Tuesday, December 23, 2014
WASHINGTON — The Air Force has launched a major study into the future of its test ranges, one that could decide how the service runs its live-flight testing for the next 20 years. Steven Pennington, director of Bases, Ranges, and Airspace for the Air Force, said the focus is finding how much operational infrastructure is needed to enable current and future readiness. Pennington made clear that big ranges, such as Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Eglin Air Force Bases, Fla., won't be going anywhere as they remain vital for composite force training and testing of high-tech jets such as the F-35. Part of the need for the new infrastructure is the increasingly advanced technology being fielded by the service, and the real indicator has been the F-35. That jet challenges the traditional ranges in a way other jets have not. Earlier combat aircraft were not that much different, "but we've seen a leap of magnitude in the capability of 5th gen, and our ranges have to make the same leap," he said. (Source: Defense News, 12/23/14) Eglin is home of the F-35 integrated training center, where pilots and maintainers from all three branches and foreign partners are trained.