Recent Press Releases

Thune Unveils Major Initiative to Bring Future Missions to Ellsworth

Plan Would Make Ellsworth an Elite Training Base

February 22, 2006

Washington, DC —  Senator John Thune (R-SD) yesterday announced a major initiative to bring future missions to Ellsworth Air Force Base (EAFB). The plan calls for significant improvements to Ellsworth's overall operational capability and its aerial training ranges. This plan would allow air squadrons from all over the country, and the world, to use Ellsworth and its training ranges for some of the most advanced air training available.

"After having successfully gone through the BRAC process, it is now time to turn our attention to attracting future missions to Ellsworth. This initiative would result in significant improvement to Ellsworth's overall operational capability, and allow it to take an undisputed place among the Air Force's most elite bases," said Thune. "Ultimately, the goal of this initiative is to transform Ellsworth into a world class training base, not only for B-1s, but air squadrons of all types, from bases all over the country, and even allied countries. Personnel from these bases would come here to benefit from the wide open airspace, the most advanced training systems available and of course the great hospitality of Ellsworth and the Rapid City area."

Senator Thune's initiative calls for the following improvements:

  • Greatly increase the size of dedicated training airspace available to Ellsworth by as much as three million additional acres. This would allow large force exercises. (Airspace not real estate)

  • Work with the Air Force and FAA to establish a portion of this as "restricted airspace" to facilitate the safe use of UAV's from EAFB.

  • Seek to establish and upgrade communications links between EAFB and Nellis AFB in Nevada and UTTR training area in Utah to allow integrated training exercises to be conducted at each base, as one combined exercise.

  • Upgrade the Powder River Training Complex with newer more advanced electronic equipment, threat simulators and scoring equipment to test and evaluate aircrews.

  • Procure mobile simulated ground targets, e.g. tanks, missile batteries, that can be moved around within Powder River to provide realistic training.

  • Establish a simulated fixed complex of buildings, fuel dumps and defensive positions in Powder River that can serve as training targets so crews can practice bomb runs, without dropping actual ordinance.

  • Establish video recording sites within Powder River Complex to record and evaluate aircrews.

  • Work with the Air Force to locate a suitable bombing range in closer proximity to Ellsworth so actual ordinance can be dropped without having to send aircrews to distant bomb ranges in Utah. This may involve neighboring states.

"These improvements may take several years to accomplish, but it would be well worth the effort to ensure the long-term vitality of Ellsworth Air Force Base.

"Today's meeting with the command staff at Ellsworth is a culmination of numerous discussions and meetings between the Air Force and my office that began shortly after the BRAC process concluded last August. These meetings have included meetings with Air Staff in Washington and my fact finding visits to Nellis AFB and Edwards AFB.

"Ellsworth would be competing with other Air Force priorities requiring close consultation and agreement with the Air staff, but I have faith that Ellsworth will once again prove its strategic value to America's national security," said Thune.