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Ellsworth bombers return to Mideast

An Ellsworth Air Force Base B-1 bomber lands at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar Saturday. This is...
An Ellsworth Air Force Base B-1 bomber lands at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar Saturday. This is the first B-1 deployment to the theater since 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo) (KEVN)
Published: Apr. 3, 2018 at 2:57 PM MDT
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Ellsworth Air Force Base airmen have returned to the fight in Southwest Asia with two B-1 bombers arriving in Qatar Saturday.

According to the U.S. Central Command, the bombers landed at Al Udeid Air Base, where they will fly missions in support of troops battling terrorist organizations.

The B-1 bomber has been absent from the theater since early 2016 when the planes were pulled for critical upgrades. The B-1s had been flying continuous bombing missions since 2001.

The $127 million upgrade program involved installing an integrated battle station. This IBS provides bomber crews line-of-sight and beyond line-of-sight capabilities during combat missions; as well as real-time contact with other aircraft and ground troops.

Reportedly, half of the 62-bomber fleet has been upgraded; with the final upgrades expected by the end of 2019.

While the B-1 was absent from Southwest Asia, the bomber and its crews were used extensively in show-of-force missions in the Pacific, most notably around the Korean Peninsula. Ellsworth’s most recent Pacific theater deployment ended in January.