Bombing Range, the Ocala Bombing and Gunnery Range, and Ocala Aerial Bombing and Gunnery Range, and Ocala Range. The site was used for practice bombing (including the use of HE/GP bombs), AAF Board Projects, ground gunnery and rocket missions. There were also training facilities for fire fighting details. Observation towers were constructed on the site along with a camp area for the fire fighters.
At the conclusion of World War II, the WD determined the site was no longer required. It was declared surplus 2 December 1956. The entire 40,587 acre site was relinquished back to the USDA by letter of transfer dated 20 May 1947. Of these 40,587 acres, 5,765 acres are not eligible for the DERP-FUDS program because the Navy currently utilizes these acres for an active site, the Pinecastle Impact Range.
The North Bomb Target was one of the original range locations and was intended for practice bombing. It was a cleared circular area about two miles in diameter. Historical aerial photography shows a considerable amount of ground disturbance. This entire target area, with the exception of a portion along the northern edge outside of the present-day Navy range, is included in the currently active US Navy Pinecastle Target.
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