Following BRAC 2005, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has made good on a pledge to provide money to ensure the Air Force can improve and expand operations at Cannon Air Force Base—and keep the new western base for special operations off any potential future base closure lists. In a June 24 release, noting the state’s $5 million investment, Richardson said, “We are fulfilling a promise I made to modernize Cannon Air Force Base and increase its military value to the Air Force.” The money is to go toward transfer of state land to the Air Force to expand the Melrose Bombing and Gunnery Range, which was one of the prime features that attracted Air Force Special Operations Command to select Cannon for its western base. New Mexico Finance Secretary Katherine Miller signed a memo of understanding with Air Force installations chief William Anderson this week. The land has yet to be identified, according to the release, but Miller said state offices would “work diligently” to identify “potential land that meets Air Force requirements.” Base officials planned to begin using the existing range for AC-130 gunship training earlier this year. In addition to the AC-130, AFSOC plans to place the new CV-22 and a proposed light gunship, in addition to other SOF aircraft with the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon. (Read Special Operators Head West)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.