Utah needs the "electronic combat range" in the West Desert to help national defense, to ensure that Hill Air Force Base retains key missions and to attract new industry, the Ogden Chamber of Commerce is telling congressmen.
"We want Congress to know that there is another point of view," Chamber President Steve Lawson told the Deseret News Tuesday between visits to Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jake Garn and Rep. Jim Hansen, all R-Utah."Ranchers in Callao have been getting a lot of press from their worries about the noise of jets flying over. That is a legitimate concern, but we feel it should not hinder the defense of the free world."
The electronic combat range would test electronic equipment in the jammed electromagnetic spectrum situations expected in combat. The missions would be controlled from Hill and many of the flights in the range's early years would originate there.
"The nation buys millions of dollars of electronic equipment that it has never been able to fully test because of the lack of a range. It may sound like flag waving, but we feel that is the main reason we would like the range built," he said.
Lawson also said that businessmen in the greater Ogden area also strongly support the missions at Hill, which is the state's largest single employer.
"The base is threatened every day by encroachment. But the reason the base has the missions it does is its (West Desert) range. If it loses its range, it would lose many of its missions," he said.
Lawson said businessmen also look forward to the possibility that the new range could attract manufacturers of sophisticated electronic equipment to the Wasatch Front to be near the range where they could test it. "There's no question that the new range would be an economic generator."
He said, however, there is some concern about Air Force documents that predict the new electronic battlefield could increase noise for residents around the base and create more night flights.
"Noise is always a concern. But I don't think the increase will be dramatic. There would be some increase in night flights anyway because of the new F-16s that use new night flying equipment," he said.
Also, he said Air Force officials told the chamber of commerce in briefings that many of the flights eventually will originate from air fields in Wendover or at the Dugway Proving Ground - so noise for residents around Hill would likely only be temporary.