Update from Peaceful Chiricahua Skies
January 25, 2024
New F-35 jet fleet to Train over Chiricahua and Peloncillo Mountains
The Army’s Ft. Huachuca Garrison Commander has announced that Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix will engage its new F-35 fighter jet fleet in training flights at Ft. Huachuca (Sierra Vista), “sometime in 2024” (SV Herald Review 12/21/23). Dozens of new F-35s are being produced as part of the recently passed Defense Spending Bill, legislation promoted by U.S. AZ Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.
The new F-35, to replace the old F-16, is the loudest, most powerful attack jet ever produced, its single-engine engine power requirement far eclipsing the energy of the F-16 and generating multiple times as much noise, according to research. Under the current USAF proposal to expand training routes over Cochise County, AZ and Hidalgo County, NM, F-35 overflights could occur as low as 100 feet above ground, drop non-biodegradable chaff and explosive flares from as low as 2,000 feet above ground and allow for sonic boom-creating supersonic flights as low as 5,000 feet. All of which would occur over protected forest lands, private ranchlands, and populated residential areas.
One Air Force study of the F- 35’s ground-level effects, cited in a recent Sierra Vista Herald Review opinion piece, deemed the plane’s noise level to be “incompatible” with residential proximity, but avoided comments about overflights making residences potentially uninhabitable.
The national Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that human exposure to noise decibels at F-35 noise levels (up to 114 decibels below 6,000 feet) cannot be exceeded for more than a few seconds before hearing damage can occur. OSHA recommends wearing hearing protection on job sites where noise levels exceed 70 dbs.
There has been no answer from the Air Force regarding the question of why the Air Force cannot utilize already well-suited military-protected areas, like the Yuma, AZ Proving Ground, to expand training for these extremely loud aircraft. The Yuma Proving Ground has no current training flights and no surrounding residential areas. Another logical alternative for F-35 training flight locations is the 1.9 million-acre Barry Goldwater Air Force Range, which pilots already use for practice maneuvers, apparently flying in soon-to-be retired F-16s.
Considering the impacts of its proposed training expansion, the Air Force should be expected to provide answers to basic questions: 1) How many local jobs will be created by expanding these training flights over the Chiricahua-Peloncillo region; 2) What are the negative impacts of such extreme noise levels to local economies and to communities of both people and wildlife; 3) Why can’t these training flights be moved to large, already existing, military-protected areas like the Yuma Proving Ground or Barry Goldwater Range?
For complete Air Force proposal information and what you can do to express concerns, visit peacefulchiricahuaskies.com