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AFIMSC lays foundation for B-21 beddown

  • Published
  • By Breanne Humphreys
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

As the world got its first glimpse of the Department of the Air Force’s new stealth bomber Dec. 2, the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center was preparing select installations for the impending B-21 Raider beddown.  

The B-21 will require a multi-year construction effort to deliver the facilities and infrastructure Air Force Global Strike Command needs to support B-21 operations for 100 aircraft at three main operating bases, or MOBs, and two support locations.  

AFIMSC is the DAF-wide organization responsible for providing the installation and mission support capabilities needed to deliver the new weapon system on time and within budget. The center is uniquely positioned to support new mission requirements and accelerate operational capabilities, said Maj. Gen. John Allen, AFIMSC commander. 

“The B-21 will play a critical role in ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability,” Allen said. “It’s our job to help transform installations into the power projection platforms needed to beat tomorrow’s adversaries while enabling commanders to remain focused on today’s missions.” 

During the strategic basing process, AFIMSC provided site survey analysis to help decision makers understand the value of various candidate locations. In 2019, the Air Force announced the preferred locations for the three MOBs — Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; Whiteman AFB, Missouri; and Dyess AFB, Texas. The Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, California, will also host the B-21 Combined Test Force and the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, is the site for depot planning. 

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a primary subordinate unit of AFIMSC, oversees environmental impact assessment processes to ensure projects comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements. In February 2021, an Environmental Assessment found no significant impact for proposed B-21 depot maintenance operations and infrastructure at Tinker.  

Following an extensive Environmental Impact Statement to determine the first MOB location, in June 2021 the Air Force selected Ellsworth as the site for the first operational B-21s and a formal training unit. Meanwhile, AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate had already begun pushing forward with the planning and design to construct or renovate 30 facilities, and construction began in September 2021. 

“It’s a large construction program for a single base,” said Tom Hodges, AFCEC’s Mobility and Materiel MILCON Branch chief, “but we have the right people with the right experience and expertise to provide the design and construction management of this program and ensure on time and within budget delivery.” 

The projected cost for delivering B-21 infrastructure at Ellsworth over the next 5-10 years is $1 billion and includes 4.3 million square feet of new construction, 1.7 million square feet of renovation, and 110,000 square feet worth of demolition. 

With numerous stakeholders and a multitude of processes and requirements, AFIMSC Detachment 10 serves as a liaison to AFGSC and synchronizes a wide range of intersecting I&MS activities, including planning and programming, environmental support, and design and construction management. 

“This is a complex project with a lot of people, requirements and moving parts,” said Jonathan Foman, basing and beddown engineer at Det. 10. “We host a weekly conference that brings everyone together from base and command personnel, Rapid Capabilities Office, AFCEC, B-21 integration office, USACE and the requirements team. We keep communication flowing, identify roadblocks and work together to run solutions to ground.” 

As the first MOB, Ellsworth is the tip of the spear for delivering B-21 infrastructure. The team encountered one of their first major hurdles when a volatile post-COVID-19 market saw material costs rise significantly beyond what the Air Force had programmed for construction pre-pandemic.  

To keep the project on schedule, AFIMSC helped secure above-threshold reprogramming funding to fill gaps. Despite early challenges, as of Dec. 2, the Ellsworth team has awarded six planned construction projects worth more than $450 million. 

With a comprehensive view of Ellsworth activities and involvement in nearly every beddown effort, Foman said the AFIMSC detachment uses their knowledge to coordinate resources and advocate for appropriate funding to meet time and budget milestones in a challenging economic environment. 

“We’re adapting our processes and approach based on what we learn at Ellsworth,” he said. “We’re knowledge managers who are always building on what we learn, and it’s our job to package our knowledge and expertise as solutions that we’ll deliver for Dyess, Whiteman and the rest of the Air Force.”  

Det. 10 and AFCEC’s environmental team are currently working with AFGSC to analyze potential impacts for the second and third MOBs to host the new bomber, and AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate is moving ahead with planning and designs for Whiteman, Dyess and Tinker projects.