Wind Energy Development

The Department of the Air Force supports renewable energy efforts to include wind turbines, and aims to partner with renewable energy experts in order to find solutions that promote the safety and security of our nuclear assets as well as environmental prosperity.

The Air Force does not intend to hinder renewable energy efforts. However, the Air Force must ensure that wind turbines do not interfere, pose hazard to, or obstruct the intercontinental ballistic missile mission.

Due to their strategic significance and military importance to the joint force, these assets require special protection. Helicopter operations form an integral part of day-to-day security operations and security incident response within the ICBM missile complexes. For this security mission, the helicopters must fly in close proximity to missile alert and launch facilities at low altitudes (below 100 feet Above Ground Level), in all-weather and visibility conditions day and night.

With the scale of modern wind turbines, some exceeding 500 feet in height with over a 380 foot blade diameter, and the quantity being built, wind turbines within 2 nautical miles of ICBM facilities pose significant risk to the helicopter crews who perform this security mission for the nation's ICBM force. The 2 nautical miles is based on the operational space necessary to successfully move and insert armed personnel to a facility and to perform integrated operations with those personnel.


Commander's OpEd

Delivering unrivaled national security:  enhancing energy and nuclear deterrence partnership

By Maj. Gen. Michael Lutton

We are fortunate to serve our nation as Airmen and deliver global strike capabilities every day that deter potential adversaries and assure our allies.  We are equally fortunate to call the great states of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, California, New Mexico, and North Dakota home.  These great states contribute to delivering unrivaled national security for our nation in the form of energy security and nuclear deterrence.  In order to maximize our national security potential, we require close and enduring partnership across the energy and nuclear deterrence enterprise.

Wind energy provides a significant amount of renewable energy across many of the same states where our global strike assets are deployed.  In fact, some of our installations utilize wind turbines within the installation perimeter.  However, over the last several years, many wind turbines were constructed in dense and close proximity to our dispersed global strike facilities.  This presents a significant safety of flight issue for our military helicopters supporting the nuclear deterrence mission.     

Since the 1960’s, our dispersed global strike facilities benefited from a 1200 foot easement.  The easement was primarily designed for safety and security purposes and serves to prevent encroachment that disrupts our deployed global strike mission.  With the advent of modern wind turbines, now being constructed with towers as tall as 650 feet (over twice the height of the Statue of Liberty) and rotor discs 367 feet in diameter (the distance from home plate to the left field foul pole at Coors Field), the 1200 foot easement, in many cases, is ineffective. 

The way forward and our ability to partner in delivering national security is vital.  Since 2007, there has been a 431 percent increase in wind electricity capacity with more than 54,000 wind turbines installed in the United States.  Current helicopter operations and our investment in the MH-139 helicopter matter to our nuclear deterrent force.  However, the flight safety of our crews is even more important.  We must partner to ensure wind turbines are not constructed within two nautical miles of a deployed global strike asset.  When partnering with the energy industry, a 1200 foot easement is not safe for military operations.

The current pace of densely packed wind turbines adjacent to our dispersed global strike facilities requires an even closer partnership. . . we can and must do better to deliver unrivaled national security for our nation.