Hoeven: Air Force Works to Address Local Concerns as Part of Approving Powder River Test Range

WASHINGTON — Senator John Hoeven today spoke with the Air Force's Assistant Secretary for Installations Miranda A. Ballentine and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Ferguson on the new Powder River Training Range. The Air Force today signed a Record of Decision (ROD) expanding the existing Powder River range to include airspace over North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. 

The range enhances training opportunities for the Air Force, including the B-52s based at Minot Air Force Base. Today’s ROD includes several steps taken by the Air Force at Hoeven’s request to respond to local concerns about the range, including the installation of communication equipment.

Prior to today’s decision, Hoeven’s office hosted a meeting in December between local officials and Air Force representatives from Ellsworth Air Force Base, which will oversee range operations. This meeting allowed local stakeholders to voice their concerns and gave Air Force officials an opportunity to describe range operations in detail.

“Today’s Record of Decision opens the door for better training for Minot's B-52s, while limiting the impact on civilian flights in southwestern North Dakota, which was a concern we worked to address,” Hoeven said. “I appreciate the Air Force’s commitment to working with us to find a solution that addresses concerns raised by general aviation and airport administrators. Also, I have requested that the Air Force continue working with local aviation interests as the range comes into use.”

Ballentine today confirmed to Hoeven that the Air Force will not start using certain low altitude sections of the range until communications equipment is installed in the area to provide better in-flight communication among military, civilian and commercial pilots. The Air Force expects installation of that equipment will take a few months, during which time the Federal Aviation Administration will also formally approve the Powder River range plan.

According to the Air Force, the location of the proposed Powder River expansion would allow both Ellsworth and Minot aircrews to complete training sorties and return to home station quickly enough to allow that same aircraft to be flown again by another crew that same day.  The current lack of available training areas presents a significant challenge to the Air Force.