SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The B-21 Raider will become the newest generation in a long line of bombers that have been headquartered at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
The B-21 will eventually replace the B-1, which has been based at Ellsworth for more than 30 years.
Or news archives look back at Ellsworth’s nuclear fleet through the decades.
KELOLAND News flew along with an Ellsworth B-52 crew back in 1982 during a simulated bombing run over Wyoming. The eight-engine, jet-powered plane, known as the Stratofortress was first stationed at Ellsworth back in 1957. Ellsworth’s last B-52 left the base in 1986 to make way for its more versatile replacement.
The B-1B Lancer arrived at Ellsworth in 1987. The super-sonic plane, which could carry a large payload and fly at low-altitudes, became the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force. Ellsworth was home to the Air Force’s largest fleet of B-1’s back then, which also delivered a large economic payload to South Dakota.
“The B-1B program also has pumped $160-million dollars into Ellsworth Air Force Base and of course the surrounding area,” Gov. George Mickelson said in 1987.
That economic benefit included a boost to the local housing market as people connected to the B-1 program needed places to live. And Rapid City realtors were ready to help them find a home.
“There is some military people, some civilian people who decided they wanted to start buying before we do see a big impact,” a Rapid City realtor said in 1987.
Through the years, Ellsworth B-1’s have flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plane remains a high-profile aircraft decades after it first arrived in South Dakota. An Ellsworth B-1 took part in a flyover during this year’s Super Bowl.
The B-52 Stratofortress was built to last. Even though the plane was replaced by the B-1, some B-52’s are still flying missions today.