USACE completes unique live-fire range at Fort Knox

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District
Published June 9, 2023
Updated: June 9, 2023
The tank bridge that provides access across the Rolling Fork River is refurbished to ensure safe access down range.

The tank bridge that provides access across the Rolling Fork River is refurbished to ensure safe access down range. The design for the roughly 2,000 square-acre range, which is only the second of its kind, was completed in-house by USACE. (Courtesy photo)

A berm wall of a mobile armor target is being constructed with steel h-piles and wooden railroad ties.

A berm wall of a mobile armor target is being constructed with steel h-piles and wooden railroad ties. (Courtesy photo)

A battlefield trench and machine gun bunker of Fort Knox’s digital air-ground integration range are completed and are awaiting revegetation.

A battlefield trench and machine gun bunker of Fort Knox’s digital air-ground integration range are completed and are awaiting revegetation. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District completed construction of the Digital Air-Ground Integration Range at Fort Knox, Kentucky, June 9, 2023. The range complex is designed to replicate a complex operational environment and serves to train and qualify soldiers to detect, identify, engage and defeat stationary and moving targets.

The $25 million contract for the construction of the high-tech live-fire range includes more than 400 target emplacements, which will accommodate new and renovated stationary and moving infantry and vehicle targets. The construction contract which also included an urban cluster, machine gun bunkers and new range control tower was awarded on Sept. 26, 2019.

The design for the roughly 2,000 square-acre range, which is only the second of its kind, was completed in-house by USACE engineers at the Louisville District.

“With the design being in-house, it made it easier for us in the construction division to communicate with the designers because they were with USACE,” said Drake Sullivan, USACE project engineer. “Streamlined communication helped the project move along quicker without needing to go through a third-party Architect-Engineer firm.”

The sheer size and environmental attributes of the project posed some unique challenges for construction. Travel through the construction site would often take 30 to 45 minutes to traverse. Partly due to the nearly three-and-a-half-mile length and partly due to the range occupying a low-lying area with a high-water table, the muddy conditions and river obstacle required constant communication between construction teams.

“It was a huge challenge for the contractor to supervise and communicate with the different construction teams because of the way the range is laid out,” Sullivan said. “It was equally as difficult for us to navigate the range to complete our quality assurance checks.”

Another challenge was the fact that large portions of the existing range were not yet cleared of munitions. A staggered notice to proceed was implemented to allow construction to start in specific areas while other areas were being cleared of munitions.

“To overcome this challenge, we communicated very heavily with the contractor and the rest of the USACE team,” Sullivan said. “This project has had a great safety record that reflects no reportable or lost-time accidents.”