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AIT (Atmospheric Interceptor Technology) EA

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 NEED AND PURPOSE FOR THE PROPOSED ACTION

1.1.1 NEED

1. To enhance the national defense, the USAF plans to test its existing ground-based radar systems for detecting potential inbound missile threats. To accomplish this, the USAF must realistically simulate inbound missile threat trajectories from potential Pacific Basin adversaries. To meet this requirement, the USAF proposes the USAF ait program, with test objectives that mandate a trajectory that is capable of specific azimuths and altitudes to provide a threat-like scenario to existing operational ground-based radars. These operational ground-based radars will observe and evaluate the simulated inbound threat trajectory of the USAF ait sub_orbital test vehicles.

2. Two existing USAF radar systems have high potential for NMD application. The upgraded PAVE PAWS radar located at Beale AFB, California is a wide-looking potential target detection element of a future NMD system. The HAVE STARE tracking radar located at Vandenberg AFB, California represents a candidate design to perform the narrow-looking, target tracking radar role in a future NMD system. To fully understand the utility of these radars in an NMD role, the USAF plans to integrate and test these systems using realistic threat scenarios. California is the only location where these radars are close enough to be tested together. The PAVE PAWS radar initially detects an incoming target and hands over specific target tracking to the HAVE STARE.

1.1.2 PURPOSE

The purpose of the proposed action is to evaluate the performance and utility of existing radar systems to support potential low_cost, low_risk NMD architectures. This is the USAF NMD initiative. Testing the operational ground-based radar system requires the launch of a test vehicle that can be simultaneously detected and tracked by both systems. The USAF ait program will allow the evaluation of the systems' capabilities to simultaneously acquire and accurately track the test vehicle and to manage data.

1.2 ALTERNATIVE SELECTION CRITERIA

To support the USAF ait program, an alternative must meet the following criteria:

Radar Coverage: Must allow simulation of inbound hostile threat trajectories, and confirm the ability of existing U.S. early warning PAVE PAWS and HAVE STARE radar sites in California to detect the test vehicle.

Overflight: Must avoid overflight of populated areas and minimize overflights of environmentally sensitive areas.

Logistics: Must be supportable year-round using existing transportation infrastructure, such as air cargo and barge systems.

Weather: Must provide weather conditions compatible with the launch of sub-orbital solid rocket motor test vehicles.

Range: Must provide launch capability within a maximum of 2,000 kilometers (km) from the radar coverage area to accommodate the range of the two-stage USAF ait test vehicle and to provide desired trajectories into the early warning radar coverage.

Launch Capability: Must be capable of using the existing proven, low_cost, low_risk USAF ait test vehicle.

1.3 SCOPE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

1. Requirements of NEPA and the implementing regulations of the President's CEQ require federal agencies (e.g., the USAF) to evaluate the impact that their proposed actions would have on the environment. The purpose of this EA is to fulfill those requirements for the USAF ait program and to make the USAF decision makers aware of potential environmental consequences of proposed action and alternatives.

2. Several potential alternatives were considered but eliminated from further detailed analysis in this EA based upon selection criteria described above developed for this proposed action. As explained more fully below, based on the evaluation of potential alternatives, only the AADC commercial spaceport on Kodiak Island, Alaska, will meet the selection criteria for the USAF ait program. The construction and operation of AADC's KLC was the subject of an EA conducted by the FAA. The FAA EA for KLC was completed in June 1996 and a FONSI (Attachment 1) was signed for the KLC site by the FAA in October 1996. To avoid a repetitive discussion of the environmental issues associated with AADC's construction and operation of KLC previously discussed in the FAA EA, and to focus the USAF decision making process on the issues associated with the USAF ait program, the USAF adopts the FAA EA analysis and findings regarding the construction and operation of KLC. The FAA is a cooperating agency for the USAF ait EA. The location of the KLC site is shown in Figure 1.1.

3. To assist in identification of the scope of the EA for the USAF ait program, the USAF conducted a scoping process to solicit input from the public regarding issues that were considered during preparation of the EA. Through a series of public announcements, press releases, purchased newspaper display advertisements that appeared in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, on August 18 and September 3, 1997 (see Appendix A) and an Internet notice, the USAF requested review and comment from the public. A summary of the issues raised during the scoping process is provided in Appendix A of this USAF EA. In addition to the public scoping process, the USAF consulted with federal and state agencies.

4. Potential impacts associated with the two sub-orbital launches of the USAF ait test vehicles are identified and analyzed herein. In addition to the FAA EA, this EA addresses environmental impacts associated with the launch of two USAF ait test vehicles, including an analysis of air quality, biological resources, noise, health and safety, and hazardous materials. This analysis will result in either a FONSI or a finding that an EIS must be prepared.

1.4 DECISION TO BE MADE

The decision to be made regarding the USAF ait program is whether to:

Proceed with the two sub-orbital launches of the USAF ait test vehicle from KLC to challenge the existing ground_based radar systems' ability to rapidly acquire and accurately track the test vehicle, as well as the systems' capabilities to manage data.

Take no action (i.e., No Action alternative) and not launch the two USAF ait test vehicles and not conduct the test of the existing ground-based radar system.

1.5 PERMITS, APPROVALS AND CONSULTATIONS

1. The FAA and AADC have or are obtaining various permits and approvals for operation of the KLC. Table 1.1 lists these permits and approvals pertinent to the USAF ait program. The USAF is working directly with FAA and with the appropriate agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] and National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS]) to assure that the ait program is in compliance with federal and state regulations, including the permits and approvals obtained by AADC.

2. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to consult with the USFWS to determine if their actions have the potential to impact threatened or endangered species. Based on the recent listing of the Steller's eider as a threatened species, the USAF has completed informal Section 7 consultation with the USFWS for the USAF ait program. In addition, the USAF has completed informal consultation with the NMFS regarding the Steller sea lion, which NMFS reclassified from threatened to endangered effective June 1997.

3. The USAF is also addressing the issues of air space and maritime traffic. The USAF is coordinating with the FAA regarding commercial airspace corridors, and the FAA is a cooperating agency for this EA. The USAF is working with the U.S. Coast Guard on maritime traffic impacts.



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