China Factor urges US Air Force to speed up B-1B Lancer withdrawal and make way for super stealth bomber
The U.S. Air Force began the process of withdrawing the B-1B Lancer long-range bombers this week, as part of an effort to make way for the super-advanced B-21 Raider stealth bomber and allow maintenance crews and the ground to become familiar with the new jets.
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Seventeen planes from a fleet of 62 have been decommissioned, and the remaining 45 will continue in service until the Raiders start arriving.
The Boeing B-1B Lancers entered service in 1985, supporting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing air support to troops on the ground. Originally designed for nuclear capabilities, the B-1 transitioned to an exclusively conventional combat role in the mid-1990s, according to the Boeing website.
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Of the 17 planes that operated from Edwards Air Force Base in Calif., 13 made their way to the USAF cemetery at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, where they will be under the 309e Aerospace maintenance and regeneration unit, in storage type 4000.
Four of the 13 at Davis-Monthan would however be kept in “recallable” storage to possibly function as technological demonstrators or test new weapons and avionics systems.
Of the other four, one will serve as a prototype to test structural repairs at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; one will be used for ground testing at Edwards; one will be part of a digital engineering project at the National Institute for Aviation Research in Kansas; and one will be on display at Global Strike’s headquarters in Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
The final leg of the B-1B Lancers’ retirement took place in 2003, when 33 were decommissioned.
“The disposal plan went perfectly. With fewer aircraft in the B-1 fleet, maintenance managers will be able to devote more time and attention to each aircraft remaining in the fleet. Starting to remove these legacy bombers allows us to pave the way for the B-21 Raider ”, Brig. Gen. Kenyon Bell, director of logistics and engineering at Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), said in a statement.
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“Continued operations over the past 20 years have taken their toll on our B-1B fleet, and the aircraft we retired would have taken between $ 10 million and $ 30 million per plane to return to a status quo fleet at short term until B-21 comes online, ”the senior official added.
The B-1Bs have the distinction of having the largest payload of guided and unguided weapons in the entire USAF inventory, yet cannot carry nuclear weapons.
“In 1999, during Operation Allied Force, six B-1s carried out two percent of the strike missions, but dropped 20 percent of the ammunition, and during Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-1 did that two percent exits while dropping more than 40 percent of precision weapons, ”according to Boeing.
For years, the aircraft provided air support to ground troops under United States Central Command, flying high and slow, instead of flying low and fast for which the airframe and pivoting wing system were intended. . This caused severe structural and cell fatigue which accumulated over time.
Other issues included fires on board and ejection seat malfunctions, with the biggest problem being a fuel tank issue that stalled the entire fleet earlier this year. The 45 of the original 100 B-1Bs that will continue to serve until the arrival of the B-21 Raiders are housed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, and Dyess AFB, Texas.
In addition to the 33 that were withdrawn in 2003, several others were lost in accidents. It was first deployed to Iraq in 1998. USAF plans now call for an inventory of two bombers including an improved B-52H Stratofortress and the B-21 Raider, which is also expected to act as the B-2. Spirit.
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The B-52 has been in service since 1954 and upgrades are expected to extend its life beyond 2040, continuing its status as the backbone of United States strategic bombing missions.
All B-1s and B-2s are expected to be retired by the 2030s. Five B-21 Raiders are being built by Northrop Grumman, with the first flight scheduled for mid-2022.
The B-21 Raider
The Raider will be the main conventional long-range stealth strike platform, operationalization of which should deter Russia and China. The two are currently at the helm of hypersonic missiles and advanced combat doctrines against which U.S. military leaders admit to having no defense.
It comes amid a return to conventional great power rivalry, after nearly two decades of unconventional wars with non-state actors in a “unipolar moment.”
“The Air Force must go from three bombers to two – a rebuilt B-52 and a next-generation B-21 – to deter established and rising powers. This change is vital for future joint and allied operations as no other service or partner nation provides long-range bombardment capability, ”said an AFGSC statement.
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The sense of urgency was evident in U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall when he said at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cybersecurity Conference on September 20: On the keeping every legacy system we have.
- Nitin holds a double master’s degree in journalism and business management (MBA) from the University of Glasgow, UK. He has over 15 years of global marketing and communications, journalism and digital marketing experience and has worked and traveled extensively across Europe, the Americas and Asia. CONTACT: [email protected]
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