The U.S. Air Force has determined that its fighter pilots do not currently have sufficient access to training ranges with airspace, threat emitters, targets, and electronic support measures capable of representing advanced potential adversaries. The authors explore squadron restationing and range upgrade options that can maximize access to advanced live training ranges while evaluating cost and risk measures associated with these options.
Fighter Basing Options to Improve Access to Advanced Training Ranges
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- What squadron restationing and range upgrade policies maximize access to advanced training ranges?
- What are the relative costs of range upgrades and squadron restationing?
- What risks need to be taken into account when weighing range upgrades and squadron restationing?
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has determined that its fighter pilots do not currently have sufficient access to training ranges with airspace, threat emitters, targets, and electronic support measures capable of representing advanced potential adversaries. The USAF is developing a plan to upgrade certain ranges with these capabilities. In addition, the USAF may consider potential fighter squadron restationing options that would improve access to the upgraded training ranges.
The authors developed an optimization model to determine the combinations of range upgrades and squadron restationing options that provide the highest levels of effectiveness given different policy constraints. They developed one-time move costs associated with squadron restationing and compared those with preliminary range upgrade cost estimates. Finally, the authors collected data on the risks from natural hazards and power outages for the set of bases and ranges under consideration.
The authors found that range upgrades alone might not ensure sufficient access to advanced ranges and that restationing fighter squadrons can provide additional access, but the amount depends on institutional freedom to make restationing decisions. The one-time costs for restationing a fighter squadron and range modernization are on the same order of magnitude, but range upgrades may be substantially more expensive over the long term. The authors recommend that the USAF assess the effectiveness, costs, and risks of restationing presented in this report against other potential solutions for providing access to advanced ranges.
Range upgrades alone provide only a portion of possible benefits, and restationing can significantly increase effectiveness
- The increase in effectiveness depends on which institutional policies the USAF is willing to change or manage. Most significantly, if Air National Guard squadrons cannot be consolidated near advanced training ranges, the potential benefits of restationing are substantially limited.
- Using the current basing posture and planned range upgrades, the F-22 squadrons might not have access to advanced training ranges.
- In the near term, the analysis suggests a large potential benefit from consolidating F-22 squadrons near an upgraded range.
- The largest opportunity to improve readiness in the long term is integrating the range modernization plan and the F-35 rollout.
Range upgrades may be substantially more expensive over the long term
- The one-time cost for restationing a fighter squadron and the cost to procure equipment for range modernization are on the same order of magnitude. However, when research and development and operation and sustainment costs are taken into account, range upgrades may be substantially more expensive over the long term.
The risk from hazards and threats could affect anticipated effectiveness or cost associated with particular basing decisions
- There is significant variability in electric power reliability and exposure to natural hazards and climate effects across USAF fighter bases and ranges that might require different levels of investment to recover from or mitigate disruptions.
- Prioritize upgrading a range near an F-22 base and consolidating F-22 squadrons. This would require a more-detailed analysis of airfield capacity issues, range capacity, and availability constraints.
- Coordinate the introduction of new F-35 squadrons, retirement of legacy aircraft, and range upgrades to ensure that F-35 squadrons would have range access at the earliest possible time.
- Develop a training strategy that outlines how much training would be required at each range capability level to better understand how much range capacity would be required, and then evaluate restationing against other potential solutions.
- Develop full life cycle cost estimates for range modernization to understand the number of ranges that would be affordable over the long term and how those costs would compare with the cost and institutional challenges of restationing squadrons.
- Collect and incorporate relevant risk data, such as hazard exposure maps, climate data, and electric power reliability metrics, in basing decisions.
Table of Contents
2025 Fighter Force Structure
GCMs and Risk Metrics
Research conducted by
The research reported here was commissioned by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy and conducted within the Resource Management Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.
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