The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has pushed back proposed dates for public hearings on a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) evaluating impacts of a potential move of the 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Alaska. This change allows the pilot community more time to review the DEIS before public hearings. Public hearings were originally scheduled for next week, but will now take place mid-July, allowing more time for comments on the DEIS. AOPA originally submitted comments following public meetings on Feb. 22.
The squadron, comprised of F-16s, is used to train forces in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). The Air Force has offered several options for review: One would move the squadron to JBER and have aircraft relocate temporarily to Eielson Air Force Base for 12 weeks of the year during training exercises; another makes JBER the year-round base, having the aircraft fly to training exercises daily.
A no-action option would leave the aircraft based at Eielson Air Force Base, where they are today. It is concerning that some options include increased use of several military operations areas (MOAs) close to Anchorage with corresponding decreases in northerly components of the JPARC complex.
“The potential impact to Merrill Field and its corresponding airspace is concerning,” said Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA senior government analyst of air traffic services. “And while the projected increase of traffic in the Susitna MOA would be relatively small, this airspace is used extensively by general aviation traffic transiting to and from Mt. McKinley.”