May 29, 2020
It’s been just over a year since the Air Force made the big announcement of its plans to bring the first two squadrons of the of the B-21 bomber to the Ellsworth Air Force Base.
And, despite the recent COVID-19 crisis, the work of the Air Force and the South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority (SDEDA) continues.
According to Scott Langduth, Executive Director of the Authority, the B-21 Raider remains on track, with the first B-21 Raider flight scheduled for December of 2021.
“The Air Force is moving ahead with its Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, which is the final step in confirming placement of the bombers,” said Langduth. “The final decision will come in June 2021, but right now, we’re excited that during this scoping period, the Air Force is taking and seeking a lot of input from community stakeholders.”
The Air Force considers many factors during the EIS process, including the impact of personnel, air space and range, facilities, air operations, and land compatibility. One thing that has been extremely important is the Powder River Training Complex. It’s 35,000 square miles of air training space located over North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. It will be the primary training space for the B-21 going forward. “It’s the largest air training complex in the lower 48 and it’s critical to the mission,” said Langduth.
As the Air Force gets closer to its goals, SDEDA continues its efforts with landowners and local governments to address issues integral to operations at the base. SDEDA has already facilitated, through easements and zoning, almost 20,000 acres for regulation to protect the health and safety of residents near the base and Air Force personnel conducting missions.
“None of this could have happened without the support of the community, region, local governments, and support from last three Governors, including Governor Noem,” said Langduth. “We’re going to see thousands of new jobs and over a billion dollars in construction when it’s all said and done. It was a big deal a year ago when they announced. And it’s still a big deal now.”