|USAF Tonopah Test Range|
Tonopah airbase and the surrounding test range (composite NASA Landsat-7 image)
|Owner||United States Department of Energy|
|Controlled by||DOE, USAF, DoD, NNSA and other Government Agencies|
|Brian T. Adkins|
|Occupants||412th Test Wing|
The Tonopah Test Range (TTR) is a restricted military installation located about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Tonopah, Nevada. It is part of the northern fringe of the Nellis Range, measuring 625 sq mi (1,620 km2). Tonopah Test Range is located about 70 miles (110 km) northwest of Groom Lake, the home of the Area 51 facility. Like the Groom Lake facility, Tonopah is a site of interest to conspiracy theorists, mostly for its use of experimental and classified aircraft. As such, it is not generally the focus of alien enthusiasts, unlike its neighbor. It is currently used for nuclear weapons stockpile reliability testing, research and development of fusing and firing systems, and testing nuclear weapon delivery systems. The airspace comprises restricted area R-4809 of the Nevada Test and Training Range and is often used for military training.
The Tonopah Test Rangeis owned by the United States Department of Energy and is managed by Sandia National Laboratories, a division of Honeywell International, which operates the Tonopah Test Range under an Air Force permit with the National Nuclear Security Administration. The range is part of the Great Basin Desert and lies mostly within the Cactus Flat valley, consisting of horst and graben geology. It is flanked by the Cactus Peak hills to the west and the Kawich Peak to the east, which is home of Silverbow, one of the largest mining ghost towns in Nevada. The vegetation consists mostly of black sagebrush and creosote bush. It holds a sizable wild horse and burro population, closely monitored by the Bureau of Land Management. Common denizens of the TTR include the gray fox, pronghorn, coyote, and mule deer, along with the native birds sage thrasher, sage grouse, and sage sparrow.
One of the primary facilities on the TTR is a large airfield (Area 10), consisting of a 12,000-foot (3,700 m) runway and numerous hangars. About five minor abandoned airfields exist throughout the TTR which were primarily used during World War II by units based at Tonopah Army Air Field (now serving as Tonopah's municipal airport). Only Mellan Airstrip, 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Tonopah Test Range Airport, survived past the 1960s, upgraded to a 5,000-foot (1,500 m) concrete runway. A US Air Force assessment published in 2000 indicated it was a minimally adequate airfield which was used to support tactical C-130 and C-17 training.
About six miles (10 km) north of the airfield is a large housing area called Mancamp. It contains about 50 twin-level dormitories. A recreation center houses a bar, a library, game room, weight room, Olympic size indoor pool, racquetball courts, a two-lane bowling alley, a barbecue pad, and an ATM. There is also an athletic track, tennis courts, and softball fields. Just outside Mancamp a small civilian compound existed, but was mostly dismantled by 2000. Google Earth imagery indicated that Mancamp's streets were renovated sometime between 2003 and 2007.
Operations by Sandia are controlled at the TTR Operations Control Center (Area 3), just southeast of the main airfield, which houses the range safety officer, test director, and key engineers.Activities are monitored with video, high-speed cameras, and radar tracking devices. Though nuclear weapons have never been detonated on the TTR, the 1963 test Project Rollercoaster involved the destruction of four weapons, which caused some plutonium to be dispersed into the soil north of Antelope Lake.
In the early 20th century the region was used primarily for mining and some grazing. Early maps from the 1930s indicated a roadway connecting the towns of Caliente and Tonopah via Rachel, which ascended Cedar Pass and crossed through the northern part of the future Tonopah Test Range.In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the establishment of a US Army Air Corps training range in this area. During the 1950s, weapons design research had been conducted largely at the Salton Sea testing base, but haze problems forced the Department of Energy to seek another location. The Tonopah Test Range was withdrawn from public use in 1956 and testing began in 1957 for United States Department of Energy weapons programs. For most of its life, the range was administered by Sandia National Laboratories. In 2008 the National Nuclear Security Administration proposed to move its facilities on the Tonopah Test Range to White Sands Missile Range, a move that local and state politicians say would cost the area jobs and lost revenue.
From 1979 to 1988, Tonopah hosted a MiG air combat training program code named Constant Peg. The brainchild of Colonel Gail Peck, the program was run by the 4477th Test & Evaluation Squadron, "Red Eagles", and allowed American aircrews the opportunity to fly – and to fly against – the fighter aircraft of their Cold War rivals. Constant Peg was formally declassified on November 15, 2006, though it had been discussed by name in various media since the mid-1980s. At the height of the operation, the Red Eagles flew 14 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s and 9 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23s (with additional airframes of both types available for cannibalization), and had also operated the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 until 1982, when the type proved too dangerous to continue flying. Between July 1979 and its final sortie in March 1988, 5,930 aircrew were exposed to Constant Peg.
F-117s of the 4450th Tactical Group operated from Tonopah in secret from 1982 through 1989 while the program was still classified. During this period Mancamp was connected to the airfield by shuttle bus service, while the airfield in turn was connected to Nellis Air Force Base by between five and twenty Key Air Boeing 727 and/or Boeing 737 flights per day from Nellis to Tonopah.The airfield was also serviced by one or two JANET Boeing 737 flights daily, which were presumably from McCarran International Airport and served Sandia National Laboratories employees. In early 1991, Key Air lost the contract and the service was taken over by American Trans Air Boeing 727 aircraft. Key Air departed directly from Nellis, AFB, and did not utilize McCarren International, as it was too far a distance from the base, and impractical.
It was revealed in 2007 that during the 1980s a contractor had dumped up to 1,000 pounds of urea at a pond on the TTR, resulting in the die-off of 61 horses in 1988.The fluid had been used as a de-icing agent. The Bureau of Land Management investigated in November 1988, and imposed remedial actions and assessed a $15,000 fine. In 2007 over concerns that the chemical was infiltrating groundwater, a whistleblower unsuccessfully attempted to get the Environmental Protection Agency to intervene, leading to an August 2007 inquiry with the Department of the Interior by Senator Harry Reid.
The TTR has also been the site of US testing of foreign-made surface-to-air missile systems. Satellite imagery confirms the US secretly acquiring the Russian made S-300PS surface-to-air missile system from an unknown supplier in order to test UAVs as well as other advanced aircraft based at nearby airbases. According to OSGEOINT, these bases include Creech Air Force Base, the Yucca Lake UAV testing facility, and Nellis Air Force Base, operating the MQ-1-9, MQ-170, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in addition to other aircraft . The testing of aircraft is executed under the direction of the 53rd Wing Test and Evaluation Group based at Nellis.
This section needs additional citations for verification . (July 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Area 51 is the common name of a highly classified United States Air Force (USAF) facility located within the Nevada Test and Training Range. A remote detachment administered by Edwards Air Force Base, the facility is officially called Homey Airport (KXTA) or Groom Lake. Details of the facility's operations are not made public, but the USAF says that it is an open training range, and it is commonly thought to support the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The USAF acquired the site in 1955, primarily for flight testing the Lockheed U-2 aircraft.
The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a retired American single-seat, twin-engine stealth attack aircraft that was developed by Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works division and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). It was the first operational aircraft to be designed around stealth technology.
The Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), managed and operated by the National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, is one of three National Nuclear Security Administration research and development laboratories in the United States. Their primary mission is to develop, engineer, and test the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons and high technology. Headquartered in Central New Mexico near the Sandia Mountains, on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, Sandia also has a campus in Livermore, California, next to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a test facility in Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii.
Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force installation in southern Nevada with military schools and more squadrons than any other USAF base. Nellis hosts air combat exercises such as Exercise Red Flag and close air support exercises such as Green Flag-West flown in "Military Operations Area (MOA) airspace", associated with the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). The base also has the Combined Air and Space Operations Center-Nellis.
Sandia Base was the principal nuclear weapons installation of the United States Department of Defense from 1946 to 1971. It was located on the southeastern edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico. For 25 years, the top-secret Sandia Base and its subsidiary installation, Manzano Base, carried on the atomic weapons research, development, design, testing, and training commenced by the Manhattan Project during World War II. Fabrication, assembly, and storage of nuclear weapons was also done at Sandia Base. The base played a key role in the United States nuclear deterrence capability during the Cold War. In 1971 it was merged into Kirtland Air Force Base.
Kirtland Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located in the southeast quadrant of the Albuquerque, New Mexico urban area, adjacent to the Albuquerque International Sunport. The base was named for the early Army aviator Col. Roy C. Kirtland. The military and the international airport share the same runways, making ABQ a joint civil-military airport.
Creech Air Force Base is a United States Air Force (USAF) command and control facility in Clark County, Nevada used "to engage in daily Overseas Contingency Operations …of remotely piloted aircraft systems which fly missions across the globe." In addition to an airport, the military installation has the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battlelab, associated aerial warfare ground equipment, and unmanned aerial vehicles of the type used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Creech is the aerial training site for the USAF Thunderbirds and "is one of two emergency divert airfields" for the Nevada Test and Training Range.
Tonopah Test Range Airport, at the Tonopah Test Range is 27 NM southeast of Tonopah, Nevada and 140 mi (230 km) northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a major airfield with a 12,000 ft × 150 ft runway, instrument approach facilities, and nighttime illumination. The facility boasts over fifty hangars and an extensive support infrastructure.
Janet, sometimes called Janet Airlines, is the unofficial name given to a highly classified fleet of passenger aircraft operated for the United States Department of the Air Force as an employee shuttle to transport military and contractor employees. The purpose is to pick up the employees at their home airport, and take them to their place of work. Then, in the afternoon, they take the employees back to their home airports. The airline mainly serves the Nevada National Security Site, from a private terminal at Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport.
The Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) is one of two military training areas at the Nellis Air Force Base Complex in Nevada and used by the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base. The NTTR land area includes a "simulated Integrated Air Defense System", several individual ranges with 1200 targets, and 4 remote communication sites. The current NTTR area and the range's former areas have been used for aerial gunnery and bombing, for nuclear tests, as a proving ground and flight test area, for aircraft control and warning, and for Blue Flag, Green Flag, and Red Flag exercises.
The Boeing NC-135 and NKC-135 are special versions of the Boeing C-135 Stratolifter and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker modified to operate on several different programs.
Tonopah Air Force Base is a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) in the USA that was a Tonopah Basin military installation until shortly after it was designated an Air Force Base in 1948. Two of the runways still in use are maintained by Nye County, Nevada; and World War II building foundations and three hangars of the base remain at the municipal Tonopah Airport.
The 393rd Bomb Squadron, sometimes written as 393d Bomb Squadron, is part of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. It operates Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit nuclear-capable strategic bomber aircraft.
The 4450th Tactical Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was headquartered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and operationally located at Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada. It was inactivated on 5 October 1989.
The 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron was a squadron in the United States Air Force under the claimancy of the Tactical Air Command (TAC). It is currently inactive. The product of Project Constant Peg, the unit was created to expose the tactical air forces to the flight characteristics of fighter aircraft used by Soviet Union during the Cold War. The declassified history of the squadron shows that it operated MiG-17s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s between 1977 and 1988, but it was not formally disbanded until July 1990.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-150 family was a series of prototype interceptor aircraft designed and built by the Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau in the Soviet Union from 1955.
The 4925th Test Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last was assigned to the 4901st Support Wing (Atomic), stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. It was inactivated on 31 August 1961. Known as "The Megaton Blasters", the 4925th was responsible for the development flight testing of all USAF nuclear weapon delivery systems including conducting live test drops from 1951 though 1958. The Group was discontinued on April 1, 1961, when Air Force Systems Command replaced Air Research and Development Command and components of its mission were distributed among other units.
The National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) is the United States Air Force unit for analyzing military intelligence on foreign air and space forces, weapons, and systems. NASIC assessments of aerospace performance characteristics, capabilities, and vulnerabilities are used to shape national security and defense policies and supports weapons treaty negotiations and verification.
The Nellis Air Force Base Complex is the southern Nevada military region of federal facilities and lands, e.g., currently and formerly used for military and associated testing and training such as Atomic Energy Commission atmospheric nuclear detonations of the Cold War. The largest land area of the complex is the Nevada Test and Training Range, and numerous Formerly Used Defense Sites remain federal lands of the complex. Most of the facilities are controlled by the United States Air Force and/or the Bureau of Land Management, and many of the controlling units are based at Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases. Initiated by a 1939 military reconnaissance for a bombing range, federal acquisition began in 1940, and McCarren Field became the World War II training area's 1st of 3 Nevada World War II Army Airfields and 10 auxiliary fields. The area's first military unit was initially headquartered in the Las Vegas Federal Building while the WWII Las Vegas Army Airfield buildings were constructed.
Robert M. Bond was a lieutenant general of the United States Air Force (USAF). He saw combat in Korea and three tours of Vietnam, before becoming an instructor and then vice-commander of an organization which developed and evaluated weaponry for the USAF. He was decorated for his combat service and his peacetime role. He died in an accident in Nevada while flying a Soviet-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 jet fighter-bomber.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tonopah Test Range .|