Great Falls IAP (ANG)
The 120th Fighter Wing (FW) of the Montana Air National Guard occupies 141 acres of leased land on the Great Falls International Airport (IAP), located approximately 3 miles southwest of downtown Great Falls, Montana. The 120th FW flies a general-purpose mission, including air defense, utilizing the F-16 Falcon. The 120th FW occupies three administrative, one services, and 43 industrial buildings totaling approximately 392,372 square feet with 350 full-time personnel. A unit training drill is conducted twice a month and results in a surge of up to a total of 943 personnel.
In 1999 the Senate Appropriations Committee approved more than $27 million in Burns-requested military construction projects in Montana. This included $1.4 million to construct a base supply warehouse at the Great Falls International Airport that will allow the Air National Guard to administer and better control supplies for its F-16 unit. As the 120th Fighter Wing converts from an air defense mission to a general purpose mission this year, the unit need additional warehouse space. A total of $150,000 of planning and design funds for an arm/de-arm area at Gore Hill supports the 120th Air National Guard Fighter Wing. Gore Hill lacks a suitable area for arming and de-arming aircraft, which forces ground crews to remove and insert the safety pins close to the main hangar area. This facility would provide an extra barrier of safety and provide ground crews with a secure area to service the aircraft before and after their flights.
The Airport Complex encompasses approximately 2,045 acres of land. At the present time the complex includes the airfield, the terminal complex, some general aviation, commercial and noncommercial activities, airport and airline maintenance and support facilities and a new fire station. Also included on the airport premises is the Montana Air National Guard, which maintains and operates F-16 fighter aircraft and a transport plane.
Great Falls is located in north-central Montana along the Missouri River. Before the dams were built, paddle wheel boats could make their way from St. Louis to the Great Falls of the Missouri. Great Falls International Airport, located in Great Falls Montana, is a commercial service airport serving Great Falls and the surrounding community. Great Falls is served by Delta, Horizon, Northwest and Big Sky Airlines. A description of the services and the history of the airport follows. Great Falls incorporates three sets of runways: Runways 3-21, 16-34, and 7-25. Runways 3-21 and 16-34 are designated as air carrier runways, with runway 7-25 being used only for general aviation. Runway 03 has a precision instrument landing system (ILS) approach, making it possible for aircraft to land during inclement weather. Runway 03-21, and 16-34 also have precision instrument markings, and 7-25 has basic runway markings. All runway surfaces are asphalt, and runway 3-21 is built to accommodate any aircraft in the world. The airport has four jet aircraft gate positions, and three commuter gates. Gates one and three can accommodate all types of commercial aircraft (B 737 - B 747), and gates two and four will accommodate only narrow bodied aircraft (B 737, 727, DC-9, MD-80).
Great Falls Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSS) is on the Great Falls International Airport which is 3 miles southwest of the city of Great Falls. The airport sits on top of a bluff overlooking the city and is locally known as Gore Hill. Great Falls AFSS is one of sixty one FAA automated flight service stations scattered across the United States. Flight service specialists provide preflight and inflight weather briefings to pilots of all civil and military aircraft, as well as process flight plans, provide emergency services and relay ATC clearances.
As of 1991, Great Falls International Airport did not have a "written" noise abatement plan, but it does have some informal noise abatement procedures that are directed by the FAA air traffic control tower. In particular, the tower directs all jet aircraft departing on runway 21 to fly to the VOR south of town, then turn on course. This prevents aircraft from starting their turns too soon and flying over the city. Since the city lies directly north of the airport, those aircraft departing on runway 03 have no choice but to fly over the city. There are also no operating restrictions in place and all runways are paved and runway 3-21 is designed to accommodate any aircraft in the world. Runways 03 and 34 also have 1000' overruns at the end of each runway.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Great Falls International Airport Air Guard Station, MT. It would distribute the 120th Fighter Wing's F-16s to the 187th Fighter Wing, Dannelly Field Air Guard Station, AL (three aircraft); the 132d Fighter Wing, Des Moines International Airport Air Guard Station, IA (three aircraft); and retire (nine aircraft). The wing's expeditionary combat support (ECS) elements would remain in place.
Secretary of Defense Justification: DoD recommended this realignment because Great Falls (117) ranked low in military value. The reduction in F-16 force structure and the need to align common versions of the F-16 at the same bases argued for realigning F-16s out of Great Falls. The F-16s would realign to Dannelly (60) and Des Moines (137). Although Des Moines was somewhat lower in military value ranking that Great Falls, the realignment to Des Moines would create a more effective unit of 18 aircraft. The wing's ECS would remain in place to support the Air Expeditionary Force and to retain trained, experienced Air National Guard personnel.
The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $9.3M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $0.7M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $1.8M with a payback expected in four years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $18.1M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 174 jobs (107 direct jobs and 67 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Great Falls, MT, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (.4 percent). Environmentally, there would be potential impacts to air quality; cultural, archeological, or tribal resources; land use constraints or sensitive resource areas; noise; and wetlands that might need to be considered during the implementation of this recommendation. Impacts of costs would include $0.4M in costs for environmental compliance and waste management.
Community Concerns: The Great Falls, MT, community criticized MCI scores, claiming the Air Force's use of a one-size-fits-all approach is inherently biased in favor of large active-duty bases. Community leaders noted the Air National Guard (ANG) Bureau limited the size of ANG installations depending on the units' number of aircraft and mission. Great Falls AGS has reaped efficiencies because it is co-located with an existing civilian airport. They are particularly concerned that if DoD's recommendation is approved, they will not receive a significant emerging mission to backfill the loss. If aircraft must be realigned, they counter-proposed those aircraft be relocated to the nearby Malmstrom AFB instead of being sent to another state.
They also said implementation of DoD's recommendations could adversely affect training due to limited classroom slots and increased costs, and the announced DoD recommendation has already hurt recruiting and retention. The loss of experienced people and the subsequent negative impact on combat capability has been especially ill-timed given the extensive demands of current combat missions. Last, they asserted that aircraft cannot be removed, or National Guard bases closed or realigned, without the Governor's consent. The base has 300 full-time and 700 part-time jobs. There is concern in the community about knowing exactly how many jobs would be affected and what any (currently unidentified) new mission would be.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that the Department of Defense recommendation to realign Great Falls International Airport Air Guard Station could not be supported due to the fact that its outstanding airspace and lack of encroachment were not properly considered. The Commission recognized that due to a shrinking number of F-16s available, the unit would have to give up its F-16s. The tremendous airspace but no impact range in Montana implied an air sovereignty mission and the Commission found this location valuable for F-15 C/D aircraft. Further, the Commission established an F-16 squadron at Dannelly Field, Alabama and F-16 squadron at Des Moines, Iowa, which is consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard and Reserve Laydown plan.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criterion 1, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Great Falls International Airport Air Guard Station, MT. Distribute the fifteen F-16 aircraft assigned to the 120th Wing (ANG) to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and
Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
Establish 15 PAA F-15 aircraft at the 120th Fighter Wing (ANG), Great Falls International Airport Air Guard Station, MT.
Establish 18 PAA F-16 aircraft at the 187th Fighter Wing (ANG), Dannelly Field Air Guard Station, AL.
Establish 18 PAA F-16 aircraft at the 132d Fighter Wing Des Moines International Airport Air Guard Station, IA (ANG).
The wing's Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) elements remain in place.
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.
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