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Arizona Air Base Replicates Afghanistan (Jan. 17)



LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.---The battlefield of today is far different from the battlefield pilots encountered in Korea and Vietnam, and prepared for during the Cold War era.

With the new demand for improved threat replication and target arrays that provide training for military operations in urban terrain, the base here is continuing to upgrade and enhance training for today's battle arena.

The mountainous desert terrain of the Barry M. Goldwater Range -- the nation's second largest military range with 2.7-million acres -- simulated Southwest Asia and the Afghan landscape well before the unforeseen war in Afghanistan started.

By the time their training is completed, pilots are successfully prepared to fight in the central command or other theaters, but modifications are constantly being made to enhance training opportunities.

"The improvements made on the range help prepare our student pilots for the combat air forces," said Brig. Gen. Steve Sargeant, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "For the pilots flying on the range, it's imperative the training scenarios are as realistic as possible."

Targets have evolved from Cold War- and Vietnam-War era configurations. While a simulated airfield is still a viable target, its composition and surroundings have changed. Target sets are being reconfigured to replicate enemy surface-to-air missile sites, airfields and other targets pilots may encounter in today's air-to-ground combat operations.

"We are being set up against diverse targets," said Lt. Col. Scott Lardner, chief of wing tactical programs at the 56th Fighter Wing range management office. "A pilot may be called upon to drop a bomb on a building or on a corner of a building in a built-up area, so we have incorporated more vertically developed target arrays."

About 150 sea-land transport containers have been added on three tactical ranges to create new target arrays. The containers are used to make relatively full-scale mock-ups of built-up areas. The containers are inexpensive, durable structures that are stacked like blocks and used to create three dimensional industrial complexes. They are spot welded so one container will not slide off the other easily, even if hit directly.

The durability of the containers allows pilots to strafe them, drop heavy weights, inert bombs and other practice ordnance. Other than live ordnance, pilots can drop any type of training munitions on them.

"Sea-land containers are inexpensive, durable structures that allow us to create ... complexes like airfield hangars and airfield towers," Lardner said. "We stack them like blocks to create buildings and that's the only assembly required."

Joint modular ground targets have also been added. They are full-scale mock-ups of enemy weapons systems such as SAMS, tanks, anti-aircraft artillery and Scuds that add realism to the whole scenario because they are replicas of specific threats. The modular targets snap together like giant building blocks.

The modular targets are easy to place and remove, and weather better than plywood targets. The targets are environmentally friendly as well because the lighter metals are easily recycled and no fluid purging is required as when using retired vehicles as targets

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Range Provides Combat Readiness For Today's Threats