Pentagon lacks critical training ranges and airspace to be ready for a...

Pentagon lacks critical training ranges and airspace to be ready for a Pacific fight, report says

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An Air-Ground Integration Village on Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii (Photo: U.S. Army-Hawaii)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s independent inspector general has determined the military is woefully under-capacity in training ranges and airspace to prepare and support air needs for any conflict in the Pacific Ocean.

The report, completed last week and made public Wednesday, is a further blow to the Pentagon’s scramble to come up with ways to offset China’s rising military prowess in the western Pacific, as well as entry routes to that theater.

One of the glaring conclusions, for example, is that existing training airspace does not meet the requirements needed for the new F-35 fighter.

Another is that some aviation units do not train with the ordnance they would use in combat, the report said.

“We found that training ranges and airspace did not have the capability or capacity to support aviation readiness for units assigned to USINDOPACOM (Indo-Pacific Command),” the report said.

“As a result, the aviation units in the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility could not train as they would fight, which the National Defense Strategy states is essential for lethality and success in accomplishing theater campaign and operation plan objectives,” it said.

Nine additional lines to the summary conclusion were redacted. The redacted area related to, in part, the Defense Readiness Reporting System-Strategic, a web-based software that provides the only strategic tool able to access readiness data and information across the Defense Readiness Reporting System Enterprise.

Specific areas of detriment centered on how the “training land, airspace, impact areas, and electronic warfare systems were more limited than what was required for training with ordnance and the aircrafts’ capabilities,” the report said.

Among the reasons for the under-capacity cited in the report:

  • land, airspace, and impact areas on training ranges were designed to meet mission needs of World War II and the Cold War;
  • training ranges in Japan and South Korea are shared with the host nation forces, which limited availability;
  • funds available for modernizing range capabilities, such as electronic warfare systems, were prioritized for operations in Southwest Asia, and limited by continuing resolutions;
  • protection of endangered species, safety considerations related to the use of weapons, and inclement weather limited the activities on the ranges;
  • the Army and Air Force lacked a clear command structure to jointly operate and manage the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

The report also detailed the spectrum encroachment of limited electronic warfare training systems. The military uses frequency spectrum to transmit and receive critical voice and data communications involving military tactical radio, air combat training, precision-guided munitions, unmanned aerial systems, aeronautical telemetry and satellite control.

Frequency spectrum encroachment “consists of the commercial sector’s increasing demand for the DoD’s dedicated frequency spectrum for public use,” the report said. The IG’s details of this vulnerability were redacted.

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