Germany targets U.S. airspace

  The German Air Force has trained quietly over the American Southwest for 30 years. Now, a proposed bombing range for German planes has attracted the ire of ranchers and environmentalists.

The U.S. Air Force, which manages the training program, wants to put the targets on part of the McGregor Range in southern New Mexico. The Air Force also wants to add 30 German Tornado aircraft to 12 already at Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamogordo, N.M.

What bothers critics is that Tornadoes are designed for low-altitude action, and they approach targets at 500 feet above ground. They say the flights will traumatize wildlife and livestock.

"The Tornado is one of the world's noisiest military aircraft," says Peter Galvin, conservation biologist with the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity.

But the German commander, Col. Eckhard Sowada, says New Mexico offers two things that Germany and much of Europe do not: space for maneuvers over mostly unpopulated lands, and good weather.

The U.S. Air Force released a draft environmental impact statement in June, concluding that altered flight paths would minimize impacts to wildlife and livestock. A final EIS is due in December, and then the secretary of the Air Force will decide whether to go ahead with the project.

Meanwhile, the Germans wait. "We are guests," says Col. Sowada. "We have to sit back and see what the controversy will bring about."

For a copy of the draft EIS, write Sheryl Parker at Headquarters Air Combat Command/CEVA, 129 Andrews St., Langley Air Force Base, VA 23665-2769.

* Peter Chilson
High Country News Classifieds