Recent Press Releases

Thune Comments on Ellsworth Training Range Proposal

--Air Force Announces Plan to Study Powder River Airspace Expansion--

June 9, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today commented on the announcement that the Air Force's Air Combat Command is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to determine potential impacts of the proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex, which is regularly used for Ellsworth Air Force Base's B-1 training.

"This study is a major step in the process of expanding the Powder River Training Complex's ability to meet the Air Force's needs today and into the future," said Thune. "This airspace improvement would vastly improve training and readiness for the men and women who fly in combat. It would also expand Ellsworth's capability to attract future missions and ensure that it remains among the ranks of the Air Force's elite bases. I'm very pleased with this development, and applaud the Air Force for moving forward on this initiative."

In early 2006, Senator Thune called on Air Force officials to expand dedicated training airspace at the Powder River Complex. Senator Thune is the ranking Republican member of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over training range issues.

According to the Air Force announcement published in the Federal Register, the changes to the airspace "would provide for more viable combat training with today's technological systems, and support missions such as dissimilar air combat training, network linked operations, and large force exercises." Additionally, by decreasing the distance aircrews have to travel to the training airspace, the proposed changes have great potential to increase training efficiency by decreasing fuel costs and transit time. This is the case not only for Ellsworth-based aircraft but also for other military branches who would benefit from the expansion because other military training areas are increasingly constrained due to their proximity to larger population areas and competition for limited training slots.

The Air Force will host a series of public meetings in communities which would be potentially impacted by the airspace expansion. The purpose of these meetings is to receive public input on the proposed action and alternatives, as well as gain a better understanding of the potential issues and concerns related to this proposal. Meetings scheduled in South Dakota include:

  • Monday, June 16, 2008: Rapid City Public Library, 610 Quincy Street;

  • Tuesday, June 17, 2008: Belle Fourche Community Center, 1111 National Street;

  • Monday, July 14, 2008: Harding County Memorial Recreation Center, West Allison Street, Buffalo, SD;

  • Tuesday, July 15, 2008: Bison School Cafeteria, 200 E. Carr St;

  • Additional community meetings are being coordinated for the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

  • "I encourage the public to attend these meetings in order to receive information on this proposal, as well as voice any concerns they may have," said Thune.