Powder River Rumble

Combat aircraft flew the first large force employment exercise over the newly expanded Powder River Training Complex last week. The two-day exercise, held Dec. 2-3, included B-1 bombers escorted by F-16s conducting counter-air and penetrating strike missions against realistic threats, according to a release. The exercise provided B-1s from nearby Ellsworth AFB, S.D., and South Dakota Air National Guard F-16s “a close-to-home opportunity for integrated warfighting training” that previously did not exist, said S.D. ANG 114th Operations Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Mark Morrell. The exercise also brought B-1s from Dyess AFB, Texas, Colorado ANG F-16s, KC-135s from several Total Force units, and an E-3 AWACs from Tinker AFB, Okla. “This area is over 200 miles across and affords us the opportunity to train in a space much closer to home that is a size similar to what we might encounter when we’re not training,” added Morrell. The expanded 35,000 square mile range opened for training last month, and can host up to four, brief large-force exercises annually.