Dyess battling to house new B-21 Raider bomber

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – It contributes more than $400 million a year and creates almost 2,000 jobs for the City of Abilene, but there is potential for Dyess Air Force Base to do even more.

The City of Abilene is ready to take flight to secure Dyess Air Force Base as the first home of the B-21 Raider, and ensuring the future of Dyess for many years to come. This next generation bomber will replace the B-1B Lancer when it ultimately retires. 

As that retirement date draws nearer, the race is on to host the next generation bomber.

“The Secretary of the Air Force has said that the B-21 will go to a bomber base, but hasn’t exactly named what bases, where and when, and which one will become the training unit and which one will become a main operating base,” Military Affairs Committee Vice President Gray Bridwell said.

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee (MAC) is working hard to ensure Dyess is that Base.

“We want to be the first person, the first base to house the B-21,” Bridwell said.

The committee stresses community support pointing to awards like The Abilene Trophy and, most recently, the Barksdale.

“We have a reputation that’s unparalleled, that’s unmatched in the United States,” MAC Chairman Greg Blair said.

They also highlight the conditions of the base.

“With our weather, our training ranges, the Dyess runway, the infastructure, it’s a very important piece for a training mission at Dyess,” Bridwell said.

The MAC is working with state delegation like Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Jodey Arrington to let Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson know Dyess is not only poised to be the home of the B-21, but also the Formal Training Unit.

“You know, it will be many more jobs for Abilene. We currently do that in Abilene to train the B-1 pilots. It’s an important thing and of course we at Dyess and Abilene, we want to be first,” Bridwell said.

“I mean there’s a lot of opportunity here to expand on what Abilene and Dyess Air Force base have been doing for years. In fact I think there’s a historic opportunity,” Congressman Jodey Arrington said.

But with still so much up in the air, the big question is: What happens if Dyess isn’t chosen?     

“Historically and with the base realignment and closures, bases without flying missions suffered greatly and did not come out very well,” Bridwell said.

Despite no formal decision made yet, community leaders are confident Dyess and its missions will be flying well into the future.

“We’re in a really great position. They’re going to make that decision, but I think we’ve left everything out on the field for sure,” Congressman Arrington said.

A critical design review of the B-21 was held in late November, ensuring the bomber has a reliable design and is ready to be manufactured.

The bomber should be in operation in the mid 2020s.

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