Recent Press Releases

Senator Thune Hails Air Force Report

Ellsworth and Joe Foss Field Considered for New Weapons Systems

January 14, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Senator John Thune commented today on a report released by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General T. Michael Moseley. The report is the Air Force's weapon system "roadmap," which is a long-term plan for providing the U.S. the necessary Air Force capabilities to meet threats to our national security. The Air Force "roadmap" report outlines potential locations to base weapon systems within the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories.

General Moseley's report lists Ellsworth as a potential base for the next generation bomber and Joe Foss Field as a potential base for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. According to the Air Force, installations that meet preliminary objective requirements will then undergo thorough environmental studies, which are critical factors in determining final beddown bases in the U.S. as suitable locations for weapon systems. As the Air Force further notes, these major studies take time, may consider either one or several installations in a single study and may not be initiated at every potential location. The findings of these environmental studies, and the results of required fiscal and operational analyses which will be conducted over the next several years, will determine the final beddown plan and phasing.

"Today's report indicates that South Dakota remains an integral part of our national security system. Our people, our communities, our unique geographical location and our commitment to the troops and their missions continue to make South Dakota an ideal location to base and house some of America's top military assets," said Thune. "For too long South Dakota was losing vital military missions and personnel. Since helping to save Ellsworth Air Force Base during the last round of base closings (BRAC), I have been committed to bringing military missions back to Ellsworth and the rest of the state. I will continue to work with General Moseley and my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee to make the best decisions for our Armed Services and South Dakota."

Since helping to save Ellsworth, Senator Thune has worked to secure new missions for Ellsworth, including the new Air Force Financial Services center that opened in 2007. Ellsworth was also chosen to oversee air traffic control for military flights in our region, as well as civilian air traffic for the Northern Plains area. This mission was previously operated at both Ellsworth and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Senator Thune is also currently involved in working to expand the Powder River military operating area, a vital piece of training airspace used daily by Ellsworth's B-1 bombers. While still in its early stages, the potential airspace expansion would greatly increase training effectiveness and decrease fuel costs.

The F-35A Lightning II, also commonly called the Joint Strike Fighter, is an advanced next generation fighter aircraft designed to replace the aging F-16, which is based at Sioux Falls' Joe Foss Field. The F-35 combines low observable stealth technology and advanced sensors and is expected to be fielded beginning in 2013.

The USAF plans to replace the B-1 with the Next Generation Bomber beginning in 2018. While many details remain to be determined, the bomber is expected to feature low observable stealth technology, extended loiter capability, and the ability to fly long ranges in order to deliver a wide array of weapons.