Cannon schedules public input meetings

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

The Air Force has planned a series of public meetings to gather input for an environmental impact study of the new mission at Cannon Air Force Base.

“These meetings will give the public an opportunity to learn about the proposal and voice their questions and concerns,” said Capt. Rebecca Garcia of the 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office.

The Air Force 16th Special Operations Wing will assume ownership of Cannon in October 2007.

Garcia said residents may notice differences between the operation of the 27th Wing and the 16th SOW.

“It will be a different sound, a different sight,” she said.

A different concentration of planes with different munitions may be flying in different patterns and areas, Garcia said.

The 16th Wing does more night flying than the 27th Wing, according to Air Force officials. Also, training requires personnel sometimes fly at low altitudes, AFSOC officials have said. Many say the aircraft of the 16th Wing are quieter than the F-16s now at Cannon.

Aircraft in the 16th Wing have a variety of armaments, according to an Air Force fact sheet. The AC-130H/U Gunship is equipped with side-firing weapons, and carries 40 mm or 105 mm cannons, according to the fact sheet. A heavy lift helicopter utilized by the Wing contains .50-caliber machine guns, as well as mini-guns, according to the fact sheet.

The 16th Wing is proposing the transfer of approximately 90 aircraft and 3,500 Air Force Special Operations Command personnel to Cannon, according to an Air Force press release. Growth is planned at Cannon through fiscal year 2013, the release indicates.

Officials with the Air Force Special Operations Command have said preliminary studies show some 5,500 AFSOC personnel could be stationed at Cannon by 2010.

More than 4,000 people are employed at Cannon with the 27th Fighter Wing. Details about the transfer of jets and personnel from the 27th Wing have not been released yet, according to 27th Wing officials.

Additional facilities may need to be built at the Melrose Bombing Range to accommodate the new mission, a Department of Defense notice of intent to prepare the environmental study reads.

Other changes may also need to be made at Cannon to accommodate the 16th Wing.

“The (study) will analyze the impacts … (of the Wing) on the environment. AFSOC is considering what aircraft and other equipment to base at Cannon AFB, how best to utilize existing facilities, and what facilities will need to be modified or rebuilt,” the Department of Defense notice reads.

The environmental impact study kicked off Aug. 24, according to Air Force officials. It is being conducted by San Diego, Calif.-based Science Applications International Corporation.

The study must be conducted prior to transfer of assets in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

Garcia said there is no timeline for completion of the study. Air Force officials have previously said the study could take 18 months.