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Rats, Hawks and Fighter Jets: Climate and National Security in the American West

Lemoore, Calif. (Aug. 12, 2005) - F/A-18C Hornets, assigned to the "Vigilantes" of Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One (VFA-151), return to Naval Air Station Lemoore after a mission in support of Exercise Sentry Eagle. Sentry Eagle is a biannual, two-day exercise that emphasizes tactics for defending friendly airspace and assets from a variety of adversaries as well as exposing participants to multi-service military forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr. (RELEASED)The drought in California is taking its toll on farmers throughout the region, but the fallow fields are also having an unexpected impact on Naval flight exercises. Here & Now reports that pilots at Lemoore Naval Air Station in California, one of the west’s largest Naval bases, have found that fallow fields increase the prevalence of avian predators like red tailed hawks, and increase the likelihood of bird strikes. As reported by Ezra David Romero:

Bird strikes are a big issue at Lemoore. They’re the reason the Navy leases this land to farmers because certain crops keep aerial predators at bay. Empty fields attract rodents, which are feasts for birds of prey… In 2013, when about 34 percent of these fields went unfarmed, the base saw 43 bird strikes. Stack suspects that number will grow this year. And according to Navy pilot and executive officer Joe Guerrein those birds can do serious damage.

There has been some rain and renewed hope for greener fields around the Naval base, but the projections for the drought are that it will not be letting up anytime soon.  And future climate projections don’t look good.

This is just a small example of how climate-exacerbated droughts could impact national security in the future. Not all security risks are going to be sudden and intense. Some will be the gradual wearing away of the ability to prepare and train for future threats, as demonstrated by this case of rats, hawks and fighter jets.

The full story is worth a listen (h/t Andrew Holland, ASP for tweeting this article).


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