Monday, October 04, 2010

Flares, chaff at center of debate

In addition to quadrupling the space bomber pilots have to train in, the proposed new Powder River range will allow the use of two defensive measures that are prohibited in the area. Flares eject from the B-1 bombers to distract heat-seeking missiles. Chaff deploys to block enemy radar. Both have ranchers and residents under the proposed area confused and fearful. To give pilots more realistic training, the Air Force has proposed increasing their range from 7,000 to 28,000 square miles in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. The training includes allowing supersonic flights, training flights as low as 500 feet and the use of chaff and flares. The public has until Nov. 13 to comment on the proposal that will be decided next fall. Representatives from Ellsworth Air Force Base recently took Rapid City Journal reporters behind closed doors to a munitions facility for a close look at the two technologies. If the proposal to expand the bombing range is finalized next fall, magnesium pellet flares that can burn as hot as 1,200 degrees will be ejected throughout the 28,000-square-mile area during training missions. The temperature is hot enough to melt aluminum and similar to that of lava spewing from a volcano. The flares need to be hotter than the afterburner of a B-1 to attract the heat-seeking missiles bombers could see in combat. Marvin Kammerer, a Rapid City rancher who lives near Ellsworth Air Force base, said he is concerned about the possibilities of a fire, no matter how slim the threat. “Whether these people realize it or not, when we hear a lightning storm, some of us go to the hilltops and check for fires,” he said. “Do we need to do that every time an airplane flies over?”...more

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