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Temporary B-21 hangar tests underway at Ellsworth Air Force Base

A civilian contractor uses a concrete saw to start the construction of a B-21 Raider...
A civilian contractor uses a concrete saw to start the construction of a B-21 Raider Environmental Protection Shelter at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 16, 2020. Ellsworth AFB was selected as the test location for the B-21 EPS as it provides the most extreme and diverse weather conditions to test the temporary structures. The testing of the EPS prototypes at Ellsworth AFB does not interfere with Air Force compliance to the National Environmental Protection Act/Environmental Impact Statement preparation for the first B-21 Main Operating Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christina Bennett)
Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 5:35 PM CST
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ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (KOTA) - A sign of visible progress on the B-21 Project is underway as temporary hangars have been erected to test how to best shelter the multibillion-dollar plane at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The B-21 Raider program is in the engineering and manufacturing development acquisition phase. Air Force Global Strike Command and the B-21 Program Office are testing various prototype shelters to identify the most effective and affordable designs for the three B-21 Main Operating Bases, the depot and forward operating locations.

“Environmental Protection Shelters help extend the life of the aircraft and reduce required maintenance by limiting UV exposure, limiting snow accumulation and melt, and limiting icing/de-icing operations experienced by the aircraft over time,” said Col. Derek Oakley, AFGSC’s B-21 Integration and System Management Office director. “These shelters also help us generate sorties more quickly by eliminating the need to always have to move aircraft in and out of hangars.”

Ellsworth AFB was chosen as the hangar prototype due to South Dakota’s diverse weather conditions. Compared to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, the team felt Ellsworth would provide the best data.

”We will collect a few years of data on these shelters and then incorporate that data into the final Environmental Protection Shelter design,” Oakley said.

These new hangars are intended to “complement” already standing maintenance hangars at B-21 Main Operating Bases, Oakley explained. This will allow crews to have flexibility when performing routine maintenance on the Flightline.

A civilian contractor uses a concrete saw to start the construction of a B-21 Raider...
A civilian contractor uses a concrete saw to start the construction of a B-21 Raider Environmental Protection Shelter at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 16, 2020. Ellsworth AFB was selected as the test location for the B-21 EPS as it provides the most extreme and diverse weather conditions to test the temporary structures. The testing of the EPS prototypes at Ellsworth AFB does not interfere with Air Force compliance to the National Environmental Protection Act/Environmental Impact Statement preparation for the first B-21 Main Operating Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christina Bennett)(U.S. Air Force)

The B-21 was designed with sustainment and maintainability as a top priority.

”From the outset, we codified robust sustainability and maintainability requirements and continue to keep those at the forefront throughout the design and development phase of the B-21 Raider program,” said Col. Jason Voorheis, B-21 System Program director and acquisition lead for the bomber program within the Department of the Air Force RCO. “Throughout the engineering and manufacturing development phase, sustainment and maintenance personnel have been integrated into every design decision we make to ensure technical solutions do not inadvertently result in sub-optimal sustainment outcomes once the weapon system is fielded.”

Ellsworth AFB is slated to have the first main operational base for B-21 Raider in the United States. The Air Force secretary will make the official call after the National Environmental Protection Act process (NEPA), expected in the summer of 2021. A second NEPA will happen in 2022 to decide which MOB will be constructed after.

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