The U.S. Air Force is launching an environmental impact study of proposed changes to large flight training areas in rural Arizona to allow military aircraft to fly lower, practice later at night and cover more territory.
Three alternatives to be studied would change flight restrictions in areas northwest of Phoenix, west and southwest of Tucson and in parts of southeastern and east-central Arizona extending in western New Mexico.
A fourth alternative on the table would leave the flight areas as they are now “and training requirements would remain unmet,” the Air Force said in a statement.
The areas are used for flight training by aircraft from Luke Air Force Base in Glendale and two bases in Tucson: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Morris Air National Guard base at Tucson International Airport.
Proposed changes to various areas would include consistently allowing flights later at night and at lower altitudes in some areas, including ones involving supersonic flights in five of the 10 areas under study.
The so-called Tombstone training area, the area where the most changes would occur, stretches across much of Cochise County in southeastern Arizona and eastward into the southwester corner of New Mexico.
Along with later and lower flights, use of radar-cluttering strips would be newly allowed in that area and flares could be released at lower altitudes. And the area itself would grow in size.