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Meet the B-1B
By Harold Hutchison

It is probably the most ignored of America’s strategic bombers. The older bomber is a flying legend, having served for almost six decades, and likely to serve for another two or three decades. The younger bomber is one of the most technologically advanced planes that has ever flown.

Yet despite all this, the B-1B Lancer – the “middle child” of the American bomber force – is perhaps the most deadly. It can carry 84 500-pound bombs internally. This dwarfs the figure of 51 for the B-52, and even eclipses the eighty that the B-2A Spirit can carry. The B-1B is the fastest strategic bomber in service today, able to hit Mach 1.25.

Once intended to be a nuclear penetrator, capable of carrying 24 nuclear bombs or air-launched cruise missiles internally as well as an additional 14 air-launched cruise missiles externally, now the B-1B serves as the means to deliver a lot of conventional ordnance. The latest precision-guided systems, like the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, and the Joint Direct Attack Munition, can be dropped from a B-1B – enabling it to hit as many as 48 targets in a single sortie.

The B-1B has been action over Iraq, first seeing combat during Operation Desert Fox, then seeing action in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Only 100 B-1Bs were built – 93 of which survive today. Of those 93, only 67 are in active service. The rest are sitting in the boneyard.

There has been a proposal to upgrade the B-1Bs to the new B-1R standard. This would give the bombers the F119 engines used by the F-22, as well as new radars and the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM. Perhaps the B-1B could become even more deadly than it already is.