Powder River Expansion
U.S. Air Force Powder River Training Complex Expansion
On January 16, 2015, the Air Force completed its approval for the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) expansion. On March 24, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed its own review, finalizing a nine year process, and making the PRTC the largest training airspace over the continental United States. It is important to emphasize that no live-fire exercises are proposed in this initiative.
Spanning the skies over North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, the PRTC is roughly the size of Indiana. This expansive training airspace allows Air Force pilots and crews to perform the critical training they need in conditions that closely resemble combat missions. By allowing B-1 Bombers to conduct exercises closer to home, the Air Force is also saving tens of millions of dollars in flight hours each year.
On December 2 & 3, 2015, the PRTC hosted its first large force exercises (LFE), in which multiple aircraft and crews trained together simulating a combat environment. Each year only one large force exercise will take place per quarter, for a maximum of 10 days per year. Ellsworth Air Force Base will issue public notifications of LFEs no later than 30 days prior to each exercise giving general aviation pilots time to plan around these events. Interruptions to local, civilian aircraft operations will be kept to a minimum and all local, community airports will be able to maintain normal operations, with the exception of a few days per year. Training exercises will also not take place over 26,000 feet, so commercial aircraft transiting through the region will not be affected. Emergency aircraft and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) arrivals & departures will be given priority and military aircraft can be contacted and recalled if an emergency arises.
Members of the public wishing to know when the PRTC is in use may call 1-800-wxbrief and request Powder River NOTAMS (primarily for aviators).
In addition, the FAA maintains the following website displaying up-to-the-minute usage of the PRTC as well as all special use airspace nationwide: http://sua.faa.gov/sua/.
Related Powder River Training Complex Expansion Documents & Resources:
- Inside Ellsworth AFB - Proposed Powder River Training Complex Expansion
- Powder River Training Complex Draft EIS Executive Summary - August, 2010 (PDF 2.27MB)
- Powder River Training Complex Draft EIS - August, 2010 (PDF 16.42MB)
- Powder River Training Complex Draft EIS Appendices - August, 2010 (PDF 19.3MB)
- Air Combat Command - Open for public comment
- National Environmental Policy Act