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20 October 2004. One of the Eyeball series.

Maps from
Source of aerial photos: Terraserver-USA.

Naval Air Station Fallon, NV

Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC)

The Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) is enclosed within a Military Operating Area (MOA) which overlays 6.5 million acres. Embedded within the MOA are four separate training ranges: Bravos 16, 17, 19, and 20; an integrated air defense system comprised of 37 real or simulated radars throughout the Dixie Valley area; and a supersonic flying area. The four ranges and various electronic warfare sites comprise 84,000 acres of withdrawn land (1.3% of the MOA). The entire FRTC is instrumented with a Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System (TACTS).

The FRTC is the focal point for all Navy, and some Marine, graduate level aviation strike warfare training. This training is under the cognizance of NSAWC, which develops realistic combat training scenarios for military aircrew flying high performance jet aircraft and helicopters, employing state of the art military equipment and tactics. The FRTC offers a unique configuration of land, airspace, targets, and instrumentation which allows for levels of combat training not available elsewhere.

The Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) is located in western Nevada approximately 50 NMI east of Reno, NV. The complex provides a Tactical Aircrew Combat Training Systems (TACTS), an electronic warfare (EW) range, a wide variety of air-to-ground targets, and extensive airspace all contributing significantly to Fleet air training operations. Aircraft tracking service is available in the TACTS area for TACTS-capable aircraft. This complex is controlled by NAS Fallon.


Public Land Withdrawals

Public land withdrawals are parcels of federally administered land which have been withdrawn from public use and reserved for military activities. Over 127,000 acres of public land has been withdrawn to support military training at NAS Fallon. The withdrawan land encompass the ranges which comprise the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC). NAS Fallon and the FRTC are located in the Carson Desert and surrounding valleys of Churchill County in west-central Nevada. The base is about 70 miles east of Reno and 6 miles southeast of the City of Fallon. NAS Fallon controls 5 air-to-ground training ranges:

Bravo 16 — 17,280 acres
Bravo 17 — 21,400 acres
Bravo 19 — 17,330 acres
Bravo 20 — 41,007 acres
Electronic Warfare Range



MARCH 8, 2002

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you. Your support of our Navy and the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) in Fallon, Nevada, has been vital to our nation’s ongoing war efforts. As one of the “crown jewels” comprising the national military training centers, the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center conducts high-fidelity tactical combat training and assessment for Navy carrier air wings. We conduct this four-week evolution just prior to each air wing’s final joint warfighting exercise, completing the Fallon training approximately three months before its overseas deployment.

In addition, we are responsible for training and for maintaining supervision of the weapons and tactical instructor cadre of every naval aviation fixed and rotary-wing warfighting community. We “train the trainers” of the strikefighter community at TOPGUN in Fallon, providing highly proficient tactical experts to fleet weapons schools and deploying squadrons. These trainers then implement fleet-wide standards for strikefighter tactical performance under the aegis of NSAWC training objectives and employment doctrine. We have used this model for all of our aviation communities. Before each air wing arrives in Fallon, they will have completed a tailored squadron-level training program coordinated by their NSAWC-trained tactical training experts. The NSAWC staff at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon carries out its training regimen with the carrier air wing, emphasizing integrated tactical employment of the air wing as a unified warfighting element. Similarly, our staff at the newly organized Center of Maritime Dominance at NAS North Island, California leverages the warfighting expertise of the NSAWC instructor cadre to provide intensive tactical training in battlespace dominance for Navy anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare units. Each year over 55,000 people go through NSAWC/NAS Fallon.

NSAWC is the primary aviation command responsible for Navy air wing tactical integration, and supports this effort through close coordination with naval, joint, and national commands and agencies as a means of providing the most tactically relevant aviation combat training in the inter-deployment training cycle (IDTC). We are also responsible for implementing innovative and emerging technologies into naval strike warfare execution, and have recently integrated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM), Global Positioning System (GPS)-weapons, and emerging communications technologies as part of the transformation of standardized carrier air wing strike warfare. To train our aviators NSAWC operates the Fallon Range Training Complex, a supersonic instrumented range the size of Connecticut with a variety of threats and targets. We at NSAWC are committed to the best possible training for the warfighter. Such training yields immediately employable, combat-ready air wings prepared for a host of contingencies in any worldwide theater and capable of projecting U.S. power ashore through the reach, lethality, and precision of naval strike forces. Collaboration with our joint service training centers has further enhanced the effectiveness of our carrier air wings in joint warfare, particularly the ongoing war against terrorism.

Today I would like to offer some observations on how critical the support of the American people and the Congress has been to enabling NSAWC to carry out its important training mission. I will address the impact of current and projected funding on our manning, equipment, and warfighting capabilities, as well as challenges that remain. Building on improvements in the fiscal year 2002 (FY02) Department of Defense Authorization Act, the FY03 budget request represents a major commitment by Navy leadership to maintain current readiness, quality of service, and combat capability. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has stated his priorities of manpower, current readiness, future readiness, quality of service and alignment. NSAWC plays a part in each of these areas but our primary thrust is current and future readiness: Current readiness by providing training to those who deploy--from the individual to an entire air wing; future readiness by using our recent fleet experienced warriors as shapers of the future.

Funding in the FY02 and FY03 budget has made a difference at NSAWC.

- An increase in Operation and Maintenance funding increases flying hours for air crews, and makes steady improvements in crucial spare parts and depot repairs for our stable of aircraft and the squadrons and air wings that train at NSAWC.

- Increased funding for precision ordnance will allow us to begin to achieve the promise of transformation through force-netted naval strike platforms, a capability we are beginning to develop at NSAWC. We need to keep the press on in this area.

- Funding for research and development accounts will accelerate the fusion of new technologies with enhanced command and control processes to improve the speed of command we find necessary for future naval strike warfare.

- Increases to personnel accounts provide incentives for retention through improvements in salary, health care, and housing which directly affect a remotely located command like NSAWC. Without our spectacular people none of Naval Aviation’s success would be possible.


The FY03 budget request provides sufficient funding to support the NSAWC training mission. The Navy met its recruiting goals in the last three years, and so improved manning at the waterfront. As a shore command, NSAWC faces some unique challenges in manning junior and senior enlisted billets. A shortfall of senior enlisted leadership creates an experience gap that we must work daily to mitigate. But we have some very junior intelligence specialists doing big jobs. NSAWC utilizes civilian maintenance contractors to perform aircraft and range maintenance and operations. This construct has proven extraordinarily successful, with lower long-term government costs than if we used government civil service or military service members only. Officer manning at NSAWC requires continual oversight in order to man the fleet with tactical expertise while at the same time ensuring that only the “best of the best” are training carrier air wings and tactics instructors in Fallon. We have made significant progress in Fallon officer instructor manning since my predecessor spoke to you three years ago and have improved from 78 percent of the basic allowance in 1999 to 88 percent of basic allowance today. That means 11 more aviators are on staff contributing to training. Based upon current trends and the concerted efforts of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, NSAWC manning will likely improve over the next year. Again support of the Congress through increases in pay, housing allowances, permanent change of station reimbursement, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and expanded medical benefits to family members will produce the retention advances we need to retain these highly trained officers and Sailors.

NSAWC also maintains a cadre of highly motivated civilian personnel who provide the corporate knowledge necessary to run a world-class combat training enterprise. We operate under strict personnel cost controls and use standing contractual agreements whenever the value to the government is greatest, particularly during times of temporary surges in manpower requirements, such as carrier air wing training. We have one A-76 study currently ongoing which is evaluating 19 military billets. I will share my concern that even as A-76 studies continue, NSAWC must maintain a steady influx of recent fleet-experienced leadership throughout our staff in order to sustain our world-class level of training. For those civilians we do hire, our manning strategy has allowed us to hire the right people with the right skills for the job, and at best value to the federal government.


In order to complete our mission properly, NSAWC requires resources for training equipment and, equally importantly, the maintenance associated with operating that equipment at a heightened pace of operations. In past years, NSAWC trained an average of four carrier air wings per year; with the present war effort underway, we are on a pace to train seven carrier air wings in FY02. The equipment at Fallon, used for adversary threat profiles flown in aging F/A-18 Hornet and F-14 Tomcat aircraft on an electronic warfare range simulating early Cold War threats, is undergoing modest improvement. One of the areas of greatest improvement in carrier air wing tactical training will manifest itself in the upcoming introduction of the F-16 Falcon to NSAWC. With the support of the Congress and continuing cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, the Navy will be able to present “fourth generation” fighter threats to deploying air wings by the end of FY02 and continue to maintain them with funding levels requested in FY03. The 14 F-16 aircraft that will arrive in Fallon will immediately “raise the bar” in tactical training, both for carrier air wing training and for TOPGUN, and yield greater effectiveness in our deploying warfighters.

Funding for range improvements is an area of concern. Our Tactical Air Combat Tracking System is 1980s vintage, is difficult to maintain, and tracks only 36 aircraft. The Fallon Range Training Complex is in need of additional Electronic Warfare Simulators, Surface-to-Air Threat Systems and Targets to execute Time Critical Strike. Increased funding will also allow us to explore options for upgrading our surface-to-air missile threat presentations, and to train air wings for time critical targeting against mobile threats. Our most recent efforts in time critical targeting such as integrating Marines and Naval Special Warfare ground troops have yielded significant improvements to naval warfighting doctrine and, most importantly, have prepared those carrier air wings presently on station to conduct these missions. We also expect to gain substantial improvement in our training capabilities through joint partnerships with General Johnston at the Nellis range and Admiral Bachman at the China Lake range.

As we modernize the threat presentations, we are also keenly aware that we must prepare the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) to accommodate our incorporation of emerging, proven technologies. We are already integrating UAVs, Datalink, and GPS-weapons into our carrier air wing training syllabus, despite some shortfalls in our range equipment. Similarly, as we eventually incorporate Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) capabilities and space-based sensors into modern naval strike warfare, FRTC will need to keep up with these technologies.

Base operations funding and infrastructure improvements at NAS Fallon over the last decade have proven to be prescient. Commitment to funding for base infrastructure has made it a world-class place to train. Finally, the quality of life initiatives sponsored by the Congress and implemented in Fallon over the last decade have resulted in tangibly better living conditions for our Sailors and their families, as well as access to essential base services such as medical and child care. I appreciate the committee’s continuing support of these programs.


The “bread and butter” of NSAWC is our ability to provide robust, realistic, and relevant combat training to deployers. As I have previously outlined, the bulk of our training equipment, aircraft, and range hardware is maintained by contractors.

We do face some impediments to training, particularly in the areas of environmental issues and encroachment. NSAWC routinely engages local, state, and federal environmental authorities in the performance of our mission. Cognizant of our mission to protect to protect our national heritage – which includes our Nation’s environment – we strive for a balanced approach between environmental issues and our unique military training needs. The great majority of our training is conducted over Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Our successful and proactive interaction with the United States Department of the Interior, the Nevada Fish and Game Bureaus, four different Native American Tribal Councils, and the BLM is a direct result of our staff employing a BLM civil servant, which enables us to conduct our mission with all parties in mutual agreement. We have not yet encountered environmental issues that we have been unable to resolve through this arrangement.

Encroachment issues are more difficult and have potentially greater ill-effects on tactical combat training. The primary impediments we face at NSAWC are related to land use, airspace, and radio frequency management. As the state of Nevada grows in population, we are seeing a growing impact to our training in surrounding land use, including water rights and proposed wilderness. While we have been able to amicably settle issues over water rights and environmental issues, encroachment upon our target areas may become a problem, particularly with the introduction of standoff glide and powered weapons. The target areas, as presently configured, were designed decades ago for gravity weapons, with the delivery aircraft required to fly overhead the targets. Today’s and tomorrow’s weapons will be delivered at significant distances from the target. In order to properly train combat air crews in realistic weapon deliveries, meaning that weapons will be released many miles from their targets, that land area under the weapon flight paths must be safe and accessible to the military. NSAWC and all stakeholders in Nevada land use have a vital interest in keeping our weapon flight paths clear of populations and structures for public safety.

Airspace restrictions in supersonic flight, weapons release, night vision device employment, and high altitude availability present challenges to combat training operations in the FRTC. NSAWC has worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure maximum availability of high altitude airspace to 50,000 feet (FL 500) and has generally succeeded, although on occasion we have been limited to only 40,000 feet. This restriction may seem insignificant, but it affects the ability of fighter aircraft to fully employ the weapon systems onboard, and often forces adversary aircraft to fly profiles that are tactically limited, with the associated artificiality in combat training. NSAWC has had success partnering with the FAA, and in February 2002 was able to extend its target area airspace up to 50,000 feet on a scheduled basis. This initiative allows air wings to deliver weapons on Fallon targets at tactically relevant altitudes. We are also presently working with the FAA to coordinate rules for night vision device training and Link-16 voice in the FRTC, again to best replicate modern air warfare.

Spectrum availability at the training ranges is a key to exercising and testing our radio communications. We are concerned that this availability may decrease in the future if Federal government spectrum is reallocated to the private sector and distributed via the auction process. As NSAWC incorporates newer technologies into its ranges, including new aircraft tracking devices, we may find that we will need to invest significant funds in “retooling” our hardware and software to work around any reallocation of the spectrum we use. This is a national-level issue that will not be solved by individual ranges, and that will require significant efforts to ensure our national leaders are aware of the impact of any proposed reallocation of spectrum.

As training is the primary mission of NSAWC, I would like to detail a few of our initiatives in modern combat training that may give the members of the subcommittee a sense of where we are headed in near-future tactical air combat training. Today we are employing a number of computer-based programs to export tactical knowledge and learning to the Fleet warfighters, wherever they may be. We currently use a classified web page to keep our Fleet trainers up to speed on the latest tactical recommendations for aerial warfare employment. In this way, we update training lectures, weapon employment guides, and other tactically relevant information quickly through a broadly available medium. In the first days of Operation Enduring Freedom, my instructors were carrying on daily exchanges with combat crews on the USS ENTERPRISE and USS CARL VINSON. We see this method as one of the surest ways to remain closely engaged with our people on the “pointy end of the spear.” We also employ “Air Combat Online (ACOL),” a web-based software that maintains aircrew tactical qualifications as well as lecture materials for Fleet squadron tactics instructors. This effort and our continuing involvement in assessing simulator capabilities for distributive learning show great promise for training gains, especially in sustaining combat readiness afloat.

I should also address the changes in training that we have incorporated since the attacks on our country on September 11, 2001. While we have made some changes to our training regimen at Fallon since September 11th, it would be better to describe them as changes in context. NSAWC follows a training stratagem of providing “skill sets” to deployers, so that regardless of operating area, the warfighters are prepared for a wide range of contingencies and will be able to bring combat power to bear upon our adversaries. In this case, a carrier operating in the Mediterranean will be ready for any combat contingency in any region of the world, be it in Africa, Asia, or even South America.

I have described how my staff harnessed the Internet to stay engaged with our deploying carrier air wings. I should also add that we maintained close situational awareness of the early planning and execution phases of Operation Enduring Freedom, as NSAWC tactical experts were in place aboard operational battle staffs at Joint Task Force Southwest Asia, U.S. Central Command, and the Navy staff in Washington within one week of the September 11th attacks. From those exchanges, NSAWC was able to quickly modify the tactical context of the four air wings that have trained at the FRTC since September 11th. NSAWC embarked upon a quick build of Afghanistan-like target sets that included caves, bunkers, and camouflaged terrorist training camps. Additionally, we collaborated closely with the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School to rapidly validate joint B-52/Navy tactical aircraft laser-guided bomb deliveries. We focused greater training events on special forces integration into urban close air support and direct attack missions, and ensured a thorough understanding of the newly introduced Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) while training the first F-14 squadron less than two weeks after they were first given JDAM flight clearance. Finally, we continued our training emphasis on P-3 Orion and UAV video feed exploitation as time critical strike tools, and set in motion a much improved command and control construct for the carrier battlegroup strike warfare commander. These initiatives are a representative snapshot of the near-daily response to change that occurs at NSAWC.


In closing, I would like to thank the members of the subcommittee and Congress for their continued strong support of NSAWC and our Sailors. In the last three years the amount of equipment and people that air wings trained with at Fallon has improved dramatically. Through the CNO’s focus on current readiness our aircrews and Sailors have more of what they need to train much earlier in the IDTC. Each air wing is getting better. We just finished Air Wing SEVENTEEN in late February. They had significantly more people, planes, and support equipment, for training at Fallon than just two years ago. While I won’t deny the 2.0 carrier presence in Central Command’s area of responsibility is causing us some readiness challenges and some part shortages are becoming problematic, the immediate threat of terrorism has brought out the best in our Navy men and women, and at the same time presented difficult decisions for our national leadership. While there is much to be done, I am confident that the current budget request before the Congress will yield significant readiness gains for the war on terrorism and provide NSAWC with the necessary resources to train and prepare forward-deployed, combat-credible, and operationally agile carrier air wings ready to defend America’s interests any time, anywhere.

Aerial photos below dated September 1999.

Naval Nevada EW/Bomb Sites