MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is in the process of assuming operational responsibility of Townsend Bombing Range (TBR) located in Georgia. This process began on April 1, and is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1.
The air station already owns the land at TBR, but the Georgia Air National Guard is responsible for organizing and running operations. Over the next several months, MCAS Beaufort will work with the Guard to ensure a smooth transition between the commands.
“There is a lot of work that goes into not only operating TBR, but also into making sure this transition is seamless,” said Troy Ward, the TBR Program Manager. “It takes a lot of communication, personnel, and foresight to operate a remote installation that is 70 miles away from MCAS Beaufort; most importantly, everything is running according to plan and we are on schedule.”
Ownership and responsibility of TBR has changed several times since its establishment during World War II. In 1959, it was controlled by Hunter Air Force Base, then in 1966, Naval Air Station Glynco owned the bombing range. The Marine Corps began leasing and using the range in 1981. It wasn’t until ten years later in 1991 that MCAS Beaufort began to purchase the land.
“We currently own 5,183 acres that make up TBR,” said Ward. “In 2014 the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was approved for the expansion and modernization of TBR. We are scheduled to expand the range to over 35,000 acres by 2019.”
According to Ward, the Deputy Secretary of the Navy approved the EIS and in 2014 and in 2016, Congress appropriated over $110 million to expand and modernize the range. Expanding TBR is necessary to provide the adequate facilities and training space required to fully train pilots to use inert, precision guided munitions. It also ensures that MCAS Beaufort is prepared to fulfill all of its core mission tasks.
“Once we finish expansion our Fleet Replacement Squadron of F-35B Lightning II pilots will be able to complete 100% of their training syllabus here at MCAS Beaufort,” said Ward. “Using PGMs is one of our pilot’s core capabilities. Having more space will allow them to train as they fight, using the weapons and tactics they will use in combat.”
Before MCAS Beaufort formally assumes operational responsibility the systems currently in use at TBR need to be modernized. MCAS Beaufort will also hire more personnel and establish a Marine Corps range control facility. Despite all of these changes many of the current personnel and operating procedures will remain the same.
“We already have personnel down there job shadowing and learning how to run the range,” said Ward. “For the pilots nothing will change; same range, same airspace, same training and many of the personnel will stay there.”
“TBR is an integral part of our flight operations and training here at MCAS Beaufort,” said Col. Peter Buck, the commanding officer of MCAS Beaufort. “While this transition is an important milestone for the air station, our mission remains the same. We will continue to ensure that our pilots have the training they need to be ready to face the challenges of today. TBR gives us the critical range capability to train to deploy without deploying to train.”