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AF to expand Powder River Training Complex

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force issued its record of decision Jan. 16, to expand the airspace at the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC), after an extensive review of environmental impacts and public concerns regarding expansion.

Expanding the airspace, which overlies portions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, will enable the Air Force to enhance its combat training for B-1 Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress aircrews based at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, and Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

“Currently we expend a substantial portion of our valuable training time commuting to distant ranges that have suitable training airspace,” said Col. Kevin Kennedy, the 28th Bomb Wing commander. “This lost time doesn’t just limit the amount of training we can accomplish; it also costs us more in fuel and wear and tear on aircraft. Expanding the Powder River Training Complex will significantly improve our aircrew’s readiness for the missions they’re performing for national security and provide a premium value for each training dollar provided by the American taxpayer.”

The Air Force first proposed the expansion in May 2008, beginning a series of environmental and public reviews which were completed in November 2014. Throughout the process, the Air Force received and incorporated valuable inputs from local residents, interested organizations, local government offices, Native American tribes, State Historic Preservation Offices, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. The Air Force worked with the Federal Aviation Administration, other federal and state agencies and tribal governments over the intervening years to mitigate concerns while continuing to meet national defense training requirements.

The decision includes mitigation measures developed to address public concerns in the following areas: commercial and general aviation aircraft operations, tribal reservation lands, cultural and historic areas, communities and ranching operations, and general concerns. In addition to these mitigation measures adopted in the record of decision, the Air Force will also develop a “good neighbor” process to communicate with concerned regional agencies and organizations.

“The Air Force will be there (using PRTC) only to conduct critical training, only when we announce it in advance and only in accordance with all the rules adopted for being a good neighbors,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, the Air Force Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Plans and Requirements. “In addition, the Air Force will be talking and listening to the community to adapt those rules as necessary and be mindful of the resources valued by our new neighbors. The Air Force struck a careful balance between its requirements and the interests of concerned residents so the Air Force can be ready to be anywhere America needs airpower. We’re grateful to the various national, state and tribal entities whose hard work and valuable input helped us develop this plan.”

For more information, the record of decision is available at: http://www.ellsworth.af.mil/prtc.asp

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