ELLSWORTH, S.D. (KELO) — Ellsworth Air Force Base is now the official home of the new B-21 stealth bomber.
“We will now at Ellsworth be part of a nuclear triad, this is a nuclear mission,” South Dakota Senator John Thune said.
The official military decision was signed Wednesday, kicking off the next few years of major investment in South Dakota’s largest military base.
“In regards to the surrounding area, Box Elder and Rapid City, it’s a huge economic impact,” Thune said.
It’s a project years in the making, but now South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force base has officially secured the B-21 bombers.
“Those folks out there have worked really hard to showcase Ellsworth and the entire community, making it a welcoming place as they come in to do their duty,” South Dakota Senator Rounds said.
Now these western South Dakota communities will begin preparing the region to welcome even more members of the military.
“When everything is up and operating, they’ll be an additional around 3,000 personnel and that would not include children, so families come with that,” said Thune.
“You’ll see a lot more families, kids and activity in the area,” Senator Rounds said.
It will still be some time before the B-21’s arrive at Ellsworth air force base.
“We’re not going to be flying B-21’s until probably 2027, but I think the construction and investment will begin immediately,” Thune said. “I think the air force is anxious because it takes awhile to build out some of these facilities.”
South Dakota Senator John Thune says he expects construction to begin yet this year to help expand the Base.
“If you look at direct construction on the base itself you’re talking several hundred millions of dollars,” said Thune.
Construction contracts that could be going to South Dakota companies–along with all of the other increased construction needs the B-21 assignment will generate.
“There will be needs for housing clearly, need for additional expansion when it comes to schools out there, already Douglas school district is at the max. There will have to be significant expansion in their facilities,” Thune said.
This major expansion comes just 15 years after Ellsworth was on the Base Realignment and Closure list — and almost shut down. Both South Dakota senators have worked to not only prevent the closure, but continue to grow the base and secure its future as the home of the B-21 Raiders.
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