Monday, December 5, 2022

35 years of lethality: U.S. Air Force celebrates B-1’s history

Thirty-five years ago, the first B-1B Lancer long-range, multi-mission, supersonic conventional bomber was delivered to the U.S. Air Force.

On June 29th, 1985, at 1:55 PM, a B-1B nicknamed Star of Abilene was the first example of the bomber to land at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas as part of a delivery ceremony in front of an air show crowd of 45,000. Initial operational capability was reached on 1 October 1986 and the B-1B was placed on nuclear alert status.

Originally designed for nuclear capabilities, the B-1 switched to an exclusively conventional combat role in the mid-1990s. In 1999, during Operation Allied Force, six B-1s flew 2 percent of the strike missions, yet dropped 20 percent of the ordnance, and during Operation Enduring Freedom the B-1 flew on 2 percent of the sorties while dropping over 40 percent of the precision weapons. The B-1 has been nearly continuously deployed in combat operations over Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria since 2001.


The B-1 can carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the U.S. Air Force.

The B-1 is able to carry a larger payload of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and a larger payload of 2,000-pound class Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Additionally, the B-1 is able to carry the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, giving it an advanced stand-off, counter-ship capability. It also has an advanced self-protection suite and is able to transit at supersonic speeds to enhance offensive and defensive capabilities.

Even today, the B-1B is evolving as a weapons platform. The aircraft continues to receive technological upgrades and cutting edge standoff munitions.

The B-1 has come a long way in its first 35 years of combat and has supported the Air Force mission and helped in maintaining the freedom of the United States. And decades later, the B-1 continues to evolve to meet the mission, ready for today’s fight and tomorrow’s needs.

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Executive Editor

About this Author

Dylan Malyasov
Defense journalist and commentator. Aviation photographer. Dylan leads Defence Blog's coverage of global military news, focusing on engineering and technology across the U.S. defense industry.