In this Aug. 9, 2007, file photo, B-52 bombers start taxiing to the runway for a rapid-launch exercise with eight planes from Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Minot is starting to move some B-52 bombers to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota while runway upgrades are completed at the North Dakota installation. (Eloise Ogden / AP)
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MINOT, N.D. — Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota is moving B-52 bombers to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota while runway upgrades are completed at the Minot base.
The first bombers were heading south on Wednesday. The military has not said how many planes, but officials said about 300 personnel will be making the temporary transfer. A similar number of airmen and bombers are being temporarily housed in Guam.
Ellsworth was chosen as a temporary site because it is close and has a suitable runway. The South Dakota base houses B-1 bombers.
“Operating out of Ellsworth makes good sense in that it was the most affordable option, and we have a proven ability to host B-52 operations,” said Col. Kevin Kennedy, commander of the South Dakota base. “Ellsworth was home to B-52 bombers for nearly 30 years before we transitioned to the B-1. Our infrastructure can accommodate the aircraft, and our proximity to Minot is a further benefit when rotating personnel and equipment.”
The runway at the Minot base is being shut down on April 1 for the final part of a three-year runway project that carries a $67 million price tag and should wrap up in early October. The original runway was built in 1957.
“The runway reconstruction here at Minot Air Force Base is a much-needed project, which will help ensure the B-52’s mission capability for years to come,” said Col. Alex Mezynski, commander of the base’s 5th Bomb Wing.
While at Ellsworth, the Minot aircrews will train by themselves and with the B-1 crews.
“We fly with multiple platforms from various commands almost monthly,” said Col. Todd Copeland, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing Operations Group. “It is nothing new to us to be working closely with the B-1.”