B-1: From A Nuclear Bomber to An ISIS Killer

November 4, 2018



 File Photo


According to the National Interest, a bomber designed to dodge Soviet surface-to-air missiles and interceptors found its niche battling Taliban and ISIS insurgents.


Huge yet surprisingly sleek and agile, the USAF’s B-1 Lancer strategic bombers, popularly dubbed as “Bones” for B-ONE, circles over battlefields in Syria and Afghanistan like angels of death dispensing GPS-guided bombs from on high.


The B-1 remains well-liked by pilots for its unusual maneuverability and responsiveness for an aircraft of its size. 


The B-1 Lancer started out as an overpriced nuclear bomber that was arguably obsolete by the time it entered service. 


The first of one hundred B-1Bs built were rushed to service in 1987 at the eye watering price of $250 million each. 


Image: Tech. Sgt. Richard Ebensberger


The B-1B had three internal bomb bays allowing it to carry up to twenty-four B61 or 1.2-megaton B83 nuclear gravity bombs between them, each many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. 


The Bones saw action striking targets in Iraq in 1998, then flew out of England to hit Serbian targets during the Kosovo War.


B1-B Lancer bomber


The B-1’s towed decoys also proved effective, ‘catching’ two deadly 2K12 Kub missiles.


However, the Bones fully came into its own during the US campaign to overthrow the Afghan Taliban in 2001. 


The Bones brought to the table their huge payload, and their ability to pickle dozens of inexpensive GPS=guided two-thousand-pound JDAM bombs precisely onto targets designated by ground forces. 


 Image: USAF


The B-1 thus became a form of flying artillery orbiting overhead, on-call as ground troops ferreted out enemy positions and marked them for destruction. 


In 2008 B-1s were outfitted with Sniper-XR targeting pods under their noses so they too could designate their own targets.

Bones went on to deliver huge bomb loads in conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria.


As of 2017, sixty-two B-1s remain in service with the 7th and 28th Bombardment Wings based in Texas and South Dakota respectively.


The Air Force plans on retiring the B-1 bomber by 2036 after a respectable half-century of service.


2nd Lt. Christopher Mesnard


Until then, the huge swing-wing bombers will continue to receive upgrades and may yet again be adapted to fit the Pentagon’s evolving warfighting needs, such as potentially hunting ships with long-range missiles.




Disclaimer: The appearance of US Department of Defense (DoD) visual information on this website does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. 

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