Only a handful of people turned out on Monday for an Air Force "open house" held to explain its plans to develop an electronic combat test range in the desert west of the Great Salt Lake.

A slow trickle of people stopped to view a videotape about the test range and hear explanations from Air Force officers in a meeting room at the Newgate Mall.The meeting was the first of eight planned by the Air Force before it prepares an environmental impact statement on the project. The purpose is to identify issues that should be addressed in the statement, due to be completed in late 1989.

Those attending were told that the Utah Test and Training Range, two large tracts of unrestricted land and air space, was selected as the most suitable of 23 sites that were studied.

Lt. Col. Thomas Bartol, of the Air Force's Civil Engineering Office, said development of the range would require upgrading of existing buildings and electronic capabilities at the range.

An information sheet prepared by the Air Force says that the new range would involve equipment needed to create realistic testing and evaluation of radar detection, tracking and engagement capabilities.

New facilities are expected to include a mission control center, helicopter hangars, surveillance radar and about 100 sites where the Air Force can place portable equipment designed to simulate the enemy.

Additional meetings are scheduled in Delta, Callao, Ibapah, Wendover and Tooele.