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Ellsworth Air Force Base to be primary home of new B-21 bombers

Ellsworth Air Force Base (MSGT. JOSE LOPEZ, JR./U.S. Air Force)

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told the Journal on Friday that Ellsworth Air Force Base will be the preferred site for the new B-21 bomber, with Dyess Air Force Base in Texas acting as the alternate.

“We will be the home of the B-21 for the first two squadrons at Ellsworth Air Force Base,” Rounds said. “That puts Ellsworth on the map for at least the next 50 years. This is the most advanced weapons platform that we have ever developed.”

Rounds, who sits on the Senate Armed Forces Committee and is facing a challenge from Rapid City Republican Scyller Borglum in Tuesday’s primary election, said the B-21 is an integral piece of the U.S. military in both peace and war.

Rounds said the B-21 was developed to be able to “reach out and touch China.”

“Beginning in 2017, the Armed Services Committee in both the House and Senate clearly identified China as our primary threat,” he said. “We could see that they were stealing our intellectual property. They were developing and stealing weapons systems and trying to duplicate them. They were being extremely aggressive in the Pacific Rim trying to push us further and further out.”

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The B-21 will be capable of addressing that threat with new technology and design. At least 100 of the B-21 planes, designed by Northrop Grumman, are being built, Rounds said. He said the number of planes heading to Ellsworth and the timing of their arrival is classified.

Rounds said, however, the delivery of the bombers is on time and on budget.

The next-generation bomber, also called the Raider, will bring “hundreds” of new airmen, support personnel and their families as well as a building boom to the Rapid City area once construction begins in Fiscal Year 2021.

In 2005, Ellsworth was briefly added to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list, the Pentagon’s list of military bases that should be closed or relocated. Since then, the area has taken a number of steps to keep the base open and ultimately to be the first site to host the B-21.

Ellsworth was chosen because it has the space and facilities “to accommodate B-21 and B-1 missions simultaneously at the lowest cost and with the least operational impact,” the Air Force said in a March 2019 press release.

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