A 2,500-square-mile section of airspace over parts of Central and Eastern Oregon could become training space for F-15 fighter jets.
The U.S. Air Force and the National Guard Bureau are proposing to expand the amount of airspace used in the state for training from 13,000 to 18,700 square miles, including a new designated airspace over Antelope, Dayville, Fossil, Mitchell and Shaniko.
The Oregon National Guard operates the only training base for F-15 fighters in the country at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, said Capt. Stephen Bomar, spokesman for the Oregon National Guard.
He said the expanded airspace for training missions will give pilots enough room to use the latest radar technology.
“It will also reduce cost while increasing training time,” he said.
Planes from the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls and the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, which is focused on air defense of the Pacific Northwest, would use the training airspaces, Bomar said. Along with the airspace over part of Central Oregon, the proposal includes expanding training airspace near Burns from 3,000 square miles to 4,700 square miles and creating a new 1,500 square-mile airspace over the northern Oregon Coast. The coastal airspace would be over Astoria, Lincoln City and Tillamook. The expanded and new airspaces would also cover parts of Nevada and Washington.
The Air Force and the National Guard Bureau, which oversees the Air National Guard and Army National Guard, announced the proposal last week and plan to hold public meetings around the state over the next month.
Meetings will be in Condon on June 19, Burns on June 20 and Prineville June 21, according to the agencies. More information about the “Oregon Airspace Initiative” will eventually be posted at www.142fw.ang.af.mil and www.173fw.ang.af.mil. Bomar said the time and locations of the meetings will be announced later.
Fighter jets don't currently fly in and out of Redmond Municipal Airport, and the proposal includes no plans to do so, Bomar said.
There would be restrictions on commercial and civil air traffic in the airspaces, but Bomar said those would only be in place during trainings.
“This is not restricted airspace all the time,” he said.