The Proposed Action is to optimize ten existing MOAs used by aircrews stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Luke Air Force Base, and Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona. The MOAs proposed for optimization include Tombstone, Outlaw, Jackal, Reserve, Morenci, Bagdad, Gladden, Sells, Ruby, and Fuzzy (see Figure). The optimization would address existing and future training deficiencies due to insufficient airspace. This includes updating the published times of use; adjusting the altitudes of existing MOAs to support low-altitude training; authorizing supersonic training at lower altitudes in more MOAs; and authorizing use of chaff and lowering the minimum release altitude for flares.
The Proposed Action does not include creating new MOAs or changes at the installations (personnel, infrastructure, aircraft inventory, or airfield operations), changes to land use beneath the MOAs, or weapons release.
A MOA is a type of Special Use Airspace designated outside of Class A airspace by the Federal Aviation Administration to separate certain non-hazardous military aircraft training activities from Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) traffic and to identify for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) traffic where these activities are conducted. MOAs are published on sectional aeronautical charts with defined geospatial boundaries, which includes the lowest altitude (floor), highest altitude (ceiling), and lateral dimensions for training activities, and their times of use. Military use of the MOA outside of the published times of use requires the publication of a notice to airmen (NOTAM).
The existing MOAs in this region were charted decades ago for pilot training with aircraft no longer in use. There have been minimal improvements over time to support changes to Air Force aircraft, training requirements, and missions in response to modern day threats to national security. The existing MOAs have limited capacity to support low-altitude and supersonic operations, which are essential skills for fighter pilots.
To successfully avoid threats, fighter pilots must have nearly automatic muscle reactions during aerial combat. This can only be accomplished by realistic, repetitive training, in airspace of a size that can support multiple aircraft simultaneously, with floors that allow for low-altitude operations, and that allow for supersonic speed at lower altitudes and use of defensive countermeasures (commonly known as chaff and flares which are used to avoid detection or attack by an enemy).
A real-world mission differs significantly from the training accomplished in a MOA that lacks requisite volume, altitude, and attributes. As an example, during a real-world mission a pilot defeats a threat by employing ingrained training tactics including turning away, deploying defensive countermeasures, diving at supersonic speed to a low-altitude to use terrain masking to block the aircraft from view to ensure a safe return home. In comparison, within an insufficient MOA, the pilot starts an escape at supersonic speed (as they would in a real-world mission) but then must reduce speed quickly to avoid operating at supersonic speed below the authorized altitude. This is the opposite of what would occur in combat. Similarly, in combat a pilot would attempt terrain masking to avoid being visible to a threat. Training for this is not possible in a MOA bounded by a high floor that precludes terrain masking. Airspace limitations and constraints result in training maneuvers that are exactly the opposite of what is required for combat survival. This counterproductive training experience, combined with the improving threat technology and increasing distances from which threats can acquire a fighter aircraft’s location, threatens aircrew survivability and mission readiness.
The Air Force has identified preliminary alternatives to include in the Draft EIS. We are seeking your feedback on these alternatives or your suggestions for other alternatives. The purpose of the Proposed Action is to optimize existing Air Force MOAs to address existing and future training deficiencies due to insufficient training airspace. Therefore, reasonable alternatives must meet the following objectives:
Click on the individual links below to discover more about the preliminary alternatives.