http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/, ELLSWORTH AFB – A new B-1B Lancer bomber flight-simulator building at Ellsworth Air Force Base will allow crews to train with other aircraft. The $8.4 million project includes two B-1 simulators. Currently, the base has only one.
Heavy Constructors/ Gustafson Builders of Rapid City was awarded the contract, according to a news release Tuesday from South Dakota's two Democratic senators, Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson.
A company spokesman wasn't available Wednesday for comment, but according to the release, the project is expected to be completed in March 2006.
Ellsworth's chief of flight training, Lt. Col. Dick Banks, said the new construction gives two local crews the chance to work on the same mission at the same time or become part of a multi-aircraft mission. The expanded training is done by joining Ellsworth's simulators with other training sites across the nation or with airborne aircraft.
Banks said B-1s are generally part of a “package” of aircraft, including the bombers, fighter escorts and an aerial electronic surveillance plane.
The new technology brings the base in line with the way air missions happen today, Banks said.
“They'll be able to fly with F-16s and AWACS (airborne surveillance aircraft),” Banks said.
B-1 pilots use the simulator, on average, two to four times a month, Banks said.
The present simulator limits crews to training for various missions, but as a single aircraft.
“It's leftover technology from the Cold War,” Banks said. “It was to simulate a single aircraft loaded with a nuclear weapon and going out alone.”
Both the existing simulator that will be moved to the new building and the second one will be on hydraulic cylinders. Those hydraulics give crews the experience of being airborne, according to Pete Peterson, a project officer with the flight-training site.
The new building will be closer to the runway and near the headquarters of the two B-1 squadrons at Ellsworth. The current building is on the south end of the runway.
The B-1s at Ellsworth are critical to America's national security, and the flight simulators provide crews with skills and experience they can't get any other way, Daschle said in the release.
Johnson said in the release that the base, Rapid City and the nation's defense benefit from the project.
According to Banks and Peterson, the $8.4 million price tag includes most of the equipment for the new 30,000-square-foot facility.
In addition to the two training areas, the building includes offices and a theater where crews can be part of mission discussions regardless of where they originate.
Rockwell Collins/NLX has the technology maintenance contract for the current building and will also have the contract for the new facility, according to maintenance technician Dallas Heltibridle.
Peterson said because technology changes so quickly it was cheaper for the government to contract maintenance than having Air Force personnel do it.
With the second simulator at Ellsworth, the government will have six B-1 simulators.
Two are at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, home to the other half of the B-1 bomber fleet. One is at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico, a munitions and training center for the Air Force, and one at Rockwell Collins/NLX's Sterling, Va., factory, where engineers work on the technology.
“Changes made to one simulator are made to all of them so they are exactly the same,” Heltibridle said.