The construction of wind turbines inside or within 15 nautical miles of R-5314 (10 nautical miles on the north and south) and within MTRs will likely have significant impacts on Seymour Johnson AFB low-altitude training, particularly FTU training and safety of flight for all F-15E aircrew. The impacts are largely focused within three key areas:
First, low-altitude air-to-air intercept training will almost certainly be severely impacted within R-5314, leading to the inability of Seymour Johnson AFB to accomplish specific syllabus and proficiency training requirements. There is no other suitable and available airspace within range of Seymour Johnson AFB that could be used for this training. With R-5314 unsuitable for low-altitude intercept training, Seymour Johnson AFB squadrons would have to deploy to other locations within the US, adding significant costs and time delays to aircrew training along with increased time away from home for 4th Fighter Wing personnel.
Second, wind turbines located within MTRs, especially the four MTRs feeding into R-5314 would certainly force crews to overfly the wind farms, interrupting required low-altitude tactical navigation and maneuvering at 500 feet AGL and preventing seamless 500 foot flight into R-5314 and Dare County Bombing Range. This interruption would be a significant distraction, taking away from the realism and intent of training at 500 feet. Approximately 60 percent of the 4th Fighter Wing's current low-altitude MTR training is conducted on the four MTRs feeding into R-5314. The relatively small airspace currently available on the east coast already reduces the flexibility and realism that is highly desired for high performance combat aircraft training. Adding additional restrictions to operating altitudes and maneuvering only further reduces the overall effectiveness of training, and in the end creates less capable and less proficient combat aviators.
Third, adding significant numbers of additional obstructions within airspace heavily used by high speed military aircraft flying as low as 500 feet raises safety of flight risk, especially at night. Although many things can be done to minimize collision potential, a single wind farm with 50 turbines would multiply the number of 400+ foot obstructions within a typical MTR by a factor of five.
Although development of renewable energy is critically important for the United States and the State of North Carolina, care should be taken to understand the impacts of placing wind turbines in and around military training airspace. Unlike many other forms of energy, wind turbines can have a significant impact on individuals and organizations far from the parcels of land where wind farms are built. The 4th Fighter Wing wishes to ensure that all parties involved in planning and development of renewable energy are fully aware of the serious impacts wind turbines placed within and near low-altitude training airspace could have on the mission of the 4th Fighter Wing. Seymour Johnson AFB remains committed to working with local, state, and federal agencies and developers in an effort to cooperatively plan for the future while maintaining Seymour Johnson AFB's ability to accomplish required low-altitude training critically important to the continued combat readiness of the US Department of Defense.