Hill AFB begins large detonations at Utah Test and Training Range

  • Published
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force will begin its season of large detonation operations this month at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). The detonations – those involving more than 10,000 pounds of net explosive weight – are to destroy old or obsolete Department of Defense rocket motors.

Amanda Burton, 75th Civil Engineer Group’s Environmental Branch Chief, said detonation is environmentally the best, current way to dispose of these large rocket motors. Since 2012, more than 300 motors have been destroyed at the UTTR. The UTTR is the only permitted location in the United States where these detonations can be done.

“We want to do this work without adversely affecting our neighbors and the environment," Burton said.

Large detonations do create sound waves, and before each operation at the UTTR, the Air Force takes atmospheric readings to check wind speed and direction and other weather factors. This data is entered into a sound prediction model to determine if conditions are acceptable for a detonation. If the model predicts that sound is going to be louder than permitted levels at locations along the Wasatch Front, the detonations are delayed.

No sound prediction model, however, can be 100 percent accurate all the time, she said. On a few occasions over the years, some residents in northern Utah have felt vibrations and shaking minutes after a detonation on the range, which is approximately 80 miles west of Salt Lake City in Utah’s west desert.

"Atmospheric conditions can change rapidly between the time we take a reading and the actual detonation,” Burton said. “This current model we’re using is a very reliable tool in determining how far sound from a detonation will travel from the UTTR.”

Depending on weather conditions, one or two detonations are planned per week through September at the UTTR. This is subject to change based on weather, workload and other factors.