It wasn’t too long before Ellsworth and the 28th Bomb Wing were taking the lead in the Expeditionary Air Force concept. Five B-1s from the 28th BW joined NATO forces in Operation Allied Force and began striking military targets in Kosovo on April 1, 1999.
By the end of the conflict in June 1999, B-1s from Ellsworth flew 100 combat missions and dropped more than 1,260 tons of Mk-82 general-purpose bombs. Once again, the B-1 and Team Ellsworth proved themselves invaluable to the security of our national interests.
OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM
After Sept. 11, 2001, Ellsworth once again answered the call, deploying a number of B-1s in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Aircraft from the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth AFB joined additional B-1s from the 34th BS at Mountain Home AFB and formed the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. This squadron, along with other elements from Ellsworth, deployed to Diego Garcia and joined the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing where they recorded an impressive record against terrorist factions. Their combat mission effectiveness was greater than 95 percent, and they flew 5 percent of the total strike aircraft missions. They dropped 39 percent of the total tonnage of bombs, which was more than any other platform. The amount of ordnance dropped was tremendous. During their deployment, 2,974 JDAMs, 1,471 Mk-82, 135 Mk-84 and 70 CBU-87 bombs were dropped. Ellsworth personnel continue to prepare for ongoing deployments in support of operations around the globe.
34TH BOMB SQUADRON REPLACES THE 77TH BOMB SQUADRON
On Sept. 19, 2001, the 34th BS joined the Ellsworth team and arrived from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Due to a drawdown in the number of B-1 aircraft in the Air Force inventory, the 77th BS War Eagles at Ellsworth were inactivated and the Thunderbirds of the 34th BS moved to Ellsworth to take their place.
ELLSWORTH LANDS REMOTELY PILOTED AIRCRAFT MISSION
U.S. Air Force officials announced a decision June 21, 2010, to bring the MQ-9 Reaper Ground Control Station (GCS) to Ellsworth. The installation gained about 280 civilian and military personnel to operate the MQ-9 Reapers. While the squadron operating the aircraft is based at Ellsworth, the aircraft remain overseas, supporting continuing operations. The MQ-9 squadron at Ellsworth, the 89th Attack Squadron, was activated Oct. 1, 2011, and flew its first combat air patrol in May 2012.
OPERATION ODYSSEY DAWN
In March 2011, B-1 bombers from the 28th Bomb Wing launched from their home station of Ellsworth to strike targets in Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. With less than two days from first notice to takeoff, Ellsworth Airmen generated several aircraft and hundreds of weapons to provide the combat configuration needed halfway around the globe. This mission marked the first time the B-1 fleet launched combat sorties from the continental United States to strike targets overseas.
Today, Ellsworth Airmen continue to play a critical part in our nation’s defense. B-1s from Ellsworth continually provide critical air presence, precision strike, and surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in response to worldwide contingencies. The addition of ground control stations for MQ-9 Reaper aircraft reinforces Ellsworth’s ability to adapt to emerging challenges. While the facilities and mission of the base have changed over time to meet the nation’s needs, the dedication and commitment to excellence by our Airmen and their families remains as strong as it ever has been.