R-2508 Range Complex
The R-2508 complex is the most effectively integrated and probably the most important multiple service Special Use Airspace [SUA] in the National Airspace System [NAS]. Managed by a group representing the complex's three primary user organizations (NAWC-WD China Lake, the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC)/Edwards AFB, and National Training Center (NTC)/Ft. Irwin), it provides the largest single area of overland SUA within the United States. The complex consists of the overlying Restricted Area R-2508, five underlying restricted areas, and ten MOAs.
There are three tiers of management hierarchy within the R-2508 Complex. Management of the Complex is the responsibility of the R-2508 Joint Policy and Planning Board (JPPB). JPPB members are the Commanders of the NAWC-WD, China Lake; AFFTC, Edwards AFB; and NTC, Fort Irwin. The mission of the JPPB is to enhance and preserve the R-2508 Complex bases, ranges, and special use airspace; and to increase DOD capability for research, development, testing, and evaluation of aircraft and weapons systems. Additionally, the JPPB preserves an area for operational training and readiness of DOD-sponsored activities. The next tier, the R-2508 Complex Control Board (CCB) is comprised of representatives from each command. The CCB conducts the R-2508 Complex management function. The R-2508 Complex Control Board conducts day-to-day management of the R-2508 Complex management function. Within the policy, scope, and limitations imposed by the CCB, the Central Coordinating Facility (CCF) has autonomous authority pertaining to R-2508 Complex shared use airspace utilization when the Complex is scheduled/ activated for military use. The R-2508 Central Coordinating Facility, under direction of the Complex Control Board, is the designated scheduling authority for R-2508 Complex shared-use airspace.
Each of the three using organizations manages and schedules restricted airspace and ranges internal to the Complex. As a result, units planning missions that require more than one area/type of airspace may be required to schedule with both the specific airspace scheduler (at Ft. Irwin, China Lake or Edwards AFB) and the CCF. The cost of operating and maintaining the Complex is shared between the Navy, Air Force and the FAA. This cost is predicated on a formula agreed to a number of years ago. The initial cost was determined by the percentage of air traffic supported within the complex. The formula is 42% Air Force, 42% Navy and 16% for the FAA.5 Modernization of the complex is funded in a number of ways. Some modernization efforts are funded by the complex while modernization to remain interoperable with the FAA as they transition to digital technology is funded, at least in part, by the participating services.
Airspace associated with Edwards AFB consists of the R-2508 Complex and the High Altitude Supersonic Corridor [HASC]. The R-2508 Complex is composed of restricted airspace, Military Operations Areas (MOAs), the Black Mountain Supersonic Corridor, and Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspaces (ATCAAs).
The R-2508 Complex encompasses large portions of Inyo, Kern, San Bernardino, and Tulare counties in east-central California. It also includes a portion of Fresno and Los Angeles counties in California and extends into Nevada's Esmeralda County. Major communities beneath the R-2508 Complex include Lone Pine (population approximately 1,810), Tehachapi (5,800), Ridgecrest (27,700), Rosamond (7,430), Mojave (3,760), California City (5,960), Boron (2,100), North Edwards (1,259), Lake Isabella (3,323), and Kernville (1,656).
Edwards AFB is within the land area overlain by the R-2508 Complex. In addition to Edwards AFB, military land use areas beneath the R-2508 Complex include the NAWCPNS and the Army's Fort Irwin National Training Center. Portions of the Sequoia and Inyo national forests and Death Valley, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon national parks are situated beneath the R-2508 Complex. State-owned areas include Red Rock Canyon State Park and the Tomo Kahini Project. Areas of private land are primarily concentrated in the Owens Valley (Big Pine, Independence, and Lone Pine areas) and in the area that extends northwest from the western and northwestern boundary of Edwards AFB to the Porterville area. This includes Rosamond, Mojave, and Tehachapi, and land south and west of the national forests situated beneath the southwestern part of the R-2508 Complex. Native American land use areas include the Tule River Indian Reservation and three small Indian reservations at Big Pine, Lone Pine, and Fort Independence. The majority of the remaining land areas beneath the R-2508 Complex are controlled by the BLM.
The HASC extends from Ventura County, California, in the west, to Clark County, Nevada, in the east. It passes through portions of Kern, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties in California, and overlaps the R-2508 Complex in the vicinity of Edwards AFB. Land uses within the portion of the HASC west of the R-2508 Complex include portions of the Los Padres and Angeles national forests and an area of primarily private land in the Tehachapi Mountains and Antelope Valley areas. The eastern portion of the HASC crosses the Mojave National Preserve in California and terminates over the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada; both are administered by the National Park Service. The remaining land areas within the eastern portion of the HASC are primarily BLM-owned lands in California and Nevada.
The AFFTC at Edwards AFB is primarily tasked with testing manned and unmanned prototype and experimental aerospace vehicles in support of the Air Force mission. The R-2508 Complex airspace utilized by the AFFTC and other DOD users was established for the purpose of accomplishing subsonic and supersonic flight test mission operations necessary to evaluate the total integrated systems and subsystems of prototype and experimental aerospace vehicles.
Passage of the California Desert Protection Act in the late 1980s led to a careful examination of the vulnerability of the R-2508 complex and its constituent installations to restriction or even closure from environmental lawsuits. DoD has seldom been a defendant in these suits; rather, activist groups sue other agencies such as BLM and NPS and demand relief to include curtailment of DoD activities. A current effort appears to target DoD over flights in the California Desert area, with the intent of reducing or eliminating overflight of endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep. Local range managers are aware of the issue and are examining the potential operational impacts. There is little likelihood that DoD would be granted, or even request, significant relief from such lawsuits and regulations. Nevertheless, they do constitute a potential threat to operational efficiency and eventually to airspace and range access, not only in California but virtually anywhere DoD operates.
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