The U.S. Air Force is considering reducing the size of the B-1B Lancer fleet to save money and then flow them into doing some key things within the bomber portfolio.
The B-1 is a highly versatile, multi-mission weapon system. The B-1B’s blended wing/body configuration, variable-geometry wings and turbofan afterburning engines, combine to provide long-range, maneuverability and high speed while enhancing survivability.
For the past 18 years, the B-1B Lancer has seen combat and has been referred to as a workhorse. Subsequently, years of deployed operations in the Middle East and Afganistan left their mark on the state of the entire fleet of aircraft.
The intensified utilization of bombers ‘has worn the B-1 fleet down’, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters Sept. 17.
But flying the B-1 in this way—slow, medium altitude, wings forward, instead of its design concept of fast, low-altitude penetration with wings swept back—has worn the B-1 fleet down, Goldfein said.
“We put stresses on the aircraft that we did not anticipate,” he said.
Currently, the U.S. Air Force is reset from almost 18 years of continuous combat operations to work on sustaining the B-1, but it entails enormous economic expenditure.
Goldfein said USAF leaders are exploring whether to retire some of the most stressed B-1s “and then flow that money into doing some key things within the bomber portfolio.” Those would include “long-range strategic precision weapons; B-52 re-engining—which not only keeps the B-52 viable, it also decreases our tanker requirement and can I buy B-21s faster,” Goldfein said.