I've always been fascinated by anything having to do with science and technology, and that includes aviation. One of my favorite hangouts, in past years, during the months of warmer weather here in Wisconsin was Hardwood Range, located near Finley, Wisconsin, in Juneau County, and operated by the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Here, you could watch high performance military aircraft in action.
The range has a small, paved parking lot, and there is a fenced-in observation/spectator area, near the control tower, that used to be open to the general public. This area featured picnic tables, a pop machine and restroom facilities.
The range operates year round, and is host to many different types of aircraft including, but not limited to, F-16's, A-10's, B-52's, B-1B's, B-2's, C-130's, C-141's and helicopters, including Cobras.
Twenty-four hour-a-day recording, giving the Hardwood Range daily flying schedule, directions to the range, and information on special range events. Recording is updated daily at 8:00 AM and again at 12 PM(Noon), if significant changes occur.
Hardwood Range - Typical Operating Hours
NOTES: The Madison ANG unit(F-16's), as the range's primary user, is the best bet for seeing planes on the range. They usually have the 9 AM-10 AM and 1 PM-2 PM time blocks unless they are flying nights. The earliest that the range may be used is around 8 AM and flying can go until well into the night but usually stops by 4 PM.
The range is closed during the following:
Hardwood Range can be reached by taking State Highway 80 south out of Babcock, Wisconsin, to Finley, Wisconsin. At Finley, turn east onto County Trunk Highway "F". Take Hwy. F past the Yellow River to 11th Avenue, then turn left onto 11th Avenue at the sign pointing to Hardwood.
The use of earplugs while in the vicinity of the range is highly recommended and encouraged. Another useful item to bring along on any visit to Hardwood is a pair of good binoculars.
If you own a scanner radio or other general coverage receiver with the proper frequency coverage, here are some frequencies for Hardwood Range that you can tune in to(all in MHz):
Note that most of these frequencies, such as those used for security and maintenance, are relatively low power and can only be heard within the immediate vicinity of Hardwood Range. However, on the frequencies used by aircaft, it is possible to pick up aircraft communications from a much further distance, particularly with the use of an outside antenna for your receiver/scanner. I live about one hour's drive from Hardwood Range and with an outside antenna mounted at 30 feet, I have no trouble hearing a lot of the aircraft communications.
Related WWW Sites(Links):
Hardwood Air To Ground Gunnery Range(Wisconsin)
Volk Field Air National Guard Base(Wisconsin)
Hardwood Air-to-Ground Weapons Range(R-6904), near Finley, WI, is one of fifteen Air National Guard(ANG) ranges located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The entire facility is under the operational control of the Air National Guard as part of the Combat Readiness Training Center, Volk Field ANG Base, Camp Douglas, WI.
The mission of Hardwood Range is to provide training for combat aircrews, through presentation of a variety of realistic target arrays, for air-to-ground weapons delivery.
The first aircraft began using the range in 1955. Since that time, Hardwood has continued to expand to meet the flying requirements of the ANG. Its day-to-day users include ANG units from Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Air Force Reserve units from Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Regular Air Force bomber units from throughout the United States also use Hardwood Range, as do Army, Army National Guard and Reserve, Navy, Marine Corps, and occasionally Canadian Forces aircraft. The range is used on a priority basis by flying units deployed to Volk Field for training. Special testing for the F-15E "Strike Eagle" fighter, plus a special Department of Defense Joint Camouflage, Concealment and Deception(JCCD) evaluation were conducted at Hardwood Range.
As a Class A range, Hardwood is manned, has a scoring capability from the ground and a Range Control Officer(RCO). The range is supervised by a Range Operations Officer. He is responsible for the supervision of range management, planning and maintenance. The RCO is responsible for management of all range operations with regard to the control of aircraft and ground personnel. A small staff is assigned to maintain the range and targets.
Hardwood Range is two statute miles wide by six statute miles long and the surrounding area is heavily wooded. The associated restricted airspace is eight by nine nautical miles and is reserved to an altitude of 17,000 feet.
The range support facilities and main control tower are located at the center of the western end of the complex. Two flank towers are located on the north and south ends for scoring. There are two drop zones, located north and south, for airdrop missions by C-130 and C-141 aircraft.
Target Complex: The targets are displayed in three areas north, south and east of the support facilities. In addition to a conventional bomb circle, an array of simulated tactical targets has been acquired and built that include vehicle convoys, a SCUD missile launcher, aircraft, a mobile command post, fuel storage tanks, a refinery complex, bridges, radar installations, an anti-aircraft site and a moving jeep. A laser target is located on the main tower, which is eye-safe, portable and activates target identification equipment on properly equipped aircraft for teaching aircrew proficiency with laser equipment.
Weapons and Scoring: Munitions employed at the range are inert or practice ordnance. High explosive and white phosphorous are not authorized. Practice ordnance are 25-pound BDU-33 or BDU-48 bombs having a spotting charge that releases a cloud of smoke on impact. Mk-82/BDU-50, 500-pound and Mk-84, 2,000-pound bombs are also used on some targets. These inert "heavyweight" bombs are dropped either with a parachute for "High Drag", or "Slick", which has no drag device. In either case, their weight creates enough "splash", or dirt spray, to be easily spotted without using an explosive charge.
Bombs and rockets are scored visually using spotting scopes located in the flank and main towers. The flank tower observer relays the observed scores to the main tower, where the coordinates are entered into a computer and the score calculated in meters and degrees from the target. The score is relayed to the pilot for immediate reference and recorded for delivery to the pilot's unit.
Forward-firing ordnance from aircraft include 7.62mm and .50 caliber machine guns and 20mm or 30mm cannons. All use non-explosive ammunition. These may be scored optically or acoustically.
Threat Simulation: Hardwood Range is capable of providing a range of simulated threats to aircrews. The range has three "Sentry Dawg" threat emitters that look like a small radar dish. They emit electronic signals simulating different threats such as surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and radar tracking devices. Two Smoky Sam simulators are also available. These are launch platforms for Styrofoam rockets, which give a visual impression of a surface-to-air missile fired at the aircraft.
Night Bombing: For night missions, the conventional bomb circle on the south portion of the range is illuminated using propane lanterns or smudge pots.
Hardwood Range is designated as Restricted Area R-6904 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and only authorized aircraft are permitted to fly in the airspace when the range is "hot", or in use. During operating periods the airspace is reserved from surface to 17,000 feet. Aircrews using the range normally enter via one of the associated low-level routes.
Safety is a prime concern at Hardwood Range for using aircrews, range personnel and the neighboring public. Flying safety and noise abatement restrictions include a stringent safety program, entry and exit limits to avoid civil airfields, restriction on use of afterburners, restrictive departure altitudes and a restriction on overflight of wildlife refuge areas. Close control of all on-range aircraft is maintained for safety purposes.
An open house is held every two years for the public and affords the opportunity to increase awareness of the range and its activities. Visitors are welcome to observe activities during operating hours. A recorded message containing the range schedule is available by calling (608) 565-2884.
Initiatives include Hardwood's inclusion in the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) state-of-the-art electronic training system. Currently, the No Drop Weapons Scoring system and the threat emitters are being upgraded. A proposal to expand the range by approximately 7,929 acres is now in the environmental assessment process. The expansion would allow for a greater variety of aircraft approaches, reduce noise concentrations in the area and allow for a wider margin of safety. Finally, thermal targets are being developed for infrared target acquisition weapons systems.
(Current As Of February, 1997)