Boise, Idaho-The U.S. Air Force hopes to fly supersonic fighter jets at low altitudes in sparsely populated areas of southwestern Idaho, northern Nevada, and southeastern Oregon to better simulate combat conditions.
The Air Force said on Wednesday that it plans to prepare an environmental impact report to study this idea, and will hold a meeting and listen to public comments before November 25 to help develop the study.
Mountain Home Air Force Base in southwestern Idaho operates flights in parts of these three states.
The Air Force said: "Modifying this airspace will enable the U.S. Air Force to provide a more realistic and efficient airspace training environment, and improve the crew's proficiency in low-altitude tactics and radar cover to survive in a highly competitive environment."
The airspace covers the border of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. The Air Force divides the area into six military operations zones.
In two of them, the aircraft can be as low as 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground. The other four have a limit of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level or 3,000 feet (915 meters) above ground level, whichever is higher.
Supersonic flight allows airplanes to fly at speeds higher than the speed of sound and can produce sonic booms, and allows altitudes of 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) in all military operations areas (except the Duck Valley Indian Reservation).
These changes will allow the jet to descend at supersonic speeds. The specific altitude will be defined in the environmental impact report.
The first public meeting for comment was held on November 4th in McDermit, Nevada. Later that week in Idaho, there are plans to hold meetings in Boise, Grand View City, and Mountain House.
In addition, the Air Force is fighting a lawsuit filed by seven Boise residents and an environmental organization involving soldiers and military aircraft coordinating exercises in nine urban centers in Idaho.
According to the plan, the crew will communicate with ground service personnel dressed in civilian clothing in order to blend in when they use low-power lasers to identify targets.
A lawsuit filed in April this year stated that the Air Force did not do enough to inform the public about the exercise and failed to prepare a complete environmental impact report—a process that may take several years.
The Air Force has stated that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the proposed training is required due to the nature of modern warfare.