B1-B Bomber Still Answers the Call in Modern Warfare: The B-1B Lancer was originally made to be the main delivery mechanism for the U.S. nuclear triad in the 1980s if war with Russia ever broke out. Instead, after the Cold War, it became a conventional bombing warhorse. The B-1B switched over from its nuclear-bombing mission in the mid-1990s. 9/11 made it a go-to bomber during the war on terror.
It conducted high percentages of the total munitions dropped after 2001 – an era when it punished numerous targets in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the B-1B showed its age with extensive wear and tear. By 2019 only a handful was flight-worthy due to heavy use in those conflicts.
The B-1B: A Multi-mission Bomber
The B-1B can drop and launch a diverse range of guided and unguided ordnance. The airplane is versatile and mostly thrives in a high operational tempo environment. It still has the speed and maneuverability to be included as a mainstay in major joint warfighting plans.
The B-1B Bone Is Slowly Being Phased Out
Known as “The Bone,” the B-1B will eventually be replaced by the B-21 Raider but that transition will likely not completely happen for another five years. And there are estimates that some B-1B bombers will be in the fleet for many years after. The Air Force is cutting down the number of B-1Bs though. With an arsenal of 100-jets at one point, the Air Force sent 17 B-1Bs into retirement in 2021. Three dozen met the chopping block in the early 2000s. Now there are 45 left that fly out of Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, and Dyess AFB, Texas.
Focus on the B-1B Bombers that Are Left
The trimmed fleet will enable better maintenance and an improved supply of spare parts. There have been structural wear, fuel tank issues, and problems with the ejection seat that have crimped readiness. The Air Force hopes to save and re-program $10 to $30 million in funds that it would have spent to keep the 17 retired bombers flying.
Reagan’s Peace Through Strenght Strategy Invigorated the Program
The B-1B has had a long life. Originally flown as the B-1BA in 1974, it was canceled later that decade after four were built. The Reagan administration resurrected the program to answer the Soviet threat. The B-1B beginning in 1984 showed its worth. It could fly 900 miles per hour at 60,000 feet with a range of 7,000 miles. The Air Force ordered 100 bombers and Boeing began pumping them out.