Proposed Action & Alternatives

One of the missions of Holloman AFB is to train F-16 pilots. The F-16 pilot training syllabus requires that pilots accomplish a series of training missions in a specific order. Each training mission must occur in airspace that is appropriately sized and approved for the training activity. When appropriate airspace is not available at the required time, training is delayed, increasing training expenses and disrupting pilots’ progress in the program. Incomplete training causes reductions in the number of qualified pilots ready to conduct combat operations.

The existing training airspace in southern New Mexico was developed for legacy aircraft more than 30 years ago. Most of the airspace has not evolved with the technology and capabilities of the F-16 aircraft. The existing training airspace, including Military Operations Areas (MOAs) and overlying Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspace (ATCAA), do not have the optimum volume, proximity to the base, or attributes to efficiently support the training mission of today’s fighter aircraft.

The Air Force is proposing to change existing MOAs or create new MOAs in southern New Mexico to support F-16 training activities including:

  • Nonhazardous military aircraft training such as air combat maneuvers, air intercepts, and basic fighter maneuvers
  • Use of chaff and flares with restrictions
  • Limited supersonic flight above 30,000 feet
  • Return underutilized MOAs to the National Airspace System

The Air Force evaluated several alternatives to determine which ones met the selection criteria. To be considered, alternatives had to meet the following criteria:

  • Utilize Air Force scheduled airspace
  • Maximize training time/minimize transit time
  • Meet airspace size and configuration requirements
  • Modifications would have limited impacts to civil aviation

Based on these criteria, three action alternatives were identified to be evaluated in detail in the EIS. The No Action Alternative is also addressed. Please review the EIS for a full description of the Alternative Selection Process as well as detailed descriptions of the Alternatives.

No Action Alternative

There would be no airspace modifications in support of F-16 training missions at Holloman AFB. The Air Force would continue to use existing training airspace as it does currently. The pilot training program would continue to have disruptions and delays in producing pilots ready for combat. This alternative is carried forward in accordance with NEPA regulations.


Alternative 1: Talon MOA (Preferred Alternative)

The proposed Talon MOA would be divided into two low (A and B) and three high (A, B, and C) MOAs offering a combined training airspace with a floor of 500 feet above ground level (AGL) (raised from the existing 300 feet AGL) and a ceiling up to 18,000 feet mean sea level (MSL). The existing Talon ATCAA would also be expanded with the same lateral dimensions as the proposed Talon High MOAs.

F-16 pilot training from Holloman AFB would constitute the majority of operations within the proposed Talon MOA/ATCAA; however, transient military aircraft (not based at Holloman AFB) could schedule and use the airspace as well in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration Order JO 7400.2M. Approximately 10,000 F-16 sorties and 1,000 transient sorties could occur annually within the Talon MOA/ATCAA. The majority of these flights would be above 12,500 feet MSL. The F-16 flights would fly supersonic speeds during approximately 1,000 flights. All supersonic flights would be limited to Flight Level (FL) 300 (approximately 30,000 feet MSL) and above in the ATCAAs. Up to 15,360 chaff and 15,360 flares would be released annually during training activities. Flare use would be subject to existing fire safety restrictions; chaff and flares would not be released below 2,000 feet AGL.


Alternative 2: Cato/Smitty and Lobos MOAs

The existing Cato MOA, the overlying Smitty MOA, and the associated ATCAA would be expanded to the southeast. The floor of these combined MOAs would remain 500 feet AGL and the ceiling would be up to 18,000 feet MSL. The overlying ATCAA would extend the training airspace to FL510 (approximately 51,000 feet above MSL). Alternative 2 also includes the creation of a new MOA, the Lobos MOA to the south of the proposed Cato and Smitty MOAs. The proposed Lobos MOA would have a floor of 500 feet AGL and a ceiling up to 18,000 feet MSL. The proposed Lobos MOA would also have an ATCAA above the MOA to extend the training airspace to FL510 (approximately 51,000 feet above MSL). Two additional ATCAAs (Christa and Kendra) would be established to the east of the proposed Cato, Smitty, and Lobos ATCAAs to serve as a temporary bridge to and from the airspace above White Sands Missile Range. The ATCAAs would have a floor of 18,000 feet MSL and a ceiling of FL510.

Like described for Alternative 1, F-16 pilot training from Holloman AFB would constitute the majority of operations, but transient aircraft could use the airspace as well. Approximately 9,100 F-16 sorties and 1,300 transient sorties could occur annually within the Cato, Smitty, and Lobos MOAs/ATCAAs. The majority of these flights would be above 13,500 feet MSL. The F-16 flights would fly supersonic speeds during approximately 1,000 flights. All supersonic flights would be limited to FL300 and above in the ATCAAs. Up to 15,360 chaff and 15,360 flares would be released annually during training activities. Flare use would be subject to existing fire safety restrictions; chaff and flares would not be released below 2,000 feet AGL. Chaff and flares would not be used in the Christa and Kendra ATCAAs.


Alternative 3: Talon, Cato/Smitty and Lobos MOAs

Alternative 3 would be a combination of Alternatives 1 and 2 with the following differences. The proposed Talon MOA/ATCAA would be slightly smaller than what is proposed under Alternative 1 and the proposed Lobos MOA would have a floor of 13,500 feet MSL as opposed to the 500 feet AGL proposed under Alternative 2. SUA no longer needed by the Air Force would be returned to the National Airspace System including the lower portion of the existing Talon Low MOA (300 to 500 feet AGL), the northern portion of the existing Cato and Smitty MOAs, Valentine MOA, Bronco 1 MOA, and Bronco 2 MOA.