The Air Force has released an environmental report giving a green light to a plan to increase training flights at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during annual exercises known as Operation Snowbird.
In a draft environmental assessment, the Air Combat Command concluded that increasing the flights would have “no significant impact” on the environment around D-M — which means the Air Force isn’t required to file a formal environmental impact statement.
The Air Force’s preferred plan would increase the annual number of sorties at D-M to 2,256, adding some louder planes such as the F-18 E/F Super Hornet and the F-22 Raptor. The study also reviewed two alternatives would scale back sorties and types of planes, as well as a “no action” alternative.
Operation Snowbird began in the 1970s as part-time winter flying practice for Air Guard pilots from northern states. By 2002, it was running year-round with warplanes and pilots from other branches of service and allied nations.
Over the years, the number of sorties flown as part of Operation Snowbird has generally ranged between about 1,500 and 2,000 annually. The number of training sorties topped 2,000 during fiscal years 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007, when sorties totaled a high of 3,411, according to a 2010 study prepared for the Air Force by Wyle Laboratories.
Operation Snowbird is managed by the Arizona Air National Guard 162nd Fighter Wing, separately from the wing’s main operations at Tucson International Airport.
VIEW THE REPORT
The draft environmental assessment on Operation Snowbird can be found online in .pdf format at http://www.dm.af.mil/library/operationsnowbirdenvironmentalassessment.asp
The report also is available at several local libraries.
Read more tomorrow on Starnet and in the Arizona Daily Star.