ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Since 1950 when construction began on Arnold Air Force Base, establishing what was then referred to as an Air Development Center, the land and facilities on the base have continued to change as the nation’s defense needs have evolved.
A portion of the land is also granted use by the community, and the public use of Arnold AFB, the headquarters of the Arnold Engineering Development Complex, has adjusted as needed over the years.
As the base’s land use changes and the facilities expand or new facilities are built, Ryne Knuckles, community planner with the AEDC Test Support Division’s Engineering Section, stated that it is beneficial for Arnold to maintain an Installation Development Plan, or IDP, for the long-term development and management of the DOD’s buildings, land and infrastructure.
“An effective plan for the development and management of Arnold requires a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to installation master planning in order to deliver consistent results,” he said. “For Air Force activities, planning is the process of providing the efficient use and orderly development of real estate and facility resources in response to assigned missions, functions and tasks.”
The requirement for installations to produce an IDP comes from the Unified Facilities Criteria 2-100-01 - Installation Master Planning and Air Force Manual 32-1084, Facility Requirements Standards.
But one might ask, “What is an IDP, exactly, and what does it do?”
“An Installation Development Plan is the official planning document that guides installation physical development activities, primarily for facilities and infrastructure improvements,” Knuckles explained. “Additionally, an IDP conveys strategic, efficient and orderly development of the installation around specific mission requirements and incorporates flexibility to adapt to dynamic and changing conditions, such as unforeseen missions or events. Components of a completed IDP are the various district plans that make up the installation, an installation facility standards, vision plan, framework plan and a facility space optimization plan.”
Knuckles added that the IDP is essentially a road map for achieving a strategic vision, which allows community planners, engineers and project managers to anticipate the future, prioritize infrastructure actions, reduce risk and improve business processes and policies through a collaborative process.
“The IDP is guided by a vision and focused on mission excellence, but it is also developed to achieve plausible, feasible and implementable planning solutions influenced and guided by federal fiscal realities,” he said. “The ideas, plans, direction and courses of action provided by the IDP should provide the Installation Commander and staff, as well as the Civil Engineering section and Programming staff, with a clear picture of development priorities and actions for the short-, mid- and long-term.”
For Arnold AFB, in 2017 the IDP was updated and placed on the Air Forces web-based Comprehensive Planning Platform, and since that time it has been updated annually. The IDP identified six distinct planning districts. They are: the Test Operations District; the Mission Support District; the Airfield District; the Tennessee Air National Guard (TNARG) District; the Community District; and the Buffer District.
“During that initial planning process in 2017, a total of 27 projects were identified for future solutions to existing shortfalls at that time,” Knuckles said. “Several of those projects have come to fruition or are completed, while others are still ongoing.”
The Test Operations District includes numerous test cells, extensive utility systems and supporting administrative facilities. This district comprises the entire area within the AEDC fence line, excluding the airfield and the community services facilities along Von Karman Road near the Main Gate. Also included in the Test Operations District are the munitions storage area, the Secondary Reservoir, the Retention Reservoir, the Fitness Center and running trail, and the fire and police departments.
Within the Test Operations District are several areas dedicated to certain types of test operations. The Propulsion Wind Tunnel and Aeropropulsion System Test Facility make up the two large central blocks within the Test Operations District.
The Mission Support District is a smaller district located within the Test Operations District.
“The Mission Support District was identified as the area where the community services and support functions are located within the main cantonment area,” Knuckles said. “Currently, the Base Exchange, Commissary and Medical Clinic are located within this district.”
The Airfield District is comprised of the runway, taxiway and ramp/apron, as well as the clear zones on either end of the runway. Knuckles noted that the only existing buildings located within this district are the airfield operations facility and the newly-constructed hangar.
“The facilities and land use within the district are exclusively dedicated to flight operations,” he said. “The reactivation of the runway in 2018 required several facility and infrastructure projects in the Airfield District. So, the Airfield District is not anticipated to change significantly in the near future.”
The Tennessee Air National Guard District, referred to as the TNARNG District, is 7,578 acres characterized by the land that is leased or licensed to the TNARNG for their training purposes. This district consists of a 10-acre cantonment area off of Industrial Boulevard at the eastern edge of the Arnold AFB boundary; land navigation training areas around the former Camp Forest areas; a variety of small arms, machine gun, and grenade ranges; a live fire shoot house; an urban assault course; a tactical training base; and a drop zone. The range areas cover most of the district.
As its name implies, the Community District offers more access to the community and has some areas that are even public use. The district is characterized by the development along Woods Reservoir on the south side of the base and includes privatized housing areas; the Gossick Leadership Center; Wingo Inn; Arnold Lakeside Center; Crockett Cove cabins; Dogwood Ridge campground; and Fam Camp. Additionally, the Community District has mountain bike trails located north of Northshore Road and numerous other recreational features, such as the tennis courts, softball field and playground.
An outgrant to the Highland Yacht Club is also located within this district. Several hunting areas, such as duck hunting on Woods Reservoir and bow hunting in the wooded areas, exist within the Community District, as well. The district is bound by Woods Reservoir on the south and east and University of Tennessee Space Institute on the west. The northern boundary is about a quarter mile north of Northshore Road. It is nearly three miles south of Wattendorf Memorial Highway and gate 2. As a result of the distance and the heavy forest that covers much of Arnold AFB, the Community District is fairly isolated from the cantonment area.
Lastly, there is the Buffer District, which is made up of the largely undeveloped portions of land that surround the other districts. It includes the Arnold Golf Course, other hunting areas and recreational areas, utility easements and corridors, and Woods Reservoir. It is the largest of the planning districts at Arnold AFB, spanning 25,946 acres.
Knuckles mentioned that as different projects on the installation are completed, the IDP will be modified.
“The IDP for Arnold AFB is a living document and is entered using the Comprehensive Planning Platform created by the Air Force Civil Engineering Center headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio,” he said. “During FY21 [fiscal year 2021], Arnold began execution on a total of 41 different projects with an overall cost of $86.6 million while the design work for 31 projects was also conducted to various benchmarks totaling $29.2 million.
“These projects will be vital to the long-term vision of the installation and will create opportunities for future mission sets to bed down here. Through accurate planning and steadfast programming, Arnold’s place atop the list of most advanced flight simulation testing centers in the world is further cemented.”