Ellsworth could house fewer B-1s

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WASHINGTON (KOTA TV) - What's next for the future of the B-1 bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base?

Ellsworth AFB was targeted for closure in 2005 but the Base Realignment and Closure Commission overruled the Air Force's plan to shed the B-1 bomber base. (photo by Jack Siebold)

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds said in his weekly press call that the Air Force is planning to cut the number of B-1s in service both at Ellsworth and at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

But Rounds says that will actually increase the number of B-1s in the air.

He says of the roughly 60 B-1s stationed at those bases, only a number of those are operational.

In fact, Rounds says they heard testimony in May that only six B-1s were operational between the two bases at one point.

He says the plan would be to dedicate possibly more than 10 B-1s to the boneyard, where they could then be used for parts to get more of the fleet back in the air.

Rounds says, "Rather than pretending we had 61 bombers that were operational, or would be considered operational, let's face the fact that the B-1s have spoken, they're tired, they're worn out and some of them just aren't going to fly again. And rather than pretending that they were, let's recognize it, let's put several of them into the boneyard and let's see if we can;'t maintain operational status for the other ones, where right now, we're struggling to get that done.".

Rounds says he supports the plan, which he says would not lead to a reduction of personnel at Ellsworth.

He says the B-1s have a done a great job for the country.

Rounds says, "We've worn them out. They've been the bomber of choice in Afghanistan for a number of years now and the type of flying has been very very hard on the platform itself, on the structure of it. Some of those bombers simply aren't safe to fly any more."

Rounds says the next generation B-21 bomber is still on target, on time and on budget and says Ellsworth will be the home of the first two squadrons, one training squadron and one operational squadron.