(a) The activities identified in § 217.110(c) must be conducted in a manner that minimizes, to the greatest extent practicable, adverse impacts on marine mammals and their habitats. When conducting operations identified in § 217.110(c), the mitigation measures contained in the Letter of Authorization issued under §§ 216.106 and 217.117 of this chapter must be implemented.
(b) Precision Strike Weapon Missions:
(1) Safety Zones;
(i) For the JASSM, the Air Force must establish and monitor a safety zone for marine mammals with a radius of 2.0 nm (3.7 km) from the center of the detonation and a buffer zone with a radius of 1.0 nm (1.85 km) radius from the outer edge of the safety zone.,
(ii) For the SDB, the holder of the Letter of Authorization must establish and monitor a safety zone for marine mammals with a radius of no less than 5 nm (9.3 km) for single bombs and 10 nm (18.5 km) for double bombs and a buffer zone from the outer edge of the safety zone with a radius of at least 2.5 nm (4.6 km) for single bombs and 5 nm (18.5 km) for double bombs.
(2) For PSW missions, the holder of the Letter of Authorization must comply with the monitoring requirements, including pre-mission monitoring, set forth in § 217.115(c).
(3) When detonating explosives:
(i) If any marine mammals or sea turtles are observed within the designated safety zone or the buffer zone prescribed in the condition in paragraph (b)(1) of this section or that are on a course that will put them within the safety zone prior to JASSM or SDB launch, the launching must be delayed until all marine mammals are no longer within the designated safety zone.
(ii) If any marine mammals are detected in the buffer zone and subsequently cannot be reacquired, the mission launch will not continue until the next verified location is outside of the safety zone and the animal is moving away from the mission area.
(iii) If large Sargassum rafts or large concentrations of jellyfish are observed within the safety zone, the mission launch will not continue until the Sargassum rafts or jellyfish that caused the postponement are confirmed to be outside of the safety zone due to the current and/or wind moving them out of the mission area.
(iv) If weather and/or sea conditions preclude adequate aerial surveillance for detecting marine mammals or sea turtles, detonation must be delayed until adequate sea conditions exist for aerial surveillance to be undertaken. Adequate sea conditions means the sea state does not exceed Beaufort sea state 3.5 (i.e., whitecaps on 33 to 50 percent of surface; 0.6 m (2 ft) to 0.9 m (3 ft) waves), the visibility is 5.6 km (3 nm) or greater, and the ceiling is 305 m (1,000 ft) or greater.
(v) To ensure adequate daylight for pre- and post-detonation monitoring, mission launches may not take place earlier than 2 hours after sunrise, and detonations may not take place later than 2 hours prior to sunset, or whenever darkness or weather conditions will preclude completion of the post-test survey effort described in § 217.115.
(vi) If post-detonation surveys determine that a serious injury or lethal take of a marine mammal has occurred, the test procedure and the monitoring methods must be reviewed with the National Marine Fisheries Service and appropriate changes to avoid unauthorized take must be made prior to conducting the next mission detonation.
(vii) Mission launches must be delayed if aerial or vessel monitoring programs described under § 217.115 cannot be fully carried out.
(c) Air-to-Surface Gunnery Missions:
(1) Sea State Restrictions:
(i) If daytime weather and/or sea conditions preclude adequate aerial surveillance for detecting marine mammals and other marine life, air-to-surface gunnery exercises must be delayed until adequate sea conditions exist for aerial surveillance to be undertaken. Daytime air-to-surface gunnery exercises will be conducted only when sea surface conditions do not exceed Beaufort sea state 4 (i.e., wind speed 13-18 mph (11-16 knots); wave height 1 m (3.3 ft)), the visibility is 5.6 km (3 nm) or greater, and the ceiling is 305 m (1,000 ft) or greater.
(2) Pre-mission and Mission Monitoring:
(i) The aircrews of the air-to-surface gunnery missions will initiate location and surveillance of a suitable firing site immediately after exiting U.S. territorial waters (>12 nm).
(ii) Prior to each firing event, the aircraft crew will conduct a visual and/or instrument survey of the 5-nm (9.3-km) wide prospective target area to locate any marine mammals that may be present.
(A) The AC-130 gunship will conduct at least two complete orbits at a minimum safe airspeed around a prospective target area at an altitude of approximately 6,000 ft (1,829 m).
(B) If marine mammals are not detected, the AC-130 can then continue orbiting the selected target point as it climbs to the mission testing altitude.
(C) During the low altitude orbits and the climb to testing altitude, aircraft crew will scan the sea surface within the aircraft's orbit circle for the presence of marine mammals.
(D) The AC-130's optical and electronic sensors must be employed for target detection, especially at night when visibility will be poor.
(E) If any marine mammals are detected within the AC-130's orbit circle, either during initial clearance or after commencement of live firing, the mission will be immediately halted and relocated as necessary or suspended until the marine mammal has left the area. If relocated to another target area, the clearance procedures described in paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section must be repeated.
(F) If multiple firing events occur within the same flight, these clearance procedures must precede each event.
(iii) If no marine mammals are detected, gunnery exercises may begin with the deployment of MK-25 flares into the center of the designated 5-nm target area.
(3) Operational Mitigation Measures:
(i) Ramp-up air-to-surface gunnery firing activities by beginning with the lowest caliber monition and proceeding to the highest, which means the munitions would be fired in the following order: 25 mm; 40 mm; and 105 mm.
(ii) Air-to-surface gunnery exercises conducted after sunset must use the 105-mm training round instead of the 105-mm full up round.
(iii) One mission per year may be conducted beyond the 200 m isobaths, which is south of a line delineating the shelf break with coordinates of 29°42.73′ N, 86°48.27′ W and 29°12.73′ N, 85°59.88′ W (Figure 1-12 in Eglin AFB's LOA application). The single mission beyond the shelf break will occur during daylight hours only.
(4) Post-mission Monitoring:
(i) Aircrews will initiate the post-mission clearance procedures beginning at the operational altitude of approximately 15,000 to 20,000 ft (4572 to 6096 m) elevation, and then initiate a spiraling descent down to an observation altitude of approximately 6,000 ft (1,829 m) elevation. Rates of descent will occur over a 3- to 5-minute time frame.
(ii) If post-detonation surveys determine that an injury or lethal take of a marine mammal has occurred, the test procedure and the monitoring methods must be reviewed with the National Marine Fisheries Service and appropriate changes to avoid unauthorized take must be made, prior to conducting the next air-to-surface gunnery exercise.