The Air Force is considering the expansion of Special Use Airspace to train F-16 fighter pilots at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico. One of the alternatives being considered, Alternative #2, is to create a new Military Operations Area (MOA) west of Silver City, including over the Gila National Forest and Gila Wilderness. The Air Force is proposing to fly up to 10,000 training sorties annually, including low-level flights at 500 feet above ground level and as many as 1000 supersonic sorties. The F-16s will also train with defensive countermeasures, including chaff and flares – as many as 30,000 annually.
The human, wildlife and environmental impacts of this proposal could be severe. The extreme noise from low-level flights can be frightening and disruptive to humans and wildlife. Additionally, Holloman’s proposal includes the use of chaff and flares for aircraft defense. These radar-disrupting systems introduce aluminum, glass fibers, and magnesium into the environment, with potential impacts to water quality and wildlife and increased risk of wildfire.
The Air Force initiated the environmental compliance phase under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in August 2017. Scoping concluded in September 2017. The draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released in late spring 2019.
August 25, 2017 Federal Register Notice – Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Holloman AFB Special Use Airspace – https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/08/25/2017-18069/notice-of-intent-to-prepare-an-environmental-impact-statement-for-the-special-use-airspace
Holloman Air Force Base Special Use Airspace Optimization Environmental Impact Statement – http://www.hollomanafbairspaceeis.com/Default.aspx