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Decision near on bomber training area expansion

Jul. 20, 2014 - 02:57PM   |  
Air Force officials are expected to decide by next month whether to go forward with a huge expansion of a bomber training area over the Northern Plains for B-1 bombers, pictured, and B-52s.
Air Force officials are expected to decide by next month whether to go forward with a huge expansion of a bomber training area over the Northern Plains for B-1 bombers, pictured, and B-52s. (Staff Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby / via AP)
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BILLINGS, MONT. — Air Force officials are expected to decide as soon as next month whether to go forward with an expansion of a bomber training area over the Northern Plains that would encompass an area larger than West Virginia.

The Powder River Training Complex over portions of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas would be used by B-1 and B-52 bombers.

Air Force officials say the expansion of the training airspace to about 28,000 square miles is needed to maintain readiness. It also would save $23 million a year by reducing the number of sorties sent to Utah and Nevada for combat exercises.

Some members of Congress, pilots and others have resisted what one Montana official called a federal government “airspace grab.” They want the proposal scaled back to ease impacts on private and commercial flights.

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