The Air Force may begin testing its electronic combat equipment in Utah's West Desert within three years, fighting mock battles that would be as boring to spectators as "watching paint dry," according to military officials.
Air Force officials briefed Gov. Norm Bangerter in a closed-door meeting Thursday, after which the governor said the plan appears, on the surface, to be a good thing for Utah.The Air Force will hold a series of public hearings beginning Nov. 14 in Ogden and continuing in Delta; Iba-pah, Tooele County; Callao, Juab County; Wendover; and Tooele. But officials said the decision to build $76 million worth of buildings and roads and begin testing in Utah is almost final.
"We want it there," said Col. Earl Crosby, the project director, adding the range would be similar to facilities at Eglin and Edwards Air Force bases in Florida and California, respectively.
Crosby said few weapons will be fired on the range. The electronic testing would consist of aircraft being able to track and identify weapons and planes, and to avoid being detected by the enemy.
"It would not be very exciting (to watch)," Crosby said. "It becomes very mundane, believe it or not.
"We're more interested in what electrons do than in the bullets."
He said the range probably would be used to test the Stealth bomber, which is supposed to be invisible to radar detectors.
Crosby said the range would be operating completely by the year 2000, provided Congress agrees to fund the project. He did not know what the total cost of the project would be.
Most of the proposed battlefield would be on land already owned by the Air Force. He said the battlefield would include facilities at Hill Air Force Base, parts of the Utah Test and Training Range, land near Wen-dover and Sand Pass and Delta, and Dugway Proving Ground.
The Air Force hopes to begin construction by 1990 and conduct its first tests in 1991, Crosby said.