US Navy Pinecastle Bombing Range Complex
Did you hear a loud "boom!" You may have heard bombs being dropped during training at the Pinecastle training range. The Pinecastle Bombing Range Complex located in the Ocala National Forest near Astor, FL. The Pinecastle Impact (Bombing) Range is an fenced 5,760-acre area, with the eastern edge of the range located about 2 miles west of State Road 19 and the Camp Ocala campgrounds, and one-half mile west of the Farles Lake campground. F-18 jet fighters and other aircraft take off from Jacksonville Naval Air Station, fly low over the Forest, and drop their bombs in the middle 450 acres of the range. Pinecastle is under the operation and jurisdiction of Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL. The range is the only place on the East Coast where the Navy can do live impact training. The Navy drops nearly 20,000 bombs a year at the site, a few hundred of which are live.
The pilots that train here now are practicing for targets in the Middle East. Cargo containers simulate the residential targets that they might have to bomb. "F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters and other aircraft take off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville or from aircraft carriers off the Florida coast, fly low over the forest, and drop their bombs in the middle 450 acres of the range," according to an announcement in the Ocala Post. Collectively, they drop 20,000 bombs on this range every year—most of them filled with clay, concrete, or iron, but several hundred of them still live. Pilots are scored on how well they hit their targets.
F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters and other aircraft take off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville or from aircraft carriers off the Florida coast, fly low over the forest, and drop their bombs in the middle 450 acres of the range. All air-to-ground exercises using conventional ordnance up to and including 500 pound MK 82 bombs and five-inch Zuni rockets are authorized.
The Navy’s Pinecastle Range is located in the Ocala National Forest near Astor, Florida in southeast Marion County. Just over a military owned location referred to as Camp Ocala inside the junctions of Florida SR 40 and Florida SR 19 just west of Alexander Springs at the border of Volusia and Lake counties.
The Google map link is https://www.google.com/maps/place/Pinecastle+Bombing+Range,+Altoona,+FLfirstname.lastname@example.org,-81.718836,92038m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x88e7b25f7dc24eff:0x72fbf6c1ccb2276!8m2!3d29.1097084!4d-81.7185253?hl=en
There are nine targets within the Pinecastle complex:
- Live Ordnance Impact Area: Targets in impact area consist of vehicle hulks arranged to for a “T” and scored by WISS. Maximum 500 pound general purpose or explosive equivalent, ball ammo up to 30mm, rockets up to five inch, and practice bombs are authorized.
- Main Bull (Special Weapons Bombing Target): The Main Bull consists of four concentric circles of 300, 600, 900, and 1200-feet radii, encompassing a bull’s-eye constructed of two 75-foot poles and two 90-foot poles with two radar reflectors and top mounted banners. The center of the bull’s-eye is clear of vegetation out to 450-feet from the center pole with two rings of tires at 50 and 200-feet radii from the center pole. Additional radar reflectors are located on the 317 run-in-line, 6000-feet short of and 3800-feet beyond bull’s-eye. Elevated black and white Initial Point (IP) markers are situated on the 317 run-in-line at 6000-foot intervals from 36,000-feet short to 6000-feet beyond target center.
- Day/Night Conventional Dive Bomb/Rocket Target: The target consists of a surplus military vehicle bull’s-eye and four concentric tire rings of 50, 100, 200, and 300-feet radii. This target is equipped with an integral lighting system for night bombing exercises. Twelve radar reflectors are placed in clock positions at 400-feet. Only practice bombs are authorized on this target.
- Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Site Target: This target resembles a hexagram with a circular service road encompassing the radar and surrounding missile launcher pads. This target is not scored. Practice bombs, inert MK 80 series bombs, and inert rockets up to five-inch are authorized.
- Strafing Target: The strafing target consists of tow banner material suspended on the face of a berm. Ball ammo up to 30mm is authorized.
- Inert Ordnance Runway: This target consists of a mock runway. Practice bombs, inert MK 80 series bombs, and inert rockets up to five-inch are authorized.
- Red Box Target: This target consists of four red tanks positioned to form a square with a radar unit in the center. The target is located 1700-feet from the Main Bull. The square of tanks is within a 200-foot radius circle. Practice bombs, inert MK 80 series bombs, and inert rockets up to five-inch are authorized.
- Mini-Convoy: This target consists of various small vehicles situated approximately 800 meters from the Main Bull and 750 meters from spotting Tower No. 1.
- Laser Target: This target is a 50-foot by 50-foot billboard with a painted black crosshair. The target is located 3000-feet north of Tower 1. A laser sensor is positioned in the center of the crosshair. Continuous automatic scoring is available on frequency 380.8 MHz. Cassette tape scoring results are available with a 15-minute advanced notice. This target provides no-drop Laser Guided Bomb (LGB) training.
Napalm and High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) are prohibited. Live ordnance is restricted to the Live Ordnance Impact Area; inert ordnance is used on all other targets.
Pinecastle targets have also been certified for laser operations. The Navy has used the area for target practice for 50 years under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service.
Video of A-10 Warthogs at the Pinecastle bombing range doing strafe run and dropping MK82 AIR bombs courtesy of Live Leak: https://www.liveleak.com/view?i=df6_1358865340. See also Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTBzUlu-dd4.
Visit https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrse/installations/nas_jacksonville.html and look under "Schedule. Navy training schedules indicate that live and inert bombing will take place at the Pinecastle Range Complex located in the Ocala National Forest the following day and time:"
Residents are asked to call (800) 874-5059 if the noise gets to be too loud.
For more information call (904) 542-5588.
Take from a GAO report "Navy's Bombing Practices at the Pinecastle Electronic Warfare Range in the Ocala National Forest, Florida document B-178547: Published: Aug 30, 1973. Publicly Released: Aug 30, 1973." That document is online at http://www.gao.gov/products/B-178547.
The War Department (WD) acquired 40,587 acres for the former Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range in the early 1940’s. On 27 June 1941, the WD acquired use of 23,167 acres for an Army bombing and gunnery range by means of a temporary use permit from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). By two Memoranda of Understanding with the USDA, the Army acquired more land in the same area: 3,354 acres by transfer and another 14,066 acres by conveyance bringing the total to 40,587 by 11 January 1943.
During World War II, the Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range was utilized by the United States Armed Forces Command and was under the jurisdiction of Pinecastle Army Air Field and the Orlando Army Air Base. The site was also known as the Ocala Bombing Range, the Ocala Bombing and Gunnery Range, and Ocala Aerial Bombing and Gunnery Range, and Ocala Range. The site was used for practice bombing (including the use of HE/GP bombs), AAF Board Projects, ground gunnery and rocket missions. There were also training facilities for fire fighting details. Observation towers were constructed on the site along with a camp area for the fire fighters.
At the conclusion of World War II, the WD determined the site was no longer required. It was declared surplus 2 December 1956. The entire 40,587 acre site was relinquished back to the USDA by letter of transfer dated 20 May 1947. Of these 40,587 acres, 5,765 acres are not eligible for the DERP-FUDS program because the Navy currently utilizes these acres for an active site, the Pinecastle Impact Range.
The North Bomb Target was one of the original range locations and was intended for practice bombing. It was a cleared circular area about two miles in diameter. Historical aerial photography shows a considerable amount of ground disturbance. This entire target area, with the exception of a portion along the northern edge outside of the present-day Navy range, is included in the currently active US Navy Pinecastle Target.
Monitoring and operations
See also http://air2airshare.com/milaircomms/pinecastle_range.html, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/moa-jacksonville.htm and http://www.mybaseguide.com/navy/71-2929-16667/nas_jacksonville_fleet_area_control_surveillance_facility_jacksonville
Pinecastle Range Complex under the command of Commander Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMNAVAIRLANT) Aircrew Combat Training Range under administrative control of Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, Jacksonville, Florida (FACSFACJAX - SEALORD).
In some cases you will need a Military Air capable police scanner or radio monitor to intercept these communications. See http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/VHF/UHF_Military_Monitoring
Frequencies possibly in use:
- 289.2000 SEALORD Pinecastle Control UHF AM
- 134.6500 SEALORD Pinecastle Control VHF AM
- 350.4000 Lake George Target Control UHF AM
- 357.0000 SEALORD Pinecastle Control UHF AM