The fight for usage of airspace in a large chunk of the upper Midwest is over. We shall see how Air Force utilizes its new territory.

Following nearly nine years of collaboration between U.S. Sen. John Thune and the Air Force to expand the military training airspace over South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, known as the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC), Thune  praised the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) announcement in a press release.

This approval of the Air Force’s proposed expansion of PRTC marks the final step in the expansion process, making way for use of the expanded range by year’s end.

The PRTC expansion will provide Air Force pilots and personnel with expanded airspace to perform the critical training they need in conditions that more closely resemble combat missions. The expansion will also allow for large force exercises where multiple aircraft and crews can train together simulating a combat environment without live fire exercises.

The PRTC expansion not only marks the largest expansion of Special Use Airspace in America’s history, but also represents an important cost-saving initiative. The expanded airspace will save Ellsworth Air Force Base up to $23 million per year and is the first time the FAA and Air Force have worked jointly on such an effort, setting a precedent for further cost-saving cooperation down the road and addressing stakeholder concerns up front.

Opposition from ranchers and environmentalists in the area feared for the spooking of livestock in rural Montana and Wyoming. During the training exercises, the aircraft would fly supersonic at low levels deploy flares and drop chaff.