Barry M. Goldwater Range's contribution to America's air superiority

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Story by SGT Wesley Parrell on 11/14/2016
PHOENIX Commonly referred to as a national treasure, The Barry M. Goldwater Range in southern Arizona has contributed to our nation's defense since WWII. The range celebrated its 75th anniversary during a ceremony at Papago Park Military Reservation on Nov. 10.

Cementing its importance in the overall contribution to the U.S. military aviation program, Barry M. Goldwater Range has become one of the premier training sites in the country.

"The Barry M. Goldwater Range has always been a top training ground for the bravest of combat pilots," said Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona. "It symbolizes the selfless spirit of a veteran community that spans generations."

Since the German attack on Poland in 1939, no country has won a war in the face of enemy air superiority, no major offensive has succeeded against an opponent who controlled the air, and no defense has sustained itself against an enemy who had air superiority.

America identified the importance or air superiority after the conclusion of WWI. Although the development of aircraft and implementation of aviation tactics were in their infancy, military aviation would become a key component to future conflicts and victories.

In 1926, the United States Army Air Corps was established and over the next 10 years the air corps doubled in size. The outbreak of WWII accelerated that growth, doubling in size each year between 1939 and 1941.

This rapid growth created a need for training locations for the massing force. With the concentrated populous of the United States on the eastern and western seaboards, the search for open area with consistent weather and complementary terrain for flight operations pushed the search inland.

In the fall of 1941, the United States Department of War had found their gem in the desert in the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

"Veterans of every war since World War II have honed their skills at Goldwater; its range of training capabilities is renowned," Ducey said.

The range was initially established to support the Army Air Forces flying training programs at Luke Field and Williams Field. The first parcel of land selected for the range had three key characteristics critical to its intended mission. First, the new range was in close flying proximity to Luke and Williams fields. Second, except for some scattered ranches and mines, the land was uninhabited and undeveloped. Third, at 1,684 square miles, the initial range tract was large enough to be subdivided into several separate training areas that could safely support several simultaneous but independent training missions.

With over 300 days a year of optimal flying weather and access to significant land for the development of ranges and unrestricted air space, Arizona made the ideal location to establish air corps training sites.

Nearly 200 airfields and strips were built in the Southwest, from West Texas to Southern California. More than 60 of these were built in Arizona between 1942 and 1944, the majority in central and southern Arizona.

Today, the range is not only one of the largest in the world, but also one of the most technologically up-to-date facilities as well and often the first stop for new technologies outside of the laboratory.

"There are over 1,200 aerospace and defense companies in the state of Arizona, and they come here because they want to be where the action is," Ducey said.

With the range' s 1.9 million acres of relatively undisturbed Sonoran Desert, and 57,000 cubic miles of airspace, pilots practice air-to-air maneuvers and engage simulated battlefield targets on the ground. Roughly the size of New Jersey, the immense size of the complex allows for simultaneous training activities on nine air-to-ground and two air-to-air ranges.

"From Fort Huachuca, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Luke Air Force Base and the Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the Arizona National Guard, to Air Station Yuma and the Yuma Proving Ground the strong military presence in our state serves as a constant reminder of the calling to service that thousands of Arizonans have answered," Ducey said.

Since the initial development during WWII, Arizona has become the home to unmatched military and training facilities; the largest unmanned aircraft systems training base in the world; the second-largest military installation in the world; and the third-largest tactical aviation range in the country. Twenty military installations in all, with 24 million square feet of Department of Defense-owned installations.

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