15 Mar 2017

US military expansion of training airspace in CNMI approved

8:44 am on 15 March 2017

The US Navy's plan to expand a military training range on a Northern Marianas island to accommodate the use of an advanced weapons system has been approved.

Farallon de Medinilla, CNMI

Farallon de Medinilla, CNMI Photo: supplied

The Marianas Variety reports the Federal Aviation Administration has expanded the restricted airspace at Farallon de Medinilla, which lies 83km north of Saipan.

The move takes effect on 22 June and "provides the required airspace to conduct military training scenarios using air-to-ground ordnance delivery, naval gunfire, lasers and special operations training."

The FAA says the change will allow the use of advanced weapons systems which the current airspace does not sufficiently and safely provide.

Farallon de Medinilla, a 2.7km-long uninhabited island in the North Pacific Ocean, is being leased by the US Navy and has been used for military exercises despite protests and legal battles with environmentalists.

In 2002, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Navy for the destruction of habitat that led to the killing of several bird species on the island.

The Navy had earlier admitted that live-fire exercises using bombs and other munitions had killed migratory birds.

A subsequent court decision ordered the Department of Defense to halt bombing exercises on the island until it complied with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.