Smoky Hill ANG Range MOA Expansion:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is a Military Operations Area (MOA)?
A1. A MOA is a block of airspace where aircraft can perform military training activities (aircraft intercepts, turning and evasive maneuvers, and air combat maneuvers) separate from Instrument Flight Rule (IFR)* traffic.
*IFR - the flight may operate in instrument meteorological conditions (meaning cloudy or otherwise adverse weather conditions).
Q2. What is an Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspace (ATCAA)?
A2. An ATCAA is airspace of defined vertical and lateral limits that is assigned by Air Traffic Control (ATC). It provides air traffic segregation between the specified activities being conducted and other IFR air traffic. Typically, these blocks of airspace start at Flight Level (FL) 180 or 18,000 feet and, in some cases, are contoured to the dimensions of the military operations area beneath them.
Q3. What is a Restricted Area?
A3. A Restricted Area is airspace established within the flight of aircraft that is determined necessary to confine or segregate activities considered hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft. These activities can include, but are not limited to, weapons employment, non-eye-safe laser employment, and small arms fire.
Q4. What role does the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) play in the expansion?
A4. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manages the nation's airspace.
Q5. How are altitudes measured or specified?
A5. Airspace altitudes are primarily defined in terms of Mean Sea Level (MSL), which is measured from the surface of the ocean. Where the height of the airspace floor above the ground or sea is important, the airspace floor can be measured in terms of Above Ground Level (AGL) or Above Sea Level (ASL). Airspace altitudes starting at 18,000 feet are defined in terms of flight level.
Q6. Why are the current military operations area dimensions deficient for training purposes?
A6. As technology increases, the capabilities and ranges of aircraft and threats increase. An increase in airspace, that can be utilized when needed, will allow new and future generations of aircraft and pilots to train at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range (SHANGR). The operations area in its current state is unable to support training for fourth generation aircraft.
The shortfalls include:
• The usable space of the current airspace structure is marginally adequate to support multiple required mission types for combat aircraft.
• Larger than required pieces of airspace have to be activated for specific missions that might require less airspace because the current airspace structures does not allow it to be maximized by users.
Q7. What has changed? Why was the previous airspace sufficient for training, but now it isn’t?
A7. Due to technological advances, airspace dimensions need to expand to fully use the capabilities of several combat aircraft (current generation fighters) for aircrews to realistically train against emerging threats. Current airspace was defined for tactical training of the F-105 and F-4 and was designed in the 1970s.
Q8. What factors influenced the choice of the proposed military operations area shape and location?
A8. SHANGR has worked closely with other local and federal aviation interests to find a redesign proposal that can be seen as a “win/win” for military, commercial and civilian aviation. While eliminating the shortfalls associated with the current configuration, the improved design meets the training requirements for most military users and benefits general aviation.
Q9. What units and what aircraft use the military operations areas?
A9. Many aircraft and units use the airspace from across the United States. However, the need for the new airspace is coming from the 138th Fighter Wing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, which flies the F-16C. Additionally, the 114th Fighter Wing from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, also uses the airspace and flies the F-16C.
Q10. How often and when are the current military operations areas to be used?
A10. Generally, operations conducted within the SHANGR MOAs require the use of airspace regularly throughout the daytime hours Monday through Friday. Night operations are periodically scheduled throughout the year typically Monday through Thursday.
Q11. How often will the expanded MOAs be utilized?
A11. Generally speaking, the number of aircraft using the airspace on a regular basis will largely remain unchanged. The airspace is being designed modularly so it does not use all the expanded airspace at one time. The two western most airspaces, Dodge and Drifter, will be activated the least often. The entire airspace may be activated as many as four times/year for two weeks at a time.
Q12. How many military aircraft will fly in the military operations areas at any one time?
A12. Typically, eight aircraft will be flying in the operations area, but it can be as many as 24 aircraft depending on the training needs.
Q13. What will be the impact on noise levels on the ground?
A13. The expanded area will actually decrease the probability of a military aircraft above a single point. FAA recommendations and U.S. Air Force best practices entail aircraft utilizing military operations areas to avoid noise-sensitive areas to the extent practical.
Q14. What happens if the current airspace is not expanded?
A14. No action would mean local and deployed units will continue losing adequate training opportunities. The current airspace will remain inadequate for current generation aircraft and tactics. Existing fighter units will be required to deploy to more costly, limited access, airspace venues elsewhere to fulfill training requirements.
Q15. If citizens have noise complaints, how will they know whom to call?
A15. SHANGR actively maintains a Noise Complaint Hotline (316-759-8544) for community members that gives citizens an outlet to provide feedback about aircraft noise. Or, click the link below to file an online noise complaint form.
Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range Noise Complaint Form
Q16. What effect will this action have on livestock feedlots in the affected areas?
A16. With expanded airspace boundaries, there will likely be a small decrease of noise on the ground. With the introduction of new environmental noise, studies show the effects reduce over time as livestock become accustom to it. There are no significant effects on livestock under the current training area.
Q17. What effect will this action have on commercial aviation in the affected area?
A17. Commercial aviation is currently routed around Smoky Hill’s airspace. However, due to this new airspace being built in several blocks, airspace managers can activate smaller blocks of airspace. There will also be times that the diversion will be larger than what the commercial aviation community is used to. In the end, it should be less disruptive based on selective activation of smaller airspaces.
General Aviation pilots can reach Smoky Hill's tower on Frequency 123.25 to ascertain the status of the Bison MOA. Pilots are advised that Smoky Hill ANG Range is NOT a controlling agency but can advise pilots on the status of the airspace.
Q18. What is the impact on general aviation?
A18. General aviation and military aircraft operate safely in military operations areas throughout the nation every day. During good weather, all aircraft operate under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) using the “see and avoid” concept for deconfliction. When visibility is low, pilots operate under IFR. These aircraft will either divert around the military operations area or operate within the training airspace under FAA control. General aviation will also have the opportunity to fly underneath the proposed airspace since the floor of it will be 10,000 feet.
The design of the proposed airspace boundaries will minimize, and, in fact, reduce impacts to general aviation traffic operating around SHANGR. The proposed altitudes and internal airspace divisions will allow military airspace schedulers to only schedule parcels of airspace required for a given mission. This flexibility will help minimize impacts to private aviation in the surrounding area.
Click here for an Overview of the Smoky Hill MOA Expansion
Click here to file an Online Aircraft Noise Complaint Form
Click here to Download our information brochure about Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range