Windows rattling and the sound of loud booms is enough to unnerve anyone living within 50 miles of Ocala National Forest. The detonation of live and inert bombing munitions at the U.S. Navy’s Pinecastle Impact Range has been known to spook more than a few humans and animals.
F-18 fighter jets and other military aircraft take off from Jacksonville Naval Air Station and drop live and inert munitions in the center 450 acres of the nearly 5,750-acre range which is located about 2 miles west of State Road 19 and the Camp Ocala campgrounds, and one-half mile west of the Farles Lake campground.
Here’s what you need to know about the Pinecastle Impact Range and the explosions that can be heard and felt in Mount Dora, Eustis, Umatilla and beyond.
1. The U.S. Navy has been training in that area for nearly 78 years.
2. As many as 6,863 inert bombs and 1,359 live bombs can be expended per year. Weekly utilization varies based on weather, ship and aircraft squadron availability, and Navy Fleet training schedules and operational requirements. 3. Pinecastle Range is the only U.S. East Coast training facility authorized for the release of explosive air-to-surface ordnance (including close air support), an essential factor in air warfare training.
4. The Navy considers training with live air-to-ground ordnance critical to achieving and maintaining combat readiness. This element of training cannot be simulated by computer modeling and/or inert ordnance delivery and is typically conducted just prior to combat deployment to overseas theaters, according to the Navy.
5. In the early 1940s, the War Department acquired use of 40,587 acres of the Ocala National Forest for the Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range.
6. During World War II, the Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range was used by the United States Army Air Forces Command (USAAF) and was under the jurisdiction of the Pinecastle Army Air Field and the Orlando Army Air Base. The Lake Bryant Bombing and Gunnery Range was used for practice bombing, ground gunnery, rocket missions, and training for firefighting details.
7. In 1951, the Navy acquired the use of a portion of the original range and the area has been in continuous operation by the Navy to train aircrews and support personnel in the delivery of ordnance. 8. The range is used by military organizations from all over the country flying all types of aircraft, including F/A-18s, F-15s and helicopters. 9. The Navy’s goal is to manage and operate ranges to support their long-term viability and utility to meet National defense missions while protecting human health and the environment.
10. Air operations are normally scheduled between 8 a.m. until one hour before sunset, Monday through Thursday. In some instances, in support of large scale exercise events that occur on average two to three times per year, air operations can take place for seven to ten days consecutively, to include weekends.