Supersonic Flights:

Air Force Use of Training Areas in Texas and New Mexico

NSIAD-86-4: Published: Nov 8, 1985. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 1985.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO reviewed the Air Force's decision to use two military operations areas for training involving supersonic flights to determine: (1) the Air Force's need for the projected number of supersonic flights for the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW); (2) the adequacy of the Air Force's evaluation of the alternative to supersonic flights over both Valentine, Texas and Reserve, New Mexico; (3) the Air Force's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act's procedural requirements; and (4) the actions the Air Force has taken to ensure that supersonic flights do not enter Mexican airspace, and the repercussions if Mexican airspace is entered.

GAO believes that: (1) in light of the Tactical Air Command's air-to-air training requirements and the comparability of 49th TFW air-to-air flying to a similar wing, the number of supersonic flights projected in the environmental impact statements was reasonable; (2) the Air Force's proposal to use both Valentine and Reserve for supersonic operations was appropriate because none of the alternatives were more cost-effective or operationally feasible; (3) the Air Force complied with the procedural requirements of the act for preparing environmental impact statements since it provided adequate time for public comments, responded to all relevant comments, and allowed more than the required minimum of 30 days between issuing the final statements and deciding to implement the proposed actions; and (4) the Air Force is acting to avoid entering Mexican airspace, and no repercussions seem likely in the event of such overflights.

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