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May 9, 2008

Snyder Supports USAF Bomber Training

The Snyder Electronic Scoring Site was established in 2002, at the Scurry County Airport in Snyder, Texas. The mission of the ESS is to provide "real world" airpower threat reaction training to United States Air Force aircrews thus, ensuring the survivability of personnel and equipment in actual battle.

Most pilots are familiar with Military Operation Areas. These MOA’s are airspaces provided by the federal government to allow military pilot training in various aircraft.

The Location:
The Lancer MOA is located in West Texas between Abilene and Lubbock. This airspace measures approximately 3,200 square miles and begins at 6,500 feet above Mean Sea Level and extends upward to 40,000 feet. The primary customers of the Lancer MOA consist of B-52H aircrews of the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana and B-1B aircrews of the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB in Abilene, Texas. It is used on a "real time basis", meaning Lancer is only activated when an airborne aircraft requests its use and is on the schedule.

Dwight M. Williams is the Airspace Manager for the 7th Bomber Wing based out of Dyess AFB. In an exclusive TXAA civilian tour, Dwight explained the concept and procedures of the Snyder ESS.


SNK Radar Personnel
(L to R) Site Manager Bill Clingenpeel, radar technician & Dwight Williams

The facility, located on the grounds of the Snyder Winston Field Airport (KSNK), is comprised of a 7,000 square foot main building plus several adjacent radar devices surrounded by a high security fence on 15 acres of land. Scattered within the Lancer MOA on private ranches, are several remote radar emitters. The Snyder ESS provided electronic combat training for 1295 sortie operations in the year ending December 31, 2007.

When asked why Snyder was picked as the location for the ESS system Williams said, “The Lancer MOA is located directly overhead where as other airports are on the periphery of the airspace. Also, the infrastructure of the city of Snyder provided an adequate amount available land at this airport. The city was very cooperative in helping to establish the facility.” Williams explained that there was a problem sited right away; that of inadequate water pressure to the facility. The city of Snyder provided a pumping station at the cost of over $15 thousand dollars. “Out of their own pocket they did that and we were very appreciative.” The Air Force worked closely with the city manager and the local utilities. “It’s a pretty neat deal. We bring approximately 1.2 million dollars into the local economy,” said Williams.

The Personnel:
The Snyder ESS facility site manager is Bill Clingenpeel, employee of AHNTECH Corporation, the private contractor for operations. Bill started work in 2002. He had transferred from Everton, Arkansas and now owns a home in Snyder. Bill explained that his facility provides precision tracking of the aircraft inbound for a simulated bombing run. His job is to provide electronic warfare in the form of a hostile threat environment that the bomber crews might encounter while penetrating a foreign airspace. “We’re the bad guys on the ground,” said Bill. “We send up signals that simulate tracking radar, anti aircraft artillery and surface to air missiles. It is the aircrew’s job to avoid us, get in there and do their damage.”

Bill added that the results of this intense training are worth the investment in money and time. “It is extremely rare that you hear of a bomber being shot down. Our job is to bring ‘em home”, said Bill.

In the interior of the ESS building are the machines that run the radar simulations. These include communications radios, transponders, radar scopes and computers to make sense of all the data that is sent and received. The rooms are maintained at very cool temperatures to keep the electronics operating properly. Outside the building in the semi desert environment is the radar hardware. The radar dishes will rotate to capture incoming aircraft and transmit simulated anti aircraft weapons and radar tracking signals. Other dishes will receive data from the aircrews.


ESS Radar Screen
showing Bomber Echo Information

As Williams was describing the various pieces of equipment, a loud warning horn cracked through the otherwise silent air. A large antenna then began to swing toward the Northeast sky. “That must be the B-52 inbound from Louisiana,” said Williams pointing to a tiny white contrail high in the cloudless blue sky. The large antenna would periodically adjust a few degrees to compensate for the distance traveled by the bomber located somewhere high in the sky. “The B-1B bombers normally operate below 26,000 feet while the B-52’s operate above 30,000 feet,” said Williams. “The base of the Lancer MOA is 6,500 feet but we restrict our operations to 12,000 feet and above. This is for noise considerations and for General Aviation traffic avoidance.”

The tour concluded after the Snyder ESS facility was bombed and destroyed (simulated) by the B-52H Stratofortress.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch:
At the Snyder Winston Field terminal building, airport manager Roger Sullenger and his associate Bob Snedeker greet arriving aircraft. There is no self serve fuel farm here. Instead, a personal friendly smile and West Texas “Howdy” welcome each pilot landing there. Snyder has become a popular stop off for transient pilots wanting to refuel on long cross country flights. Word travels fast among pilots about the friendly atmosphere, free courtesy car and reasonably priced fuel which are all valuable commodities for General Aviation. Roger says that the ESS facility and the folks that run it are good neighbors. “We are always asked what the strange looking building and radar dishes are about,” says Roger as he parks his fuel truck next to a newly arrived Mooney.


SNK Mgr.
Bob Snedeker (left) &
Roger Sullenger, Scurry County
Airport Manager

Transient pilots arrive from all over the state. The Mooney driver was from Houston on his way to catch the last of the snow skiing season in Red River, New Mexico. Another Grumman Tiger arrives. This pilot was on his way to Colorado from La Grange to visit his family. Both pilots say they have made Snyder their preferred stop off because of its location in the state, easy access, friendly service and fuel prices.

Local pilot and aviation enthusiast John Rogotzke was at the terminal building promoting his upcoming 8th annual Snyder Fly In scheduled for June 21st. The Texas Air Museum and the local Chamber of Commerce sponsor the event which features static displays of GA aircraft, Warbirds, a antique car show and of course, plenty of food and soft drinks. Fuel is sold at cost and the food is free to fly in pilots.

Snyder Winston Field has a lot going for it. Besides being a great place to stop off for a visit, the city of Snyder and Scurry County enthusiastically support the airport and the ESS facility located on the airfield. “We even have movie stars stop by from time to time,” said manager Sullenger. Stop by when in the area. Roger will have on a pot of hot coffee accompanied by plenty of hangar talk.

For more information about the Snyder Electronic Scoring Site call Dwight Williams at 325-696-3666. Email John Rogotzke about the fly in: John_Rogotzke@oxy.com. Visit http://www.airnav.com/airport/KSNK  or call Roger Sullenger 325-573-1122 for information about Snyder Winston Field.

Stay tuned to TXAA for more stories about airports, pilots and aviation related businesses in Texas!



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