Unknown are the reasons for the Rockwell B-1B’s success as the best supersonic bomber and its riddles

   

If we take a look at the various military air arms across the world, one thing is obvious. That is the fact that the strategic bomber is becoming a dying breed. Large, heavy bomber aircraft are few and far between now, with most bombing roles now carried out by multirole ground attack machines, and other such aircraft like the F-35 Lightning or Eurofighter Typhoon. But some air arms still believe there is a need for a big strategic bomber, something that can deliver big payloads to a particular target.

Image

Russia still has its fleet of Tu-95 Bears, as well as its Tu-22M Backfire and the Tu-160 Blackjack. But America also has a strategic bomber fleet. It has the B-2 Spirit Stealth bomber, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, and perhaps the most impressive, the Rockwell B-1B Lancer.

Image

The B-1B Lancer is one of the very few supersonic strategic bombers still flying, and still has at least 10 years of service left before it is ultimately replaced by the upcoming Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider. As of right now, though, the B-1B Lancer is surely the world’s ultimate supersonic bomber.

 

The Origins Of The B-1B Lancer

The B-1B Lancer was born out of a requirement from the United States Air Force for a bomber that could combine the Mach 2 speed of the B-58 Hustler with the payload of the B-52.

Initially, the North American XB-70 Valkyrie was the chosen one, but a switch from high level to low level flying thanks to Soviet surface-to-air missiles scuppered that idea.

Image

It was soon found out that the XB-70 would actually have less range in a low level role than the B-52, despite having a higher speed. As a result, the B-52 would fly at lower altitudes, even if this was not optimum but it proved to be a flexible aircraft in that role.

Rockwell was soon tasked with building a new supersonic bomber though that could take on this lower level role, after a long series of studies. And what emerged was the B-1A, an aircraft that had a top speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude and of Mach 0.85 at lower altitudes.

Image

Four prototypes were built and the testing program was soon underway. However, rising costs, the new AGM-86 and the beginning of the stealth bomber program scuppered the B-1A program by 1977.

What also didn’t help was that it looked like the B-1A was becoming a dinosaur really fast, with the Soviet MiG-31 on the way and it looking like a B-1A would be as easy to shoot down as a B-52.

The B-1B Springs To Life

However, after much consideration, President Reagan announced in 1981 that the B-1 program would restart, and the new aircraft would become the B-1B. The new aircraft would have a lower top speed of Mach 1.25 at high altitude, but a higher speed at low level of Mach 0.96.

Image

The B-1B would first fly on October 18th 1984, and the jet did have its critics. Namely, it was strongly felt that a B-52 with similar electronics to the B-1B would be equally able to avoid Soviet detection, but the B-1B would have a larger payload than its Boeing cousin.

The B-1B would become a very special bomber. It was of swing-wing design, whereby the wings would swing out for take-off, landing and lower speeds but sweep back as the aircraft got faster.

Image

The jet has four General Electric F101-GE-102 afterburning turbofans, powering it to its maximum speed of 830 mph. Following a successful testing program for the aircraft, the B-1B would enter service in June 1985 with the Strategic Air Command. The honor of becoming the first service B-1B was then bestowed upon the second production B-1B built, named “The Star of Abilene”.

 

The B-1B In Active Service

The B-1B didn’t have the smoothest introduction to service. Engine problems prevented the B-1B from taking part in the Gulf War, but they were initially used for strategic nuclear missions, proving a deterrent against the Soviet Union. The B-52 would be the chosen aircraft to serve in the Gulf War.

Image

The B-1B would continue to serve when SAC became the Air Combat Command, and it first saw combat use in Operation Desert Fox in Iraq during December 1998. The B-1B was also used during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The B-1B Lancer Today

As of 2022, of the original 100 aircraft, there are 45 B-1B Lancer’s still in service. The US Air Force retired 17 B-1Bs in February 2021, although four are now kept in storage to bolster the current fleet if needed.

Image

The Air Force is hoping to keep the B-1B in service until 2036, but it will slowly be replaced from 2025 onwards by the upcoming B-21 Raider, which will eventually also replace the B-2 Spirit and the B-52. For now though, despite a troubled existence and birth, the B-1B continues to serve with the United States Air Force, and will carry on doing so for a little while yet. Not bad for an interim bomber.

Related Posts

Kratos Boosts US Air foгсe рoweг with рᴜгсһаѕe of 17 Drones.alva01

The US Air foгсe has awarded a $21.7 million contract to Kratos defeпѕe & Security Solutions for the production of advanced aerial tагɡet drones, specifically the BQM-167A…

“Enhancing Military рoweг: Spain’s Strategic Upgrade of the NH90 Helicopter Fleet”.alva01

With over 10,000 fɩіɡһt hours under its belt, the NH90 has equipped the Spanish агmу and Air foгсe with enhanced capabilities, streamlined fleet operations, and improved safety….

Power Unleashed: The Main Battle Tank, M60A3.

The Legeпdary M60 Taпk: A Testameпt to Sυccess The M60 staпds tall as oпe of the most reпowпed battle taпks globally, boastiпg a legacy of sυccess with…

The Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano combines military might and classic style.

The Embraer EMB 314 Sυper Tυcaпo: A Moderп Classic Stroпgly armored aпd armed to the teeth with a deadly arseпal of air-to-sυrface weapoпs, groυпd-attack aircraft have played…

Acknowledge the Power of the American Military Forces (LAV-25A2).

Oпe of the most пotable аѕѕetѕ iп the US military, the LAV-25A2 is aп esseпtial part of qυick deploymeпt aпd iпterveпtioп capabilities becaυse of its adaptability, mobility,…

The Ignored OH-58 Kiowa: An American Army Helicopter Lost to Time.

The Bell OH-58 Kiowa might not possess the instant recognition that some other U.S. Army helicopters enjoy. While the AH-64 Apache’s insect-like appearance is unmistakable and the…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *