This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Barry M. Goldwater Range acquisition.
Established in 1941, the BMGR lies along the U.S. and Mexico border in Southwest Arizona and spans more than 1 million acres. Additionally, it makes up 7,000 miles of airspace and sees 54,000 sorties a year. Luke Air Force Base, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson Air National Guard Base and the Marine Corps all use the range.
“The Barry M. Goldwater range is between Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma,” said Charles Buchanan, 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office director. “As you take that geography and look at the military in those three cities you have roughly 20 squadrons that use the range day in, day out as their backyard range. When you piece all of the airspace together, it’s actually bigger than the state of Connecticut which makes it a real training treasure.”
Five-term U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona is the namesake of the range. Goldwater received a Reserve commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces when America entered World War II.
Following World War II, Goldwater was a leading proponent of creating the Air Force Academy. As a colonel, he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard and eventually retired as a command pilot with the rank of major general. By the end of his career, he had flown 165 different airframes.
The entire range is approved for day and night operations with four controlled, manned and electronically scored surface attack ranges that are available for training. There are three tactical ranges available spanning several hundred square miles each and containing two full-size airfield mockups.
The area includes the Gila Bend Auxiliary Field, which serves as an emergency landing location for pilots and flight crews training on the ranges.
As stewards of the range, the RMO works to preserve the habitats for a wide range of indigenous wildlife and plant life along with discovered archaeological sites, all while maintaining the environment and removing traces of military presence from the area.
After 75 years, the Military Lands Withdraw Act of 1999 was renewed until 2024, thus contributing to the future of Luke and its ability to continue to build the future of airpower.
“As we look to the future, I think we are on the verge of another major change with the fifth generation fighters and the F-35 Lightning II aircraft,” Buchanan said. “So we will see the changes on the range to accommodate that mission. We are very fortunate to have what we have today. The BMGR is an invaluable and irreplaceable asset.”