Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range

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Barry M. Goldwater Range
Part of Luke Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma
Yuma County and Maricopa County, Arizona
US Air Force A-10C drops BDU-33 at the Barry M. Goldwater Range.jpg
An A-10C drops a BDU-33 on the Barry M. Goldwater Range
Coordinates32°27′45″N 113°26′45″W / 32.4625°N 113.44583333333°W / 32.4625; -113.44583333333
BMGR is located in Arizona
TypeBombing range
Site information
Controlled by United States Air Force
 United States Marine Corps
Site history
In use1941 – present

The Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range or Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR), formerly known as Luke Air Force Range,[1] is a bombing range in the U.S. state of Arizona, between the Mexico–United States border and Interstate 8 straddling the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Tohono Oʼodham Indian Reservation.

History and operations[edit]

Established in 1941, the BMGR is primarily used for air-to-ground bombing practice by United States Air Force pilots flying A-10s from Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, F-16s and F-35 Lightning IIs from Luke Air Force Base and Tucson Air National Guard Base, and United States Marine Corps pilots and naval flight officers in F/A-18 Hornets, AV-8B Harriers and F-35Bs flying from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. It is also used by other U.S. and NATO/Allied/Coalition flight crews while deployed to any of the aforementioned bases for training. According to a U.S. Air Force spokesman, "The Barry M. Goldwater range is between Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma... As you take that geography and look at the military in those three cities you have roughly 20 squadrons that use the range day in, day out as their backyard range. When you piece all of the airspace together, it’s actually bigger than the state of Connecticut which makes it a real training treasure.”[2]

The entire range is approved for day and night operations with four controlled, manned, and electronically scored surface attack ranges that are available for training. There are three tactical ranges available spanning several hundred square miles each, and containing and two full-size airfield mockups. The area includes the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field which serves as an emergency landing location for pilots and flight crews training on the ranges.[2]

Map of the western-half of the BMGR, under U.S. Marine Corps control

The U.S. Air Force operates the eastern portion of the BMGR while the U.S. Marine Corps operates the western portion.

The range was named after five-term U.S. Senator, Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona. Goldwater received a reserve commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces when America entered World War II. Following World War II, Goldwater was a leading proponent of creating the U.S. Air Force Academy. As a colonel, he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard and eventually retired as a command pilot with the rank of major general. By the end of his career, he had flown 165 different types of aircraft.[2]

Undocumented immigrants crossing the BMGR[edit]

Crews install 30-foot (9.1 m) barrier along the Barry M. Goldwater Range's U.S.-Mexico border

Despite warning signs along its southern perimeter in English and Spanish stating that the BMGR is U.S. Government property, that it is an active military bombing range and that unauthorized entry is prohibited, the BMGR remains among the treacherous access areas southwest of Tucson for Mexican, Salvadoran, and other Central and South American migrants crossing into the United States without documentation, where many have perished.[3][4] Aid workers trying to save people from dying have signed up for annual passes to access the BMGR, including a waiver of liability for live bombing, but some workers have been banned and threatened with trespassing charges, citing property policy that requires everything packed in to also be brought out.[5] In August 2018, The Marshall Project reported in an interview on the progressive news program Democracy Now! about deaths on this dangerous and off-limits bombing area, where humanitarian aid - like food or even water - is impossible to deliver.[6]

Freelance Mexican-American investigative reporter John Carlos Frey said that a team from the volunteer search-and-rescue group, Aguilas del Desierto - “Eagles of the Desert,” discovered a dozen bodies in a small area they were allowed to search for two weekends, but fear at least hundreds more have died there, referencing the mass graves discovered in a Texas cemetery along a migrant travel corridor in 2014,[7] but the government isn't allowing any further property search.[8]

In 2020, crews were installing three-ton (2,700 kg), 30-foot (9.1 m) barrier panels along the BMGR's U.S.-Mexico border near Yuma, Arizona.[9] Executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the barrier construction is in response to the Presidential National Emergency Declaration of 2019 requiring the use of the U.S. armed forces to help secure the U.S. southern border.[9]

Popular culture[edit]

The range is the setting for §4, Part 4, in Don DeLillo's Underworld (1997).[10]


  1. ^ "Barry M. Goldwater Range-East | Site History | ADEQ Arizona Department of Environmental Quality". Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c Barry M. Goldwater Range celebrates 75 Years; Luke Air Force Base homepage; by SSgt Marcy Copeland, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs; dated 16 November 2016, last accessed 22 July 2019
  3. ^ LoMonaco, Claudine. "Illegal immigrant death wave following desert's heat wave - Tucson Citizen Morgue, Part 2 (1993-2009)". Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Tory, Sarah. "Border Patrol arrests migrants seeking humanitarian aid". High Country News. Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Devoid, Alex. "Aid workers leave water for border crossers in the Arizona desert. Now, the U.S. is banning them for it". The Republic. Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "'Mass disaster' grows at the U.S.-Mexico border, but Washington doesn't seem to care". AZCentral. The Desert Sun. Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Dart, Tom (21 June 2014). "Texas mass graves with remains of migrants uncovered". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Military Cover-Up? 100s of Migrants Feared Dead in Mass Grave at AZ's Barry Goldwater Bombing Range". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 16 August 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ a b Crews install a three-ton, 30-foot barrier panel at the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, by James Woods (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Pacific Border District), dated 3 March 2020, last accessed 18 July 2020
  10. ^ Don DeLillo, Underworld (Scribner, 1997), pp. 449-68.

External links[edit]