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Ellsworth training flights grounded to cut costs

RAPID CITY (AP) -- B-1 bomber training flights are being grounded at Ellsworth Air Force Base in southwestern South Dakota as part of larger Air Force efforts to save nearly $300 million.

The military is halting training operations for 12 active-duty fighter and bomber squadrons across the country. The Air Force is cutting 45,000 training hours from its operations between now and the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The move prompted by federal budget cuts does not affect active military operations.

Ellsworth officials said in a statement that the training cutback will affect the 28th Bomb Wing's "combat readiness, aviator qualifications and currency on the B-1."

"To mitigate these risks, Ellsworth leaders plan to maximize nonflying training opportunities both in the base's mission simulator as well as on the flightline through maintenance operations," the statement said.

Bombers from the base that are deployed overseas in support of combat operations will continue to fly. Airmen at the base also will continue piloting unmanned aircraft known as drones in combat theaters around the world.

The Air Force cuts are prompted by congressionally mandated spending reductions that took effect in March.