Pacific Beach meeting to discuss warfare training program over Olympic Peninsula

Representatives from the U.S. Navy will be on hand at a public meeting in Pacific Beach later this week to discuss the proposed Northwest Electromagnetic Radiation Warfare training program. Grays Harbor County Commissioner Wes Cormier is hosting the meeting to discuss the program, which seeks to use airspace over the Olympic National Forest to conduct thousands of low-flight, high radiation radar jamming exercises.
Locally the meeting will be broadcast live on Jodesha Broadcasting’s radio station KBKW. Station Owner Bill Wolfenbarger said this morning. “We are giving up our airtime on KBKW for two hours or more if necessary to broadcast this public meeting, because we feel the public should be aware.”
Required meetings for the proposed project were quietly held at the tip of the Peninsula earlier this year.
The war games would place 14 RV-sized trucks with electromagnetic equipment on sites in the Olympic National Forest, with a base in Pacific Beach. Jets would fly from Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island and “attack” the dummy trailers with EA-18G “Growler” supersonic jet warplanes.
The public meeting on Wednesday will begin at 5PM in the Pacific Beach Elementary gym, KBKW will also broadcast the meeting live on 100.5 FM, 1450 AM, and online at kbkw.com
It’s important to note that this meeting is not part of the public scoping process, and if you would like to provide comments you should do so on their proposal to use Fores Service Roads at  https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ReadingRoom?List-size=25&project=42759
This EA is tiered from previous EIS. Several sites are on Forest Service Roads. Navy documents at: http://go.usa.gov/kQ6e
A Navy Spokesperson replied with the following statement:
Electronic Warfare training does not occur at low-levels and does not involve high radiation emissions.  Typical electronic warfare training scenarios involving ground emitters would be conducted between 10,000-35,000 feet above sea level with most aircraft maneuvering occurring in airspace over water off the coast.  Nominal wattage from the mobile emitters is 100-300 watts for the anticipated frequency spectrum used.  The Navy will be using up to 3 mobile emitter vehicles that are similar to television news satellite trucks.  These mobile emitters will send signals using frequencies that are similar to those used for some satellite communications, Wi -Fi devices, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and weather radar systems. The air crews doing the training will not be using weapons to ‘attack’ the mobile emitters nor using aircraft systems to ‘jam’ or interfere with any signals on the ground.We understand that are a lot of misconceptions continue to circulate about this training.  What we really want to make sure people understand is that this important, realistic training will not harm people or wildlife.  Electronic warfare training using fixed and mobile emitters has been occurring across the country for many years with no adverse effects to humans or the environment.

The Pacific Northwest is our home too.  Navy personnel, including our friends and families, live, work and play throughout the Northwest and we wouldn’t put anyone or any wildlife in harm’s way.

The Navy’s plans include using a fix electronic emitter on Navy property at Pacific Beach and as many as three mobile emitter vehicles that would set up occasionally in remote, unpopulated U.S. Forest Service lands in Washington State.  These mobile emitter vehicles are similar to television news satellite trucks in that they broadcast a signal skyward that is aimed at the participating Navy aircraft.  Those aircraft need to learn to locate, detect and identify the signals.  The air crews doing the training will not be using weapons or aircraft systems to ‘jam’ or interfere with any signals on the ground.  This will be basic training that air crews are required to complete in order to be qualified to perform the real task overseas in potentially hostile territory.

When our aircrews deploy, they may fly into potentially hostile territory where they could encounter some electronic threats.  Training in this range using this equipment will provide a more realistic training environment which will allow aircrews to gain required qualifications and practice identifying and detecting those kinds of electronic threats.  Similar to that of a television news satellite truck, these mobile emitters will send signals using frequencies that are similar to those used for some satellite communications, Wi -Fi devices, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and weather radar systems.  This is because we know that if there is an enemy electronic threat, they would disguise their signals to blend in with other electronic communications present so our pilots are less likely to detect and locate them.  This specific training is very important because it enables U.S. Navy pilots to learn to safely and successfully identify and counter those enemy defenses before they go into harm’s way.

Now, I cannot speak to any safety procedures the television news satellite truck operators may follow.  For the Navy’s mobile emitter vehicles, the safety zone around the mobile emitter vehicles when in operation is an added safety measure that the Navy is requiring of itself for the operation of this equipment.  The mobile emitter vehicles, as you know, will be positioned in remote areas on Forest Service logging roads carefully surveyed and selected for being sites not popular for hikers or hunters.  The emitters will be 14 feet up in the air and pointed skyward toward the aircraft doing the training.  The extra safety measure of this safety zone around the vehicles will make it so that there is virtually no chance that anyone will come near the vehicles while in operation without the operators knowing it.  Also, keep in mind that our vehicle operators will not have any protective gear on while they are operating the equipment.  They are below the emitters and not in the direct path of the signal emission so they are safe, just like other wildlife that may wander through the area on the ground.

Conducting complete basic electronic warfare training near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island has long been a priority for the Navy.  While we have been doing electronic warfare training here for decades, some pieces of it are currently conducted in a simulated manner.  While the Navy uses simulators for many kinds of training, all simulators have limitations.  Currently, electronic warfare aircraft crews home-based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island must commute 400 miles to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho to complete this required, realistic training that the Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range would now provide.  Conducting training closer to where the aircraft are based will reduce fuel costs, reduce fuel emissions from the long-distance flight, and reduce the time the aircrews have to be away from home.  This will save the government about $5 Million each year.

These military operations areas in which the Navy trains have been designated as military operations areas for decades.  Electronic warfare training is not new.  The Navy has been doing electronic warfare training in Washington State for decades with fixed emitters, though some pieces of this training are currently conducted in a simulated manner.  We do need to ensure that our Sailors are properly trained before they deploy.  Realistic electronic warfare training is important because it ensures our Sailors are well-prepared and qualified to successfully counter electronic threats they may face when they deploy into potentially hostile territory.

For additional information on the Navy’s analysis, you can visit http://go.usa.gov/kQ6e to take a look at the Pacific Northwest EW Range Final Environmental Assessment and Signed EW Range FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact).

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