Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Only six U.S. Air Force B-1 heavy bombers ready for combat

Only six of the U.S. Air Force’s 61 B-1 heavy bombers are fully mission-capable, according to Air Force Magazine citing the U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Magazine provides a statement from senator stating that of the 61 heavy bombers, 15 are in depot maintenance and 39 aircraft are down for inspections or other issues.

“The B-1 fleet is in the midst of an intensive slate of maintenance work and upgrades,” said Rounds during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Gen. John Hyten, the US Strategic Command chief who is under consideration to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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In response, Hyten implored lawmakers to provide B-1 maintenance funding to reverse the fleet’s problems.

“We were just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them,” Hyten said. “We had to pull back a little and get after fixing those issues. The depots can do that if they have stable funding.”

Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has acknowledged B-1 inspections as necessary for the aging fleet despite affecting readiness. The Boeing-built B-1s entered service in the 1980s, but didn’t fly their first combat mission until 1998. Since then, however, it’s been a workhorse.

“It’s not a young airplane,” Ray said. “Wear and tear is part of the things we find.”

The Air Force’s website said the B-1 bomber was initially developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52. The first production B-1 flew in October 1984, and the first B-1B was delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1985.

The swing-wing B-1 is a highly versatile, multi-mission weapon system. The B-1B’s synthetic aperture radar is capable of tracking, targeting and engaging moving vehicles as well as self-targeting and terrain-following modes. In addition, an extremely accurate Global Positioning System-aided Inertial Navigation System enables aircrews to navigate without the aid of ground-based navigation aids as well as engage targets with a high level of precision.

The B-1B is an improved variant initiated by the Reagan administration in 1981. The final B-1B was delivered May 2, 1988.

The B-1B holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the B-1B for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994. The most recent records were made official in 2004.

The B-1 continues to be deployed today, flying missions daily in support of continuing operations.

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Executive Editor

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