The US Air Force released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for expansion of the Holloman Air Force Base F-16 training airspace. Although the Air Force states that its current airspace is adequate for the F-16 pilot training mission, Alternatives 2 and 3 would add 4.5 million acres of additional Special Use Airspace in southwest New Mexico, creating the new Lobos Military Operations Area (MOA), as well as adding additional new airspaces that total 7 million acres over the Gila Region.
This new military airspace will directly impact Silver City, the Mining District, Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences, Socorro, the Gila and Cibola National Forests, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, Wilderness Areas, including the Gila, Aldo Leopold, Robledo Mountains and Sierra de las Uvas wilderness areas, and State Parks, putting communities at great risk from extreme noise, wildfire, environmental contamination, and severely threatening tourism and local economies.
Alternative 1, expansion of the Talon MOA east of Holloman, along with the use of airspace over White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and other airspaces close to Holloman, meet the needs of the F-16 pilot training mission without the severe economic and environmental impacts to communities in southwest New Mexico and the region’s unique natural and cultural resources.
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.
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