The US Air Force (USAF) has selected Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB) in South Dakota as the first location for B-21 Raider bomber and to serve as the formal training unit.
The Whiteman AFB and Dyess AFB are also expected to receive operational B-21s once they become available.
While selecting Ellsworth AFB as the preferred location, the USAF employed an approach to minimise mission impact during the transition, optimise facility reuse, minimise cost and reduce overhead.
USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said: “These three bomber bases are well suited for the B-21. We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”
Factors such as sufficient space and the availability of facilities necessary to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost and with minimal operational impact worked in favour of Ellsworth AFB.
The USAF plans to phase out the existing B-1 Lancers and B-2 Spirits when a sufficient number of B-21s are delivered.
USAF chief of staff general David Goldfein said: “We are procuring the B-21 Raider as a long-range, highly survivable aircraft capable of penetrating enemy airspace with a mix of weapons. It is a central part of a penetrating joint team.”
The service also noted that Barksdale AFB and Minot AFB will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress long-range strategic bomber. Built by Boeing, the aircraft is expected to be in service until 2050.
The airforce expects to make its final decision regarding the B-21’s base in 2021 in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.
Being built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is anticipated to be delivered in the mid-2020s, according to media sources.
In November, the USAF announced that the coordination of the maintenance and sustainment of the aircraft will be handled by Tinker AFB. Edwards AFB will be responsible for testing and evaluation.