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B-21 to Increase South Dakota’s Dependence on Military-Industrial Complex… with Less Noise!

Earlier this month, Donald Trump warned that all those losers and suckers in the military just want to throw money away on more useless planes and bombs.

Yet here in the heart of Trumpistan, we’re counting on those planes and bombs to drive a West River economy based on socialism:

The B-21 Raider takes another step toward Ellsworth Air Force Base with the completion of the draft environmental impact statement. Published last month, the report gives a more detailed picture into what Western South Dakota can expect when the bomber touches down in the mid-2020s.

…Based on the report, the Air Force expects a 30% influx in personnel. Under current operations, active duty, civilian, contractors and family members total 10,596. After a transitional period that would include B-21 personnel plus 10% of B-1 personnel, roughly 13,700 people would be connected to the base.

Then these numbers in turn effect schools, jobs, and the economy.

Estimating that 2,300 family members would be school-aged, that means an additional 284 students in local area schools. For homes, the report says 2,900 houses will be needed in the area which is up nearly 2,000 more than what would be needed without the addition of the bomber.

With the additional 1,600 active duty personnel (totaling 4,860 active duty) and existing 1,000 civilian and contractor workers, the report estimates an additional 2,100 jobs in the area to help meet demand for services. The Air Force values this increase at $86 million compared to $23 million without the B-21.

To meet public service needs, a handful of health care workers and dozens of first responders may be needed in Meade and Pennington County or more during the phase-out process for the B-1 when both aircraft and their crews are stationed in the area [Megan Murat, “Draft Environmental Report Details B-21 Personnel Influx, Economic Impact for Western South Dakota,” KNBN, 2020.09.21].

B-21 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Executive Summary, Department of Defense, August 2020, p. 27.
B-21 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Executive Summary, Department of Defense, August 2020, p. 27.

To keep the locals’ minds off their economic dependence on raining conventional and nuclear death on our enemies, the Ellsworth Development Authority plans to spend $12.6 million building a new recreation center in Box Elder. Half of the money comes from the feds, around a third comes from the state ($1.2M from the EDA’s regular budget, $3.2M from a budget request coming to the 2021 Legislature), and a sixth from a tax increment financing district.

According to the executive summary of the draft EIS, the B-21 project would increase aircraft operations at Ellsworth by up to 15.8% and flight operations in the Powder River test range north and west of Ellsworth by 41.1%. The EIS claims that replacing B-1s with B-21s will reduce the land exposed to noise levels over 65 decibels by 72% and the number of people so exposed by over 80%. It also claims that noise levels will decrease over the high lonesome plains of the Powder River test range and remain well below 55 decibels, “below which no effects to public health and welfare would occur.”

Ellsworth AFB noise contours status quo, Draft EIS, p. 28.
Ellsworth AFB noise contours status quo, Draft EIS executive summary, p. 28.
Ellsworth AFB noise contours with B-21, Draft EIS, p. 34.
Ellsworth AFB noise contours with B-21, Draft EIS executive summary, p. 34.

The B-21 project will lower emissions from airfield operations of carbon monoxide, particulates, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon dioxide while increasing nitrogen oxide emissions. A much greater impact on air quality will come from all the dust kicked up by demolition and construction activities, but, hey, progress….

B-21 Project impact on Ellsworth AFB air quality, Draft EIS executive summary, p. 47.
B-21 Project impact on Ellsworth AFB air quality, Draft EIS executive summary, p. 47.

More flights do mean more potential bird impacts, but the EIS says the higher-flying B-21 will expose wildlife to less noise. 20% of the new construction at Ellsworth will happen on undeveloped land with grasses and forbs that don’t provide high quality wildlife habitat.

The Air Force is hosting four public hearings on its B-21 project. To their credit, Air Force officials are showing good sense about coronavirus and holding all four meetings online via Zoom. Those meetings take place October 13, 15, 20, and 22. The Air Force is also taking public comment on the B-21 EIS through November 9. Feel free to study the draft EIS and then send the USAF your thoughts about the impact of making West River more dependent on all those planes and bombs that Donald Trump says we don’t need.


  1. leslie 2020-09-29 09:49

    Birds taking out $250 million B2bs is like the tribes standing up to big oil. Both highly valuable. This is such bullsheit chasing militarization as a solution to anything. We had a State department. Decibels around here are from daily RC flyovers on afterburner, low level, surging the macho red necks. Military has never been smart.

    All respect to the grunts.

  2. leslie 2020-09-29 09:52

    Oh…b2s are $2B+ each. Educate me clyde!:)

    google raider costs—somebody hep me!

  3. leslie 2020-09-29 11:41

    Twice today—lowlevel overflights. Debate tonight. F**king military flying its f**king trump flag. $13,000 a pop, but misuse if military infrastructure is FAR more than that.

  4. leslie 2020-09-30 04:09

    $564M ea for 80-145 B-21 2014 era heavy bombers (smaller but similar to the B-2 stealth bomber at $2B a pop for a few dozen). B-21s require a new super penetration fighter force to be developed to accompany and protect them; since stealth gooey paint must not be all that stealthy, but still manufactured by Northrop at Palmdale—so THAT military “socialism” (GOP term of art) in Cali has to continue being serviced as well as the tick-like behavior of South Dakota’s economy. Fly bombers! Keep the Black Hills in the black!

    South Dakota also is becoming the vehicle for the “trusts for hidden wealth” capital of the world though bcb and I seem to be the only commenters commenting:)

    A meticulously researched and fantastically disturbing book is effectively the global version of the KLEPTOCRACY TOUR. In Moneyland, Bullough traces the ways in which, over the last three decades, a criminal elite of politicians and “businessmen” have been able to move their thieved fortunes around the world, through offshoring and shell companies, and have seen those fortunes settle in the places that have the highest-paid lawyers and accountants.

    Dave Lust wants to be one.

  5. leslie 2020-10-01 01:47

    Is there a difference between a mining company and the military industry?

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