Thursday, July 4, 2013

Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range

Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range are 10 miles west of Alamogordo.  During our two months stay in Alamogordo we’ve heard on several occasions what sounds like a squadron of jets flying over and a corresponding ground shaking boom, as they fly north and then make another pass going south.  The thunderous booms have varying qualities, but each time the ground ripples and there is an explosion compression that can be felt!  My first reaction besides a few startled jumps was the feeling that hearing bombs explode tweaks one’s mind a little each time it’s heard.  These booms are like none we’ve ever heard before!  They are very loud, but with a crisp, clear, precision quality!  You can almost visualize the size of the target and the explosion.  One felt like a large column with the explosion debris flying out around the bottom.  It felt like an air strike that might destroy a building the size of a warehouse.  Shortly thereafter, large wide ripples rolled under the camper!  Another explosion felt more expansive like a strike that would take out a neighborhood or small community!  The camper and ground vibrated!  One had the feel of a small missile that took a nosedive into the ground possibly to take out a small target.  It created a pop in the ground that seemed to come straight up through the floor of the camper 3 feet!  Roy, the dogs, and I have become attuned to the rumble of the jets coming and wait expectantly for the soon to follow boom.  Our dogs tremble at the sound of the jets approach now!  The dogs have found their best hiding places for the fly-overs and are coping!  One day I heard on the radio reference to a Sound of Freedom report!  This is a schedule of fly-overs.  Holloman AFB posts the schedule on their website and will email it directly to people on request.  There is a number on their website for filing noise complaints and damage reports!  I attempted to find a schedule of missile tests without any luck.  I did find a couple of interesting tidbits, though!  I found that remote controlled planes are used for air combat targets!  I found that sonic booms will travel one mile for each thousand feet a jet is flying, so the sonic boom for a jet flying at 30,000 feet will travel 30 miles!  Different type maneuvers create different types of booms.  Here is information provided by Holloman AFB explaining sonic booms: Sound of Freedom.   No reference is made to missile range tests.   Maybe what we’re hearing and feeling are sonic booms from the F-22 Raptors.  We won’t argue with that, as we really don’t know.  All we know is that there is a nearby missile testing range and what the explosions sound and feel like. Holloman AFB hosts 1-2 F-22 Raptor squadrons that are available to the president to deploy at a moment’s notice.  Training is constant rehearsal for what the pilots will encounter on a real-world mission.  The 49th Wing provides combat ready airmen, F-22 Raptors, and trains MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators.  Here is a fact sheet provided by the base about the aircraft they work with:   Aircraft Fact Sheet.   

I just discovered that White Sands Missile Range has a website.  It states that White Sands Missile Range has become recognized throughout the United States military test and evaluation community, as the premier location for conducting weapon system tests and evaluations!  It states that throughout White Sands Missile Range there are a wide variety of targets for all types of weapons testing.  They state that the desert environment closely represents a number of theater target environments, including mountainous terrain inhabited with caves, concrete bunkers, fixed and remote control tanks, trucks, and other specialized vehicles.  To learn more about the tests conducted and test locations go to the White Sands Missile Range website.  Here is a good starting point:  Test Center.