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Large-scale exercise set in Powder River Training Complex

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- The Air Force is set for another large-scale exercise in the massive Powder River Training Complex in the Northern Plains. The training area covers nearly 35,000 square miles of airspace in the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming ...

 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Air Force is set for another large-scale exercise in the massive Powder River Training Complex in the Northern Plains.

The training area covers nearly 35,000 square miles of airspace in the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming - the largest over the continental U.S.

Officials at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota say multiple types of aircraft will take to the skies Tuesday through Thursday, and cautioned that could cause loud noises, including sonic booms.

Some ranchers have complained that the training exercises disrupt their operations, and the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association in February petitioned Air Force officials to provide more information to ranchers. But the group is pleased with steps the military has taken to better inform ranchers, such as posting notices in local newspapers, said Executive Director Silvia Christen.

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More work needs to be done to improve communication between the military and ranchers who experience problems from low-level flights, she added, but "for the most part I think we're on the right track."

After years of consideration and public comment, the Federal Aviation Administration approved quadrupling the training airspace in March 2015. The expanded complex officially opened in September, with flying operations commencing that included B-1 bombers from Ellsworth and B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The first large-scale exercise was last December.

Next week's exercise will include six different types of aircraft, from fighter jets to refueling tankers, and will involve several hundred personnel from multiple bases, according to Lt. Col. Lanny Anaya, assistant director of operations for the 28th Operations Support Squadron at Ellsworth.

"Honestly, it is a team effort," he said.

Such training is limited to 10 days each year, once every three months, with no exercise lasting more than three days. The first large-scale exercise this year was in late March.

The Air Force cautions non-military aircraft to review the FAA notice of the exercise and avoid areas and altitudes where military planes will be practicing.

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