Fallon hosts first meeting on Navy land withdrawal
The first scoping meeting of seven to determine if the Navy will be able to more than double its training land in Nevada is Monday from 3-7 p.m. at the Fallon Convention Center.
Zip Upham, public affairs officer for Naval Air Station Fallon, said each smaller range within the Fallon Range Training Complex would be part of an overall Environment Impact Study. The FRTC has ranges southwest and southeast of Fallon and due east toward Austin and Eureka, a distance of almost 177 miles. Upham said the seven meetings are for the Navy to accept comments from stakeholders who will be affected.
Upham said the EIS is for the modernization of the range.
“Each of the ranges is affected but the only one not being directly modified is B-19 southeast of Fallon,” he said.
Currently, the Navy has specified training ranges within Churchill County, but the proposal will involve four additional counties.. The Navy proposes to renew existing land and expand through additional land withdrawal and land acquisition, airspace modifications and public land withdrawal renewal.
The process is a lengthy one, and any decision is at least three to four years away.
“Come to the meeting and make comments,” Upham said, adding that hearing will be set up in a round-robin format.
Upham and Rob Rule, NAS Fallon’s community plans and liaison officer, said maps of the affected ranges may be found at http://www.FRTCmodernization.com, and individuals may offer comments on the proposal at the same website. Individuals may also attend the Churchill County Commission on Thursday at 8:15 a.m. for a presentation,
Furthermore, Upham said the expansion would give the Navy more room for conducting its aerial maneuvers.
“Since the late 1980s, early 1990s the precision munitions have gotten so much more capable and our tactics usually employ with a significantly increased standoff distance,” he said.
Currently, the Navy has 202,859 acres of public land withdrawal that expires in five years. The Navy seeks an addition of almost 670,000 acres of additional public and nonfederal land and expansion of Special Use Airspace.
Both Upham and Rule said the current configuration of land used for the FRTC does not lend itself to real world situations.
Prior to the first Gulf War, the tactic was to be under the radar and close to the ground,” Rule said, adding that casualties from Iraqi antiaircraft fire cause a number of hits.
Only when laser-guided weapons from ships in the Persian Gulf were fired did pilots have safer missions and standoff capabilities going into Baghdad. Since that time, Upham said the evolution of tactics now instructs pilots to fly higher and father away when engaging combatants.
As a result of improved doctrine, Upham said during the last war in Iraq and Afghanistan, pilots flew high and never came close to being in a threat situation.
In order to practice more distance, Upham said the current ranges need to expand to make training more realistic and safer. He said the current weapon deliveries are not similar to those found in a war.
“What you do in Fallon … 90 days later you are doing the same thing on the (aircraft) carrier,” he said.
One of the ranges proposed for doubling in size is B-17, east of Fallon south of U.S. Highway 50. It currently skirts a portion of State Route 839, an 18-mile two-lane road that runs to the Nevada Scheelite Mine. The additional land will present a more realistic scenario for pilots.
“Once you are over Fairview Peak (east of B-17), at that point you are over your target,” Upham said. “It’s not a 10-mile standoff.”
If the range expands, Rule said the Navy will then relocate the Sheelite Mine highway.
The proposal calls for doubling B-16 southwest of Fallon. Currently, SEALs train at B-16, but they have limited fire capability there, Upham added. Expansion will follow Sand Canyon Road into Lyon County.
In Dixie Valley, Upham said the Navy wants to withdraw land from the Bureau of Land Management so development will not impact training. Upham said the B-20 range in Dixie Valley consist of checkerboard land, and some of the land is owned by many landowners.