One of the major challenges in training both Close Air Support and Battlefield Air Interdiction is finding suitable targets for pilots to train on. Understandably, few communities in the US are eager to have live bombs, missiles and rockets landing on their front lawns. And while the services have fairly large numbers of places they can drop bombs, virtually all of that is merely big open spaces. But targeting a particular building in a built up area is a critical skill for today’s aviator, and learning to do that is one of the most difficult challenges they face.

But building a range complex that can serve as a facsimile of a built up area isn’t cheap. Or rather, it wasn’t. Enter the humble shipping container.

One of the side effects of our trade imbalance with China is that they send a lot of goods over in shipping containers, and we send fewer goods back that way. That tends to result in a fairly large surplus of shipping containers here in the US, which drives down their market value.

And since they’re cheap and stackable, they can easily be configured to resemble realistic buildings. Stack enough, and you’ve got what, from a pilot’s perspective, looks reasonably close to an actual village.

Most bombed city in the world: The Urban Target Complex - or R-2013-West - was built in 1999 about five miles north of the U.S. / Mexican border in southern Arizona

Yodaville, named after the call-sign of the Air Force officer who planned this range complex, it lies just north of the Mexican border in New Mexico Arizona.  By using mostly inert bombs and missiles, the containers can withstand quite a pounding before they need to be replaced. It also reduces the hazard of unexploded ordnance.

Air&Space Magazine had a nice little piece on the Marines using Yodaville for their capstone exercise of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

7 thoughts on “Yodaville”

    1. Cheap is, of course, a relative term. $1850 seems to be the going price for a plain jane 40′. They’re stackable, reconfigurable, virtually all are identical and interchangable, transportable by virtually any modality, moveable by both commercial and military material handling equipment, maintain their structural integrity in the face of numerous holes from shell and shrapnel, virtually fireproof, recyclable, and ubiquitous on the open market, and they’re cheaper than virtually any other reconfigurable target array the services could build.

      Which makes more sense? A local contract for a couple million dollars of containers shifted around by an Army or Air Force Engineer unit, or let a contract to KBR to build a target array for untold millions that has to be completely rebuilt after every live fire event?

  1. Hurlburt Field and the Eglin Range Complex use lots of shipping containers for range targets. The Rangers up at the 6th RTB also have a bunch of shipping containers they stacked up and added stairwells for “combat towns.” I will admit, I was surprised to find out there are quite a few rodents that take up residence in those big metal boxes, we had a hell of a time keeping them out of the MREs when we did our field training out of those facilities.

  2. Nice picture of a Harrier firing the gun pod in there – don’t see too many pictures of that

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