Expanded Training Range to Benefit Ellsworth AFB Senator Says
Dan Cohen AUTHOR A recent decision to raise the maximum altitude aircraft can fly within a vast training range in the western Dakotas, southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming will significantly boost the military value of Ellsworth AFB, S.D., says Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). The change will allow pilots to fly missions at up to 52,000 feet, twice the current ceiling, over 28,000 square miles of the Air Force’s Powder River Training Complex for several days annually. The new ceiling means stealth aircraft — including the B-2 Spirit bomber, F-35 Lightning and F-22 Raptor — can fly at normal operating altitudes, reports the Rapid City Journal.“This is a game-changer for Ellsworth in terms of its stability,” Rounds said. “This basically ensures that Ellsworth isn’t going to go anyplace for at least another 50 to 75 years.” The higher altitudes will initially be allowed for an exercise later this month. Rounds said the new limit will be needed after the Air Force transitions to the B-21 Raider — the strategic bomber slated to replace the B-1B Lancer and B-2 — beginning in 2023.