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Ellsworth Air Force Base takes break amid B-1 upgrades

RAPID CITY (AP) -- Ellsworth Air Force Base's planes and personnel will get a break to allow time for a nearly $1 billion upgrade of its fleet of more than 60 B-1 bomber jets and to give crews time to refresh and retrain.

RAPID CITY (AP) - Ellsworth Air Force Base's planes and personnel will get a break to allow time for a nearly $1 billion upgrade of its fleet of more than 60 B-1 bomber jets and to give crews time to refresh and retrain.

The reprieve from action comes after 11 years of continual B-1 deployments, Rapid City Journal reported. Members of an Ellsworth squadron wrapped up a six-month deployment in January, and for the first time since 2005, the returning squadron wasn't replaced by other B-1 planes from Ellsworth or Dyess Air Force Base in Texas at the U.S. Central Command's Area of Responsibility.

The area of B-1 deployments covers 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where the planes have dropped thousands of bombs amid recent conflicts in the Middle East. The squadron that recently returned to Ellsworth dropped about 5,000 munitions during its deployment, the highest amount by any B-1 squadron over the past 11 years.

Col. Gentry Boswell, the commander at Ellsworth, said the past 11 years were the busiest stretch in the base's history. Although he said the crews experienced many achievements against enemies like the Islamic State group, they didn't come without a cost.

"It's a stress, and it's one you have to manage because it creates stress not just in the workplace and on the air frames and the airmen, but also on the families," Boswell said.

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The new technology that will be installed in the B-1 planes will provide a "god's eye view" of the battlefield and will allow crew members to "grab the cursor" of laptops used by ground-based special forces teams, he said. The technology will enable crews to receive target coordinates automatically, rather than hearing them over a radio and typing them into a computer.

Pilots at Ellsworth have been training two to three times a week in simulators, one of which is outfitted with the new dashboard system, at the base.

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