RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The recent expansion of airspace around the Ellsworth Air Force Base in southwestern South Dakota is attracting welcome visitors from the United States military.

The skies are expected to become a training ground for numerous aircraft from around the country. The first-ever practice session at Ellsworth for Navy Growler jets was held on Friday.

The Rapid City Journal reports that the airspace was roughly quadrupled in size last year to cover nearly 35,000 square miles of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The expansion was long sought by supporters of Ellsworth who hoped the bigger territory would help solidify the base's future and keep it off closure lists

Military officials say the airspace is especially attractive to two-man Growler crews because it has an electronic warfare range.

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