U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (copy)

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally

Is the Pentagon considering moving the Army’s unmanned aerial training program out of Fort Huachuca?

Sen. Martha McSally thinks they might, pressing Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark A. Milley earlier this week at a Senate Committee on Armed Service hearing for answers.

Calling the base a national asset and a unique training ground for unmanned aerial systems, McSally reminded officials that the area that the aircraft — popularly called drones — operate in is along the international border and is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island.

“Fort Huachuca houses the [Army’s] unmanned aerial training right now. It is the only solely dedicated UAS training airspace. Unlike other places in the country we are actually increasing that airspace," McSally said, noting that the Southern Arizona Army base offers more than 300 days of sunny skies for the training.

Milley responded that Fort Huachuca offers an excellent training opportunity to pilots, but left the door open to moving those operations to another base.

Believed to be on the top of that list is Fort Rucker in Alabama, which also flies drones.

"Fort Huachuca is a great base, and Arizona has 300 days of sunshine as you noted, and the airspace is mostly always clear, so yes, Fort Huachuca and other capabilities and bases in Arizona and in other states are national assets,” Milley said. “In terms of where it bases, where it trains, we are taking a look at all of that, and there’s a variety of options, and Arizona’s clearly at the top of the list.”

McSally invited Esper to visit Fort Huachuca in the coming months, which the Secretary of the Army indicated he would do in the fall.

Following the exchange between McSally, Esper and Milley, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick said she would work to keep the unmanned aerial systems training program at Fort Huachuca and vowed to work with McSally.

"I recently visited Fort Huachuca, and there is no question that the land and airspace make it uniquely capable. I will use my position on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee to support the critical missions of Fort Huachuca. And I will work alongside our senators to ensure that this national security asset and its programs are protected," Kirkpatrick said.