Background

The Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR), located on approximately 1.734 million acres of land in southwestern Arizona, has served as a military training range since it was established to train U.S. pilots and other aircrew members during World War II. The BMGR is one of the nation’s most capable and productive ground and air training ranges and remains indispensable to the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to produce the combat-ready aircrews needed to defend the nation and its interests. 

 

The BMGR is a relatively unfragmented and undisturbed ecosystem that is recognized for the continuing predominance of natural processes and its rich biodiversity, including habitat for threatened and endangered species. In their natural and cultural resource management and stewardship roles, the Air Force and Marine Corps continue to implement measures to preserve and protect the land.

 

Portions of the BMGR are also widely used for recreation by members of the public; policies for public use are guided by the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) to further support resource protection. The INRMP defines how the Air Force and Marine Corps will manage the BMGR’s natural resources and support recreational opportunities. The plan is prepared in accordance with the Sikes Act Improvement Act and in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Arizona Game and Fish Department. The INRMP is reviewed as to operation and effect on a regular basis. Every five years the INRMP is updated and the public is afforded an opportunity to review and provide comments on the current natural resource protection programs and recreational opportunities; progress towards resource conservation goals; and plans for furthering resource conservation and protection during the next five-year cycle.

 

Similarly, the Air Force and Marine Corps have prepared an Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan (ICRMP) to address management and stewardship of cultural resources. The overarching goal of the ICRMP is to support the military mission on the BMGR by sustaining the withdrawal of public lands for that purpose through proactive cultural resource management. The management of cultural resources must directly support the military mission, for example, by ensuring that specific military activities on the range are conducted in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

More than 95 percent of the BMGR is comprised of public lands that have been withdrawn and reserved by Congress for use as a military range. The current authorization for the BMGR is not permanent and requires periodic extension by Congress. The current withdrawal and reservation for the range was provided by the Military Lands Withdrawal Act (MLWA) of 1999 (Public Law 106-65) for a duration of 25 years, which expires in October 2024.

The BMGR supports a wide diversity of tactical aviation training activities as well as selected ground training and training support operations. The MLWA of 1999 withdrew the federal public land that comprises the BMGR as one military range but reserved the eastern and western portions of the range for seperate use by the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, respectively. The Air Force is the operator and primary user of BMGR East and the Marine Corps, a component of the Department of the Navy (Navy), is the operator and primary user of BMGR West. A map illustrating the locations of BMGR East and West may be found on the ‘Home’ page of this website, or by clicking here.

 

BMGR East is predominantly used to train pilots and other aircrew to fly and fight in frontline combat aircraft. BMGR East includes three tactical ranges and four numbered ranges for live-fire training in air-to-ground weapons delivery tactics. Numbered ranges are used to teach the fundamental mechanics of air-to-ground bombing, strafing, and rocketry. Tactical ranges are configured at the scale of air-ground combat environments and are used to teach aircrews to apply the fundamentals learned on the numbered ranges against realistic targets with electronically simulated air defenses. High- and low-altitude air-to-air ranges at BMGR East supported by electronic instrumentation provide sophisticated training in advanced air combat tactics. Auxiliary airfields support training in forward and primitive airfield operations, provide disabled aircraft with emergency recovery sites, and serve as staging areas and forward arming and refueling points for helicopter operations.

The Marine Corps and the Navy use BMGR West primarily to advance and hone the readiness of the aircrews and commanders of their combat ready squadrons and air groups. As part of interconnected network of ranges, BMGR West is pivotal for training the Marine Corps’ most advanced air combat instructors. Aircrews use live-fire stationary, mobile, and simulated urban targets to refine their air-to-ground attack tactics. On the much broader scale of an air-ground battlespace, aircrews and air units use an electronically instrumented air-to-air and air-to-ground range to train in all of the air warfare functions of a Marine Corps aircraft wing. 

Some of the features of BMGR West that support training include:

Auxiliary airfield and auxiliary landing field support training for AV-8B and F-35B aircraft operations aboard Navy amphibious assault ships, fixed-wing and helicopter operations at forward airfields, and ground units of Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF).

Known-distance rifle and pistol ranges.

 

Small unit maneuvering ranges with small arms live-fire.

 

Live-fire machine gun training ranges.

 

Convoy security operations training with live-fire.

Parachute drop zone training.

Combat Village training site.

Training sites for units to perform command, control, and communications activites; provide air defense or forward arming and refueling; or other MAGTF functions.

Proposed Action

The Air Force, represented locally by the 56 Fighter Wing/Range Management Office at Luke Air Force Base, and the Department of the Navy, represented locally by Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, have determined that the military need for the BMGR will continue well beyond October 2024 and intend to ask Congress to reauthorize the range and expand it to include the Gila Bend Addition. The Air Force and Marine Corps are preparing an LEIS to support the Congressional decision-making on the proposed reauthorization and expansion of the BMGR. The exceptional combination of assets that make the BMGR so valuable in supporting the contemporary and future training requirements of aircrews and associated ground-based combatants include:
  • Favorable geographic location close to nearby airbases and special use airspace
  • Year-round flying weather
  • Topographically varied terrain that enhances training and testing diversity and realism
  • Expansive restricted-access land area and overlying restricted airspace
  • Integrated air and air-ground training augmented by electronic instrumentation
  • Flexible capacity for a full spectrum of tactical aviation and other training need
The BMGR supports the Marine Corps' semi-annual Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, which provides its air and ground combat instructors with the most advanced training in integrating the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.
An Air Force A-10 pilot performs an air-to-ground attack training mission at the BMGR

Alternatives to be Studied

Two preliminary sets of four alternatives for reauthorizing the BMGR in 2024 have been developed. The four alternatives in one set would reauthorize the existing BMGR without changes to the existing land area or boundary. The four alternatives in the second set would reauthorize the existing land area of the range and would also extend the boundary of BMGR East to incorporate the Gila Bend Addition. The four alternatives within each of the two sets differ from each other either by extending the BMGR land withdrawal for 25 years, 50 years, or by indefinitely or transferring administrative jurisdiction for the BMGR from the Department of the Interior to the Departments of the Air Force and Navy. The preliminary alternatives include:  
  • Alternative 1 would reauthorize the existing land withdrawal of the BMGR for 25 years (until 2049) with no boundary changes. The Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF) and the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) would continue to manage the withdrawn public lands in BMGR East and BMGR West and consult the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (SECDOI) before using the BMGR for non-reserved purposes.
  • Alternative 1A would implement Alternative 1 except the withdrawal would be for 50 years (until 2074).
  • Alternative 1B would implement Alternative 1 except the withdrawal would be for an indefinite period until the BMGR is no longer needed by the Air Force and Navy.
  • Alternative 1C would permanently transfer administrative jurisdiction of the lands currently comprising BMGR East and BMGR West from the SEDOI to SECAF and SECNAV, respectively.
  • Alternative 2 would reauthorize the existing land withdrawal of the BMGR for 25 years, but the BMGR East boundary would be extended to include the Gila Bend Addition. Management of the withdrawn public lands in the BMGR would continue as described for Alternative 1.
  • Alternative 2A would implement Alternative 2 except the withdrawal would be for 50 years.
  • Alternative 2B would implement Alternative 2 except the withdrawal would be for an indefinite period until the BMGR is no longer needed by the Air Force and Navy.
  • Alternative 2C would permanently transfer administrative jurisdiction of the public lands comprising BMGR East and the Gila Bend Addition from the SEDOI to SECAF and BMGR West to SECNAV.
More information about the process to reauthorize and expand the BMGR, including any changes to the LEIS alternatives resulting from comments received during scoping, will be posted to this website.
Air Force, Marine Corps, and Arizona Army National Guard aircrews train in helicopters at the BMGR for a variety of combat search and rescue, close air support, air-to-ground attack, reconnaissance, and airlift missions.
The BMGR provides habitat that is essential to the survival and recovery of the Sonoran pronghorn, a critically endangered species.

This document (website) is compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. This allows assistive technology to be used to obtain the available information from the document (website). Due to the nature of graphics, figures, tables, and images occurring in the document (website), accessibility is limited to a descriptive title for each item.