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Where to for B-1 Bomber?

This is a discussion on Where to for B-1 Bomber? within the Air Force & Aviation forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Just flipping through one of my older aircraft books on my bookshelf I came across the B-1B and an overview ...


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Old May 3rd, 2007   #1
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Where to for B-1 Bomber?

Just flipping through one of my older aircraft books on my bookshelf I came across the B-1B and an overview which was written nearly 20 years ago. IMO the prettiest of the US bomber trio, it always seems to me to be under used and forgotten next to the Stealthy B-2 and the long serving B-52.

Having always been one of my favorite aircraft, it seems to fit into a sort of niche between bomb truck and stealthy first striker. I'd like to hear what others have to say on it and its future.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #2
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Even though the B1-B is a 30 year old aircraft / design, I believe that it still has a place with the USAF until somewhere between 2030 - 2050.

As part of a review that took place in the US between 2000 - 2002, these aircraft, along with the B-2's & the B-52's would still be flying thru to 2050.

The scary part of that is of course the fact that most B-52's are currently being flown by pilots who are younger than the airfarmes their sitting in !

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Old May 3rd, 2007   #3
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The B-1b has been used alot in the current war on terror. They have been using the B-1b as a close air support aircraft albiet at higher altitude. Its has excellent endurance and speed to cover a large area for a long time.

As the USAF doesn't have a new bomber project underway (black project?) the current bomber fleet will be stretched for the next couple decades. The B-1b will be flying for a very long time.

The B-1b is a tremendous aircraft. I always thought the B-1b would be a good direct replacement for Australia's F-111's. They can perform all the missions of the F-111 plus more due to all the fancy avionics and weapons that have been added over the years.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #4
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I would personaly love to see B-1s replacing F-111s, but unfortunatly, as has been discussed in previous threads, its not practical. Always a nice thought though

What is interesting, I was reading on (that ever reliable source of information) Wikkipedia, that a proposed upgrade of the B-1 would see it have operational capabilities simillar to that of the original F-111, such as external hardpoints and an offensive air to air capablity. Far from being an expert in the area, I would assume however that external weapon load outs would increase RCS. Is this important seeing as the B-1 was never really a true stealth aircraft?
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #5
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I thought the external weapons are forbidden due to START.

During OIF B-1Bs were one ofe the first aircrafts which entered hostile airspace. From reports I read the USAF is still very pleased with the airspace penetration capabilities of the bones. Their ECM capabilities worked exceptional.

Their good performance for CAS in A-stan and Iraq has already been mentioned.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #6
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The airplane is a nightmare to keep up. Yeah you could throw a lot of bombs on the thing, but in the age of advanced high accuracy weapons, who cares? The low level attack capability of the bomber has been made almost irrelevant with the introduction of precise standoff weapons, and, the doctrine of establishing local air dominance.

Our fleet readiness rate on the B1b has always hovered around 50%, tho every now and then USAF likes to boast about the high readiness rate of a particular wing.

We've upgraded it because, because, because what else can we do? The B1b is one of those aircraft that underwent a continuous change of mission profile in order to justify its construction and by the time the last one rolled out there just wasn't much need for it. There's nothing the B1b has done that the B-52H couldnt. The B1b is an airplane from another era and I dont care how they spin it.

I'm not saying I dont go to bed at night feeling good we have 92 of the things still flying, or at least still in one piece. But overall the design hasn't been very successful. You could successfully bomb the Taliban by kicking JDAMs out of a C-130. I was in when Carter decided to cancel the B1. Boy, USAF screamed its head off over that one. However, the B1 program itself had more lives then vampire.

First it was a supersonic high altitude penetration bomber. Then after Soviet radars/ATA missiles proved to good it was resurrected as a supersonic low altitude penetration bomber. Then, since this profile ate to much fuel and stressed the airframe to much it became a subsonic low altitude penetration bomber. Eventually it ended up the B1b bomb truck for standoff weapons and dumb bombs.

Its really been as useful as tits on a Bull. Can you imagine the $$ the RAAF would have to spend to keep a dozen or so flying? The B1b just hasnt been a very good investment for us.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #7
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I would like the B-1b returned to it's designed state as a supersonic bomber/long range strike aircraft. It is currently an assett without a purpose. The B-52 is the bomb truck and the B-2 is the stealth bomber. What the US lacks is an aircraft that can take hi speed standoff weapons to a location before the target moves. You get intell that osama is having tea at a cafe, a F-15E hasn't the legs to get there, another bomber would take too long, as would a naval tomahawk, so you send in a B-1 that flies to the target at mach 2+ without slowing up for refueling, delivers it's payload, bye osama.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #8
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I would like the B-1b returned to it's designed state as a supersonic bomber/long range strike aircraft. It is currently an assett without a purpose. The B-52 is the bomb truck and the B-2 is the stealth bomber. What the US lacks is an aircraft that can take hi speed standoff weapons to a location before the target moves. You get intell that osama is having tea at a cafe, a F-15E hasn't the legs to get there, another bomber would take too long, as would a naval tomahawk, so you send in a B-1 that flies to the target at mach 2+ without slowing up for refueling, delivers it's payload, bye osama.
The lower and faster you fly the thing the more hours you take out of its service life. In its construction there was a trade off to make the airframe lighter so it could carry more bombs farther. You can make the final dash in the B1b at SS speeds but its not really a SS bomber.

For various reasons, some of which Ive outlines, flying low level supersonic is inadvisable. Even at ceiling the B1b is not all that fast, having undergone major revisions from the B1 design to lower its RCS, increase its range, and reduce stress to the airframe.

What was left over is basically, for all intents and purposes, a sub-mach bombers.

We have other designs in R&D but again a new manned bomber is going to be a hard sell.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #9
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The airplane is a nightmare to keep up. Yeah you could throw a lot of bombs on the thing, but in the age of advanced high accuracy weapons, who cares? The low level attack capability of the bomber has been made almost irrelevant with the introduction of precise standoff weapons, and, the doctrine of establishing local air dominance.

Our fleet readiness rate on the B1b has always hovered around 50%, tho every now and then USAF likes to boast about the high readiness rate of a particular wing.

We've upgraded it because, because, because what else can we do? The B1b is one of those aircraft that underwent a continuous change of mission profile in order to justify its construction and by the time the last one rolled out there just wasn't much need for it. There's nothing the B1b has done that the B-52H couldnt. The B1b is an airplane from another era and I dont care how they spin it.

I'm not saying I dont go to bed at night feeling good we have 92 of the things still flying, or at least still in one piece. But overall the design hasn't been very successful. You could successfully bomb the Taliban by kicking JDAMs out of a C-130. I was in when Carter decided to cancel the B1. Boy, USAF screamed its head off over that one. However, the B1 program itself had more lives then vampire.

First it was a supersonic high altitude penetration bomber. Then after Soviet radars/ATA missiles proved to good it was resurrected as a supersonic low altitude penetration bomber. Then, since this profile ate to much fuel and stressed the airframe to much it became a subsonic low altitude penetration bomber. Eventually it ended up the B1b bomb truck for standoff weapons and dumb bombs.
Unfortunatley (for the planes sake) I would have to agree with you. Its doesnt bring anything particularly special to the table, cant carry as many bombs as B-52 ands not as stealthy as a B-2.

Ive got a few questions though. Is the B-1B a great deal more maintainence intensive than a B-52? Where Im going with this is that the BUFF is getting old, its gotta be less advanced than a B-1 and, I would have thought, offer much less opportunity for upgrade. So whilst the B-1 cant carry as many bombs as a BUFF, its faster and well newer. So why is it that the B-1s head to the boneyard whilst the more senior B-52 soldiers on?

Is the B-52 cheaper and easier to operate? Is it a range/loiter time issue? Is there a large difference in payloads which is not offset by speed. Or am I completley missing the point?

Cheers!

Oh and Waylander, interesting question bout the START treaty...?
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #10
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Unfortunatley (for the planes sake) I would have to agree with you. Its doesnt bring anything particularly special to the table, cant carry as many bombs as B-52 ands not as stealthy as a B-2.

Ive got a few questions though. Is the B-1B a great deal more maintainence intensive than a B-52? Where Im going with this is that the BUFF is getting old, its gotta be less advanced than a B-1 and, I would have thought, offer much less opportunity for upgrade. So whilst the B-1 cant carry as many bombs as a BUFF, its faster and well newer. So why is it that the B-1s head to the boneyard whilst the more senior B-52 soldiers on?

Is the B-52 cheaper and easier to operate? Is it a range/loiter time issue? Is there a large difference in payloads which is not offset by speed. Or am I completley missing the point?

Cheers!

Oh and Waylander, interesting question bout the START treaty...?
Yes, the B-1Bs are PIGS and require massive amounts of MX. There have been many talks on retiring the B-1B, she just never lived up to her potential on paper. They started retiring them a few years back while I was stationed at Dyess and we also had received a list of the tails that were going to the boneyard...though some made it there, the GWOT has put a nibble into the plans to totally get rid of the B-1B. The crews are proud to fly her...but you hear a lot of displeasure from them...and many I know want to transfer to other airframes (B-2/B-52/F-15E...C-130s) I have NEVER heard a MX member who worked on the B-1B ever say anything nice about them, they are very hard to work on and VERY hard to fix. She was never meant to fly the mission she was forced into.
With the GWOT I do not see an end to the B-1B any time soon but that does not make her any better of an airplane.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #11
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Yes, the B-1B is a maintenance nightmare if you ask any mechanic. It is expensive to maintain and replace parts on the aircraft. It is not well known for the actual reason why this fact is true. It is not because the aircraft was poorly designed, but a political and financial decision made over 2 decades ago.

When President Regan came into office he restarted the B-1 program and ordered the batch of aircraft that are currently in service. What the Regan Administration didn't do is have the DoD ordered the necessary spare parts for the service life of the aircraft. When the production line shut down, the USAF access to new spares parts disappeared. In the early 90's and up to today, spare parts have to cannibalized or manufactured from scratch. That is a time intensive way of maintaining a fleet of aircraft. There was a need to retire some of the fleet to use a basis for quick spares. I didn't agree with the reduction of the fleet to 60 aircraft, which after Enduring Freedom the USAF soon realized their mistake and put back another 20 aircraft into service.

My short time with the maintainers of B-1B's at Ellsworth, they are bunch of airmen and officers that couldn't be more proud of the hard work in flying and maintaining the Lancer fleet.

At Edwards, they recently tested a B-1B with a SNIPER targeting pod. This would allow the B-1B is designate targets in all weather. The fleet is now capable of dropping the JDAM 38, which with 80 500 lbs weapons allows it to be a even more capable close air support system.

The use of external stores is banned by the START treaty. The Russians still do their surprise visits ever year. The B-1B is also not allow to carry ALCMs, and it internal launcher system is also inspected.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #12
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Yes, the B-1B is a maintenance nightmare if you ask any mechanic. It is expensive to maintain and replace parts on the aircraft. It is not well known for the actual reason why this fact is true. It is not because the aircraft was poorly designed, but a political and financial decision made over 2 decades ago.

When President Regan came into office he restarted the B-1 program and ordered the batch of aircraft that are currently in service. What the Regan Administration didn't do is have the DoD ordered the necessary spare parts for the service life of the aircraft. When the production line shut down, the USAF access to new spares parts disappeared. In the early 90's and up to today, spare parts have to cannibalized or manufactured from scratch. That is a time intensive way of maintaining a fleet of aircraft. There was a need to retire some of the fleet to use a basis for quick spares. I didn't agree with the reduction of the fleet to 60 aircraft, which after Enduring Freedom the USAF soon realized their mistake and put back another 20 aircraft into service.

My short time with the maintainers of B-1B's at Ellsworth, they are bunch of airmen and officers that couldn't be more proud of the hard work in flying and maintaining the Lancer fleet.

At Edwards, they recently tested a B-1B with a SNIPER targeting pod. This would allow the B-1B is designate targets in all weather. The fleet is now capable of dropping the JDAM 38, which with 80 500 lbs weapons allows it to be a even more capable close air support system.

The use of external stores is banned by the START treaty. The Russians still do their surprise visits ever year. The B-1B is also not allow to carry ALCMs, and it internal launcher system is also inspected.
When Carter had cut funding for the high altitude, supersonic bomber (B-1A) that was a sad day. That is what the B-1 was designed for and was built for. She was never meant to fly low level, she was never meant to be pounded down low...that is where it is hardest for an aircraft to fly...She was not fully redesigned to take that abuse.
Don't get me wrong, the B-1B is a bad ass aircraft. She can deliver the mean stuff to the enemy..on time and on target. Her crews are some of the best in the business and they have done a fine job re inventing her a couple of times over (from nukes to iron) but she is much to young to be looking and acting so damn old.

When you look at how she was designed, it looks like they never for one second took maintenance into consideration....they ALL look like prototypes.
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #13
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I read all these posts, and something here bothers me a great deal. Less than 100 B-1s are flying, and this is considered a major force?

Are there 20, or 40 B-2s ? I know these are special purpose aircraft, a flying commando unit, but that seems to be a horribly tiny number. Are the tools even still in place to build more?

The Air Force plans to build over 300 F-22 Raptors, not a huge number, but what will they be escorting? As far as I know, the usual ratio is 2 or 3 bombers per fighter, with wide variations according to the mission. Once these wonderful, expensive fighters have won air superiority, what will be there to exploit it?
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #14
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I read all these posts, and something here bothers me a great deal. Less than 100 B-1s are flying, and this is considered a major force?

Are there 20, or 40 B-2s ? I know these are special purpose aircraft, a flying commando unit, but that seems to be a horribly tiny number. Are the tools even still in place to build more?

The Air Force plans to build over 300 F-22 Raptors, not a huge number, but what will they be escorting? As far as I know, the usual ratio is 2 or 3 bombers per fighter, with wide variations according to the mission. Once these wonderful, expensive fighters have won air superiority, what will be there to exploit it?
I can not answer that for the bombers...but for the fighters, we do not need that many. We need a bunch but not 300... How much do we use the F-15 now? We need more tanker aircraft, more airlift, more attack... right now, the last thing we need are so many superiority fighters
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Old May 3rd, 2007   #15
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Ive got a few questions though. Is the B-1B a great deal more maintainence intensive than a B-52? Where Im going with this is that the BUFF is getting old, its gotta be less advanced than a B-1 and, I would have thought, offer much less opportunity for upgrade. So whilst the B-1 cant carry as many bombs as a BUFF, its faster and well newer. So why is it that the B-1s head to the boneyard whilst the more senior B-52 soldiers on?
I will add to some already excellent comments, looking back into my memory for 30 year old flight line talks on mid shifts.

There are certain warplanes that endear themselves to maintenance men and woman. Pilots love their birds no matter what so they aren't an objective voice. The guys and Gals who keep the airplanes flying are the ones best suited to comment, and always have the planes they love to work on and the planes they hate.

The B-52 was a plane they loved. We made a gazzilion of the things and always have had a huge support mechanism in place for it so the gear heads were always able to find parts for them and keep them running. The Buff was always on the front lines of WW-3 with dozens of wings on hot alert for decades in all kinds of weather and conditions. And the Buff never let us down. The Buff was that "sleeper car" that was never fancy but you could always count on it to start up and take you where it had to go. It was also a proven war plane and flight crews always love a little extra the birds that take them into combat and then take them back
home safe.

It is quite simply the most successful bomber design ever. And everyone loved it. The gear heads, the Pilots, the navs, the weapons loaders, the cops that guarded it, the little old lady heading to grocery shop in Minot ND "whynot Minot"?, and saw it flying overhead. On all fronts the Buff is just a winner.

The B1b was a design always looking for a mission. Its support mechanism was far smaller and more flawed, as has been mentioned. Its the touchy hot-rod in the garage that's always giving you trouble, always needs parts and $$$ put into it, and you always have to explain to your wife why you bought it in the first place. And now with no nuclear mission the B1b is looking even more superfluous.

Back in the day we all wanted the B1 and we in USAF took it personal when the Peanut farmer cut it. In retrospect maybe the guy was right for once. With the advent of long range ALCMs that hot shot kind of bomber concept became irrelevant, as did the design potential lessen with the better Soviet radars, fighters, ATA missiles...ect

The simple truth is we dont need intercontinental bombers the way we used to. The days of dumb unguided airdrop bombs in USAF are coming to an end. I think we'll always have manned bombers but they are going to be far different types of systems then the legacy birds.
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