3 weeks of Red Flag exercises, GPS interference testing begin; Southern Nevada

ST. GEORGE — Over the next three weeks, Southern Utah, southern Nevada and possibly the Arizona Strip between the two, may experience some reverberation as military exercises are underway at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.  Beginning Tuesday GPS intervention testing commences in the same region intermittently over the same period, impacting aviation. Nevadans, in particular, may notice increased military aircraft activity.

Although Nellis AFB Senior Airman Timothy Young said Friday that he is unaware of any direct connection between the Air Force exercises and the GPS interference testing announced by the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA Spokesperson Laura Brown out of the District of Columbia said Monday that the military is conducting the GPS interference testing. She did not know, she said, if the GPS testing correlates to the Red Flag Exercises.

“We put out these notices when there is military testing going on,” Brown said, adding that the military does most of the GPS testing, specifically U.S. Stratcom, or strategic command.

Red Flag 15-3 exercises

Red Flag 15-3 is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air, space and cyber forces of the United States and its allies, according to a release issued by Nellis AFB. The exercise will be held July 13-31 on the Nevada Test and Training Range just north of Las Vegas.

Fourteen different types of aircraft and pilots from 18 squadrons representing 12 U.S. states and Germany will be participating in the drills.

A military jet takes off from Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 14-2, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 26, 2014 | Photo courtesy of United States Air Force, St. George News
A military jet takes off from Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 14-2, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 26, 2014 | Photo courtesy of United States Air Force, St. George News

More than 115 aircraft are scheduled to depart Nellis twice a day and may remain in the air for up to five hours. Flying times are scheduled to accommodate other flying missions at the base and provide Red Flag participants with valuable training in planning and executing a wide variety of combat missions.

The Nevada Test and Training Range is, according to Nellis AFB’s release, the U.S. Air Force’s premier military training area with more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land.

With 1,900 possible targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, Nellis AFB and the Nevada Test and Training Range are the home of a simulated battlefield, providing combat air forces with the ability to train to fight together in a peacetime environment, and to survive and win together.

The 414th Combat Training Squadron is responsible for executing Red Flag. The exercise is one out of a series of advanced training programs administered at Nellis AFB and on the Nevada Test and Training Range by organizations assigned to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

The Nevada Test and Training Range The Nevada Test and Training Range is responsible for the largest contiguous air and ground space available for military operations in the free world. With 1,200 possible targets, realistic threat systems and the support of an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, the NTTR is home to America's most advanced aerial test and training environment, providing Airmen with a peacetime battlefield to hone their combat skills. Nevada Test and Training Range, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, not dated | Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force, by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth, St. George News
The Nevada Test and Training Range
The Nevada Test and Training Range is responsible for the largest contiguous air and ground space available for military operations in the free world. With 1,200 possible targets, realistic threat systems and the support of an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, the NTTR is home to America’s most advanced aerial test and training environment, providing Airmen with a peacetime battlefield to hone their combat skills. Nevada Test and Training Range, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, not dated | Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force, by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth, St. George News

Aircraft and squadrons participating in July’s exercise are:

  • 53rd Wing, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, F-15Cs, Nellis AFB, Nevada
  • 159th Fighter Wing, 122nd Fighter Squadron, F-15Cs, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • 325th Fighter Wing, 95th Fighter Squadron, F-22As, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • 20th Fighter Wing, 55th Fighter Squadron, F-16CMs, Shaw AFB, South Carolina
  • 55th Wing, 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron, EC-130Hs, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
  • 52nd Fighter Wing, 480th Fighter Squadron, F-16CMs, Spangdahlem AB, Germany
  • 5th Bomber Wing, 69th Bomber Squadron, B-52H, Minot AFB, North Dakota
  • 366th Fighter Wing, 389th Fighter Squadron, F-15Es, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
  • 366th Fighter Wing, 391st Fighter Squadron, F-15Es, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
  • 552nd Air Combat Wing, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron, E-3A, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing, 344th Air Refueling Squadron, KC-135, McConnell AFB, Kansas
  • 55th Wing, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron, RC-135V/Ws, Offutt AFB, Nebraska
  • 57th Wing, 64th Aggressors, F-16C, Nellis AFB, Nevada
  • 57th Wing, 64th Aggressors, F-15C, Nellis AFB, Nevada
  • 116th Air Control Wing, 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, E-8s, Robins AFB, Georgia
  • 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, F/A-18s, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina
  • 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4, EA-6Bs, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina
  • Commander, Electronic Attack Wing, Electronic Attack Squadron 138, EA- 18Gs, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington

Southern Utah residents have reported loud booms during previous Red Flag and other exercises undertaken at Nellis AFB. That said, planes from Red Flag do not fly as far as St. George, Young said, and will stay within the confines of the Nevada Test and Training Range.

GPS Interference Testing

Map shows the areas expected to be affected by GPS testing. July 10, 2015 | Graphic courtesy of Federal Aviation Administration, St. George News
Map shows the areas expected to be affected by GPS testing, July 10, 2015 | Graphic courtesy of Federal Aviation Administration, St. George News

An advisory to pilots issued by the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday, titled “GPS Interference Testing, NTTR 15-12” stated the testing will occur at specified times beginning Tuesday through the end of July.

“GPS testing is scheduled …,” the advisory to pilots stated, “and may result in unreliable or unavailable GPS signal.”

Brown said the GPS interference testing conducted by the military relates to aviation, explaining in simple terms that it uses certain areas of the spectrum and is unlikely to impact other users. It’s like listening to FM radio, she said, the band and frequency is different than AM radio.  The frequencies affected by the GPS interference testing are aviation specific.

The scheduled GPS testing in the area includes two hours a day during several days for up to 400 nautical miles around Beatty, Nevada, or 117 nautical miles from St. George. (A nautical mile is equal to 1.1508 miles and is usually expressed in a line following the curve of the earth.)

More specifically, the GPS signal may not be available from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. MDT on the following dates: July 14-17, July 21-25 and July 28-31.

According to the advisory, at 50 feet above ground level, the disruption could extend up to 206 nautical miles; and at 25,000 feet, the disruption could extend up to 366 nautical miles, extending into Mexican airspace.

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

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1 Comment

  • Forsooth July 14, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Well, I know I feel safer.

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