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Southwest Range Complex

The Southwest Range Complex is uniquely suited to modern warfare's challenges, for within this "theater" lies the most extensive complex of test and training ranges and weapons expertise in the world. It supports the development of new technologies, the development and evaluation of new tactics and doctrine, and the continuing preparation, training and readiness of the warfighters prior to deployment. There is a great amount of diversity and synergy within the Southwest Range Complex.

The test and training ranges that comprise the Southwest Range Complex include 18 Department of Defense facilities from all branches of the military services. Each of these facilities have distinct and complementary missions which provide research and development, test and evaluation, training and tactics development for air, land and sea warfare, as well as ballistic missile defense.

These ranges are networked via a series of microwave, dedicated and leased fiber-optic cables, and satellite data links to transfer large quantities of real-time test data. This complex provides the widest array of test capabilities in the world and regularly supports aircraft, munitions, C4I, space and electronic warfare testing.

The individual ranges represent a major Department of Defense investment in infrastructure, including airfields, instrumentation, testing laboratories, simulation laboratories, shops, hangars and targets. Terrain varies from desert floor to forested mountains, open ocean areas, shorelines and islands. Their remoteness from major population areas allow for large scale military operations involving the use of live ordnance and ensure that safety and security are not compromised.

On March 13, 1996 Earth Tech, Incorporated, Colton, California and Radian Corporation, Austin, Texas, were awarded $120,000 increments as part of a not-to-exceed $6,000,000 (basic contract year only) indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, firm fixed price contract. Task orders will be written under the contract as required, to provide services to support achievement of environmental objectives in the area of environmental compliance, pollution prevention, restoration, environmental and land-use planning, base comprehensive planning and geographical information systems in support of Edwards Air Force Base, California, Air Force Plant #42 and test ranges within the Greater Southwest Range complex (includes states of California, Nevada, and Arizona). The majority of the work was performed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and was expected to be completed by February 7, 1997.

Southwest Defense Complex

The Southwest Defense Alliance is a multi-state coalition that seeks the designation of the Southwest Defense Complex as the primary area for defense system development and testing and large-scale, joint service testing.

The Southwest Defense Complex is a proposal to consolidate defense research, development, testing, evaluation, and training in the Southwest United States. This proposal initially linked 12 bases in 5 states (California, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona) and focused on addressing two of the challenges facing defense in the future: the use of communication technology to transfer information across great distances in order to attack efficiently and with higher success rates and the ability to use resources to their maximum in a time of decreasing defense budgets.

The California bases in the proposed complex are Edwards Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center, Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms and the Fort Irwin National Training Center. Other bases included in the complex are the Yuma Proving Grounds and Marine Corps Air Station in Arizona, Naval Air Station in Fallon and the Weapons Tactical Center and Electronic Warfare Ranges at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the Utah Test and Training Range, and the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The Lancaster, Calif.,-based Aerospace Office, Inc. is the executive agent for the Southwest Defense Alliance. The Southwest Defense Alliance is an incorporated, non-profit association of cities, counties, states, businesses and civic leaders, retired defense and military experts, and non-profit organizations, founded in 1997.

By 2000 the Southwest Defense Alliance consisted of a consortium of communities and county and state governments from the five states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah supporting the Southwest Defense Complex of 18 military installations in the Southwest capable of supporting a significant portion of joint services research, development, test, and training needs.

The idea for a Southwest Defense Complex came from a proposal by General Colin Powell to focus joint service testing and training in the Southwest. Gen Colin Powell stated in Feb 1993, "in the southwestern US all four services have training, test and evaluation ranges that provide a land, airspace, sea area, and offshore supersonic operating domain that could accommodate a major portion of our joint test and evaluation needs." Supporters of military installations in the southwestern United States took a giant step in October of 1998 toward building a powerful political force to protect their bases. Delegates from around the region met in Utah to formally establish the Southwest Defense Alliance.

The proposed Southwest Defense Complex provides the capability to satisfy a significant portion of DOD's RDT&E and training requirements. The facilities in the SWC are unique. Their attributes include vast size; unencroached locations free of commercial or civil air or sea routes; remoteness from population centers, which permits large scale military operations involving the use of live ordnance, varied terrain and weather; and geographic proximity to each other. The individual ranges in the complex support the various warfare areas and provide the geographic cohesiveness to operate as a combination or in whole to meet the evolving combined force requirement.

Multiple use of resources between branches of the service is necessary in order to make sure that precious resources are used to their fullest. For example, it makes much more sense to develop missiles in one place instead of in five different locations. Bases in the Southwest have already begun to share resources and cooperate in testing. Navy and Air Force facilities in California share the use of optical sensors for visual tracking of aircraft, so that each service does not have to duplicate investment. The western range bases have a common data display format so that they may easily share information. F-15 aircraft stationed at Edwards Air Force Base are flown against unmanned drones at the Naval Air Warfare Center at Pt. Mugu, both in California, so that they do not have to fly cross-country. We need to encourage the services to continue taking such efficient and cost-effective steps. This resource use is the foundation of the proposed Southwest Defense Complex and is the reason that the Complex is critically important.

The Southwest provides a great deal of space to test new technology and train soldiers to use it, both of which are vital to the successful defense of our nation in the future. In order to develop technology in the most cost-effective manner, lab and field-testing need to be in close proximity to each other. Technology can then be developed, tested in the field, and sent back to the lab in order to be adapted further to the battle environment. Commercial technology can be quickly adapted to military uses in order to decrease costs. The most cost-effective way to test and train commercial technology is to have the lab that is adapting it in the vicinity of the field where it is being tested. On the human side of the operation, in order for operations to run smoothly, military personnel need to train as they expect to fight. Soldiers should practice and train maneuvers using technologies in a real-world environment. In this way, both the technology and the people that use it will be as prepared as possible for future threats to national security while utilizing military resources to their maximum.

Physical space is vital to the type of testing and training just described. A single open-air test range requires nearly two million acres of open land. The Southwest is the only region of the country that offers land of this size, as well as air and sea space needed for other kinds of testing. The Southwest offers over 335 million acres of federally owned land. Over 490 thousand square miles of air space is available in the Southwest, and 484 thousand square miles of sea are open for training activities. This land can be used without the interference from civilians or substantial electromagnetic interference--both of which are a problem in the rest of the country.

Climate and weather considerations are also critical to testing and training under the most efficient conditions. The Southwest's weather and climate are ideal for these purposes. For example, China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center in California has 260 clear days per year and has very low levels of atmospheric distortion. Visibility at China Lake is frequently over 100 miles and seismic activity is very low. However, there are a variety of climates in the Southwest Complex: arid deserts, cold and icy climates, and mildly humid and moist seashores. These conditions provide optimum circumstances for training and testing since the region combines a variety of climates for real-world testing with optimum weather for maximum efficiency in use of time.


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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:56:58 ZULU