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June 21, 2010 09:40 PM

Drones Put Ellsworth Up Front In War On Terror

Rapid City, SD


Airmen at Ellsworth Airforce Base are going to fight terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan without ever leaving Rapid City.
The Air Force announced Monday that Ellsworth is one of only two bases in the country selected to fly unmanned drones.

The new mission will add 280 jobs and keep the base on the cutting edge of the War on Terror. It's the same base that was set to close just five years ago. 

The unmanned drones have been used more and more during the past few months to target al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan. The drones are even credited with killing al-Qaida's third in command earlier this month. And, now they'll be operated out of Ellsworth in Rapid City.

The new drones may not have a pilot in their cockpits but they will bring plenty of people to Ellsworth Air Force Base now and in the future.

"They really do work as a 24 hour on guard assistance to the men that are on the ground, the fact that we'll have predators or reapers that's a major mission that may be expanded in the future," South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds said.

The drones will be bringing hundreds of jobs to the base as airmen and contractors operate the unmanned aircraft from Rapid City. It's also going to bring stability for the base as the Air Force increases its use in the War on Terror. 

"The drones play a major role in the defense of the perimeters of the bases. They are up 24 hours a day, they are also used to follow and watch the supply routes," Rounds said.

It's a big change from where Ellsworth was five years ago when it was on a base closure list. After Ellsworth was saved a development authority was created for the base to help promote and improve the base. It's that type of organization that helped land this major mission.

"It sent the message to the Air Force that we were prepared as a state to step forward and assist them in accomplishing the next series of missions that were presented to Ellsworth," Rounds said.

And that mission is to fight the War on Terror from a base in our backyards.

The drones won't actually be at Ellsworth Air Force Base, the aircraft will be stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but all of the operations will be done at Ellsworth.

The only other base picked to operate the drones was the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

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