HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — The Air Force will begin a series of large detonation operations at the Utah Test and Training Range beginning in early August and lasting through the end of September 2018.
The detonations, which involve destroying rocket motors and solid propellant of ballistic missiles, will occur two or three times a week.
The destruction of the solid-propellant motors is occurring to eliminate aged propellant, and as part of international treaties to reduce the number of ballistic missiles.
“Detonation is the best environmental method for disposing of the rocket motors and propellant,” said Michelle Cottle, 75th Civil Engineer Group Environmental Branch Chief.
Since 2012, more than 300 rocket motors have been destroyed at the UTTR.
Before each large detonation at the UTTR, the Air Force takes atmospheric readings to check wind speed, direction and other factors, and enter them into a sound model to determine if conditions are acceptable for a large detonation. “If the model predicts that noise is going to be louder than permitted levels at locations along the Wasatch Front, we delay the detonation,” Cottle said.
Despite using the sound model, there have been a couple of instances over the last few years where the detonations have been heard along the Wasatch Front. “There can be some variability in upper atmospheric weather conditions this time of year,” Cottle said, “and the model does not always accurately predict sound levels along the Wasatch Front. This happened once in 2014 and once in 2017. This is why we typically limit the detonations to late spring and summer.”
The UTTR has played a major role in disposing of the nation’s missile motor inventory for more than 20 years and has destroyed more than a million pounds of missile motor propellant to date. “We appreciate the support and understanding we receive from our neighbors,” Cottle said. “The UTTR is the only location in the United States capable of destroying these missile motors and we do everything possible to do this work without adversely affecting those around us.”