The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has announced its intention to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the B-21 Main Operating Base 1 (MOB 1) Beddown at Dyess Air Force Base (AFB), Texas or Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
The notice was posted in the Federal Register by the Department of the Air Force (DAF) on March 6.
An EIS, under U.S. environmental law, is a document required by the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for certain actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment”.
The EIS, that will be prepared by the Air Force, will assess the potential environmental consequences of the proposal to beddown of the Air Force’s new stealth bomber aircraft, the B-21 “Raider,” which will eventually replace existing B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.
The EIS will analyze Dyess AFB and Ellsworth AFB as basing alternatives for MOB 1 for the Proposed Action, as well as a No Action Alternative.
“The basing alternatives were developed to minimize mission impact, maximize facility reuse, minimize cost, and reduce overhead, as well as leverage the strengths of each base to optimize the B-21 beddown strategy”, said the notice.
According to the notice, the Air Force is planning to hold six public scoping meetings to inform the public and solicit comments and concerns about the proposal with the meetings to be held in local communities surrounding Dyess and Ellsworth AFBs.
The beddown of the B-21 will take place through a series of three Main Operating Bases (MOB), referred to as MOB 1, MOB 2, and MOB 3.
In this EIS, the Air Force proposes to beddown MOB 1, which includes two B-21 Operational Squadrons, a B-21 Formal Training Unit (FTU), and a Weapons Generation Facility (WGF). MOB 1 will support the training of crewmembers and personnel in the operation and maintenance of the B-21 aircraft in an appropriate geographic location that can provide sufficient airfield, facilities, infrastructure, and airspace to support the B-21 training and operations.
MOB 2 and MOB 3 beddown locations would be evaluated in future NEPA analyses, after the location for MOB 1 is chosen.
On March 27 last year, the U.S. Air Force announced that the Ellsworth AFB has been selected as the preferred location for the first operational B-21 Raider bomber and the formal training unit adding that Dyess AFB and Whiteman AFB, Missouri will receive the bombers as they become available.
It was announced at the time that the Air Force will make its final B-21 basing decision following compliance with the NEPA and other regulatory and planning processes adding that the decision is expected in 2021 and is part of the overall Air Force Strategic Basing Process.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is a long-range, stealth, strategic heavy bomber under development by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Air Force under the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program.
The B-21 will operate under the direction of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). It will have both conventional and nuclear roles and will be capable of penetrating and surviving in advanced air defense environments.
The bomber is being produced in Northrop Grumman’s facility at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California – the same location as the B-2 Spirit. The Air Force’s 420th Flight Test Squadron (420 FLTS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California will plan, test, analyze and report on all flight and ground testing of the B-21 bomber, as it did for the B-2. The squadron was reactivated on Oct. 4, 2019.
Following the testing, the B-21 Raider bombers will be delivered to the preferred main operating base locations of Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; Dyess AFB, Texas; and Whiteman AFB, Missouri. The bomber is projected to enter service in the 2020s, and the Air Force intends to have at least 100 B-21 aircraft built.