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Ellsworth B-1 Bombers standing down

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Ellsworth Air Force Base will resume flying B-1s for local training missions on a limited basis.

Federal budget cuts have forced South Dakota's sole Air Force base to ground its bombers until September.

Ellsworth Air Force Base, which hosts the 28th Bomb Wing, announced Thursday that its B-1B Lancer bombers will not fly for the rest of the federal fiscal year.

However, officials said in a statement that B-1s currently deployed overseas will continue flying. The base will also continue piloting remote aircraft,  commonly known as drones, in combat theaters around the world.

Ellsworth isn't the only base affected by the federal cuts, known as sequestration. The Air Force is cutting 45,000 training hours from its operations between now and Oct 1.

Ellsworth officials said that "sustained curtailment" to flying operations will impact the base's "combat readiness, aviator qualifications and currency on the B-1."

"To mitigate these risks, Ellsworth leaders plan to maximize nonflying training opportunities both in the base’s mission simulator as well as on the flightline through maintenance operations," the statement said.

Col. Kevin Kennedy, the newly appointed commander of the 28th Bomb Wing, will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. today at Ellsworth.

The cuts are a result of a deal that Democrats and Republicans struck two years ago during budget negotiations. The parties created a provision that $1.2 trillion would be cut across the board from the federal budget over 10 years if both parties couldn't agree on a long-term plan to reduce spending.

After an eleventh-hour deal fell through, the automatic cuts took effect in March. Military officials must make $43 billion in mandatory budget cuts between now and October.

More cutbacks are expected within the military. Civilian employees are expected to face 14 unpaid furlough days this summer, although Ellsworth has not officially announced impending furloughs that could affect its 818 civilian employees.

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