The Eglin AFB overwater range provides 86,500 square miles of overwater airspace that is jointly used for a variety of test and evaluation activities and training exercises. The overwater range contains a number of test areas that are used for long-range, all altitude, air-to-air activities including drone target engagements, electronic combat, and long-range (or anti-ship) air-to-surface and surface-to-surface evaluations.
The Eglin AFB Water Test and Evaluation and Training Area airspace over the Gulf of Mexico borders the southern edge of the Eglin AFB land range complex and extends over the Gulf of Mexico. These areas have been used by the Air Force since the early 1940s for air-to-air, air-to-surface, urface-to-surface, and surface-to-air test and evaluation, as well as for military training exercises. Unique features of the overwater range include their large size and their ability to provide adequate space for air combat maneuvers used in tactical training and development and air-to-air missile operations. The overwater airspace is complemented by the overland airspace to provide a continuous interaction between water and land test areas.
The water test areas within the range currently depend upon land-based radar and electro-optical time-space-position- information systems to monitor and transfer test data to the Central Control Facility on Eglin Main. These instrumentation systems, located on Tyndall AFB, Santa Rosa Island, and Cape San Blas, provide coverage for test and evaluation activities in the Gulf of Mexico. The land-based systems are supplemented by airborne systems that provide relay links with ground stations. The 46th Test Wing and Aeronautical Systems Center's GPS Range Systems Support Division are currently working on instrumentation pods which will allow data gathering on test missions anywhere. Also the Test Wing is developing an over-the-water scoring system for bomb, air-to-surface missiles, and aircraft guns.
The Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile, and Air Interceptor Missiles (AIM-7 and AIM-9) are tested in Warning Area W-151. Approximately 75 percent of the tests are captive, involving aircraft and missiles where the missile is not released from the aircraft. About twice a year, live warheads are used in the missile tests released from aircraft. Both captive and air-to-air missiles are fired against drone aircraft launched from Tyndall AFB to test the software that links aircraft and weapon systems. Operational test and evaluation of these missile systems are also conducted over W-151 against drones launched from Tyndall AFB. Supersonic launch tests of these systems are flown over W-470. Other air-to-air test and evaluation activities occurring over the Gulf include aircraft and munitions systems compatibility tests, C4I, and electronic systems. Aircraft and munitions systems compatibility tests evaluate the effect of adding new pods and weapons on aircraft and include loads, flutter and dynamic response tests. Many of the C4I and electronic systems and munitions electronic countermeasures tests are flown over the water range using sites located on Santa Rosa Island at the northern edge of the overwater range.
Navy Aegis Cruisers perform sea trials and exercises where missiles are launched from surface vessels in W-151 against subscale drones flown from Tyndall AFB. Tomahawk missiles use the entire Eglin AFB complex (land and water ranges). Tomahawk missiles are launched for test and evaluation from W-151 and follow a programmed sequence from the overwater range to an impact area on the south end of Test Area B-70.
Proficiency training for air-to-air and air-to-surface operations is performed by a variety of organizations at Eglin AFB, as well as by units outside Eglin AFB. Most of the training exercises occur in W-151 and W-470. W-470 is the most used range with over 20,000 sorties per year. It features an Aircraft Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) range, the only one in the Eglin Range Complex. W-470 is heavily used by the 325 Fighter Training Wing at Tyndall AFB and the 33d Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB. W-151 is used extensively for training by Special Operations Command based at Hurlburt Field and the 46th Test Wing, 53d Wing, and 33d Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB. The overwater range operates in conjunction with overland
Air intercept training sorties are conducted over W-151 and W-470 with the highest concentration in the ACMI Range at altitudes from 5,000 to 50,000 feet above mean sea level. Air combat maneuvers training also occurs over W-151 from 10,000 to 50,000 feet above mean sea level. During portions of the air-to-air engagement, sometimes aircraft operate supersonically. Air-to-air gunnery training also takes place in W-151 and W-470 using tow targets. The tow target is deployed on a cable and is fired upon using 20 millimeter practice ammunition. The tow target and cable are jettisoned at the end of a mission over land and recovered. Similarly, air-to-air combat training involving one or more aircraft using both W-151 and W-470. These training exercises include tracking and firing at drones.
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