Large-scale Exercise Set Next Month in Bomber Training Site

The exercise 'is designed to train aircrew under realistic scenarios'

By Dillon Tabish

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The first large-scale exercise in a huge bomber training area over the Northern Plains is scheduled for early next month.

The exercise is set Dec. 2-3 in the 35,000-square-mile Powder River Training Complex over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming, according to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The exercise “is designed to train aircrew under realistic scenarios,” and people in the region can expect to see many different types of aircraft in the sky, the Air Force said. Non-military aircraft are urged to check Federal Aviation Administration notices and avoid areas where the military planes will be flying.

The Air Force has said previously that as many as 88 civilian flights a day could be delayed when large-scale exercises are conducted.

“This type of training is limited to 10 days each year, with each exercise lasting no more than three days, and (will) only occur once every three months,” the Ellsworth statement said.

The FAA in March approved the plan to roughly quadruple the training airspace, making it the largest over the continental U.S. The move came over the objections of some people in the region who worry about military planes disrupting civilian flights, rural communities and ranching operations. Advocates say it will boost military training while reducing costs.

The airspace will primarily be used by B-1 bombers from Ellsworth and B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The first flights in the expanded training area occurred in mid-September.