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NEWS | May 12, 2022

Bird/Wildlife Air Strike Hazard Program Keeps Birds in the Air for RF-A 22-1

By Senior Airman Emily Farnsworth Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson public affairs

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- As aircraft noise fills the air while RED FLAG-Alaska 22-1 is in full swing, a team of people looks to the skies for a different kind of wing.

For the members of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s (JBER) Bird/Wildlife Air Strike Hazard, or BASH, program, exercises like RED FLAG-Alaska combine combat capability training with the real-world threat of bird strikes.

As a federal partnership, JBER’s program is maintained by the United States Department of Agriculture in close coordination with JBER’s Environmental Program, the 3rd Wing Safety Office and others. The program focuses on tracking and deterring birds using pyrotechnics, noise, movement and environmental shaping to make the flight line a less desirable location using Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans and BASH plans.

“Directly or indirectly, wildlife have shut down runways, stalled flight operations, damaged aircraft, and sadly, brought down aircraft unexpectedly,” said Jerry Morrill, A USDA wildlife specialist and JBER’s BASH program lead. “We believe the BASH program to be a critical component to the safety of our airmen, pilots, and aircraft.”

Bird strikes historically have generated massive amounts of aircraft damage along with the loss of human life. The majority of these strikes occur during the low-level departure and approach phases of flight, which is why it remains a high value program to the overall security of flight operations.

The Air Force’s BASH program was implemented across the force after the U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry, Yukla 27, crashed at then-Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Sept. 22, 1995 after colliding with a flock of Canada geese just after take-off. The USDA’s Wildlife Service Program assisted in developing a BASH program that would reduce the likelihood of another major accident.

For aircrew flying for RF-A, safety is key as they plan and operate in the environment. This can be especially important to other countries participating in the exercise.

“Flight safety is at the heart of everything we do,” said Royal Air Force Sgt Jase Roy, assigned to No. 47 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton, England. “Risk is always considered prior to every flight and becomes even more important when operating in unfamiliar territory with other nations, who might operate in a slightly different manner.”

The BASH program helps aircrew understand potential risks prior to flying which can enable them to be vigilant and able to reduce the risk, Roy said. “In a nature-rich environment such as Alaska in the springtime, this becomes especially pertinent considering migratory birds and large native species that we might not encounter in the U.K.,” Roy said.

The increased pace which comes with exercises does pose a challenge, but Morrill said their important mission keeps them focused on their goal of flight.

“The increased flight activity that we see during the exercises does keep our team busy, but our mission doesn’t change,” Morrill said. “We strive to always keep the flight line free of wildlife, regardless of additional traffic. We have a dedicated team of professionals at JBER who work hard 24/7 to give the Air Force a safe place to fly.”

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