The first U.S. Air Force training exercise in the recently expanded Powder River Training Complex was a success, South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune said.

Forty-one aircraft took part this week in the training at the enormous bomber training area over the Northern Plains. Bombers, fighter jets and refueling tankers practiced maneuvers in the airspace over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming on Wednesday and Thursday.

The expansion of the Powder River Training Complex was approved earlier this year after several years of study and public comment.

The new airspace roughly quadrupled the training airspace for the Air Force to span nearly 35,000 square miles, making it the largest over the continental U.S.

The move came over the objections of some people in the region who worry about military planes disrupting civilian flights, rural communities and ranching operations. Advocates said it will boost military training while reducing costs.

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