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Rockwell B-1 Lancer

Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft

Rockwell B-1 Lancer

Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft

OVERVIEW
SPECIFICATIONS
ARMAMENT
VARIANTS
HISTORY
MEDIA
OVERVIEW



The Rockwell B-1 Lancer strategic bomber evolved from becoming a cancelled product to a nuclear bomber to a conventional bomber during its time aloft.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1986
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): North American / Rockwell International / Boeing - USA
PRODUCTION: 104
OPERATORS: United States
SPECIFICATIONS



Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Rockwell / Boeing B-1B Lancer model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 4
LENGTH: 146.00 feet (44.5 meters)
WIDTH: 137.14 feet (41.8 meters)
HEIGHT: 34.12 feet (10.4 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 192,023 pounds (87,100 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 477,080 pounds (216,400 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x General Electric F-101-GE-102 afterburning turbofan engines developing 30,780 lb of thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 833 miles-per-hour (1340 kilometers-per-hour; 724 knots)
RANGE: 7,456 miles (12,000 kilometers; 6,479 nautical miles)
CEILING: 59,055 feet (18,000 meters; 11.18 miles)




ARMAMENT



Up to 59,000 lb of ordnance across six external hardpoints and 75,000 lb in three internal bomb bays. Munitions load can include the following:

24 x GBU-31 GPS-Aided JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition).
24 x BLU-109 penetrating bombs
24 x Mk-84 2,000-pound general purpose bombs
8 x Mk-85 naval mines
84 x Mk-82 500-pound general purpose bombs
84 x Mk-62 500-pound naval mines
30 x CBU-87 cluster munitions
30 x CBU-89 cluster munitions
30 x CBU-97 cluster munitions
30 x CBU-103 WCMD
30 x CBU-104 WCMD
30 x CBU-105 WCMD
24 x AGM-69A SRAM-A Short Range Attack Missiles
24 x AGM-158 JASSM
12 x AGM-154 JSOW
12 x B-28 freefall nuclear bombs
12 x B-43 freefall nuclear bombs
24 x B-61 freefall thermonuclear bombs
24 x B-83 freefall thermonuclear bombs
28 x B-93 freefall nuclear bombs
8 x AGM-86B ALCM (internal on rotary launcher)
12 x ALCM (external underwing launchers)
VARIANTS



Series Model Variants
• B-1A - Initial Model Designation of which four produced; primarily used in testing; Mach 2+ capable speed; variable air inlets; crew escape capsule ejection system.
• B-1B - Definitive Production Model; improved B-1; RAM coating, individual ejection seats, improved avionics, weapons bay/fuel tanks, fixed air inlets, increased MTOW, and reduced Mach speed; 100 examples.
• B-1R ("Regional") - Proposed modernization of B-1B; AESA, external hardpoints for AAMs; Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines; improved radar capability; March 2+ speed with reduced operational ranges.


HISTORY



Detailing the development and operational history of the Rockwell B-1 Lancer Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 10/23/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Military aircraft seldom take an uneventful road to full operational service and such was the case with the storied Rockwell B-1 "Lancer" heavy bomber of the United States Air Force (USAF). The Lancer was developed as a nuclear-capable, high-speed bomber to replace the venerable Boeing B-52 "Stratofortress" heavy bombers in service with the USAF since 1955. The Mach 3-capable North American XB-70 Valkyrie was originally set to become the primary heavy bomber of the USAF and Strategic Air Command (SAC) - as well as serving as the B-52's original replacement - but the global political climate, advancing technologies, and an unfortunate accident ultimately led to the product's cancellation. Key forces behind the demise of the XB-70 were advances in Soviet air defenses (in both radar and missile technologies as well as manned interceptors like the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 "Foxbat") and the growing U.S. focus on ICBMs and cruise missiles as a first-strike, radar-evading, low cost alternative to a manned bomber approach. Beyond the B-52 for the high-altitude bombing role, USAF SAC held only the "swing wing" General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" in its stable and this was used primarily in the low-level strike role. The B-52 was a subsonic "heavy" while the F-111 operated as a supersonic system with a much more limited bomb load.

The New Bomber Requirement

With the end of the XB-70 venture, the USAF continued with design studies for a new generation bomber throughout the 1960s, first under the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA) program for it was deemed that manned bombers still carried better accuracy than missiles of the day. A myriad of forms and types were bandied about - delta wing planforms, swing-wing options, subsonic penetrators - and all were to integrate the latest in radar-evading technology where possible - a far cry from the design lines and brute function of the massive B-52.

The period of studies spanned from the early 1960s into the latter part of the decade to which certain qualities of the new bomber began to emerge: a crew of four for the expected mission load, variable sweep wings for high-speed dashing at low altitude, a large airframe for the needed mix of fuel and weapons (to be held internally), and Mach 2 (minimum) performance. The aircraft would also be required to take off and land in short order and carry with it a high degree of crew/aircraft survivability. Its payload would consist of nuclear ordnance / stand-off missiles to fulfill one-third of the "Nuclear Triad" doctrine employed by the Americans - nuclear missiles launched from the air, land or sea. In this way, one corner of the triangle could back the other as a fail-safe in the aftermath of a first-strike by the Soviets.

A four-year study began in 1965 to fulfill the need and several principle names in the American defense industry responded - North American, Boeing, and General Dynamics. In March of 1967, North American merged with Rockwell International to become North American Rockwell.

North American Rockwell Wins Out

With the close of the formal design study period in November of 1969, the USAF moved on an official Request For Proposal (RFP) with Boeing, General Dynamics, and North American Rockwell all delivering their best submissions. For North American, this became the D481-55B. After review, North American Rockwell was selected the winner of the competition on June 5th, 1970. The aircraft was to carry the designation of "B-1A" and the contract covered seven total airframes - five flyable and the remaining two to be used as static testbeds. To go along with the new aircraft was an all-new engine initiative and this fell to military/civilian engine stalwart General Electric for their F101-GE-100 of 30,000 lb thrust output with afterburner capability.

Interim Measures

It would take some time to get the B-1A into USAF pilot hands so, as an interim measure, the General Dynamics F-111 was modified for the strategic bomber role and the Boeing B-52 itself revised to also fulfill a low-level penetrator function. The would help to bring SAC capability up to par for the growing threat posed by Soviet air defenses and its interceptors - a network that already showed its capabilities with the downing of Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960. With the measures in place, the B-1A was allowed to advance under its own timeline.

B-1 Bomber Walk-Around

The finalized B-1A form became a slender aircraft given a streamlined fuselage, blended wing roots, underslung engine pairs, and a single vertical tail fin. The long nose cone housed radar while the cockpit included seating for the four crew in a side-by-side arrangement - the pilots in front and the offensive/defensive systems specialists aft. A whole-crew escape capsule was the primary means of survival as opposed to individual ejection seats. The swing wing approach was adopted for the needed runway, low / high altitude performance phases of the aircraft's operation. These structures rested at a 15-degree angle and became swept at a 67.5-degree angle when needed. Four engines gave the airframe a Mach 2+ maximum speed. The construction makeup of the aircraft was a mix of aluminum alloys, steel, titanium, composites, fiberglass, and polymide quartz (over 41% of the aircraft was aluminum). In-flight refueling was made possible through a port over the nose just ahead of the front windscreen.

Testing

USAF representatives reviewed their new bomber in a little over a year from when the contract was granted. Despite the hundreds of changes requested, the aircraft was a sound, promising venture and a far cry from the bombers of the 1950s and 1960s. The initial B-1A was unveiled to the public in October of 1974 and a first flight followed on December 23rd, 1974. A period of heavy flight testing followed that showcased a product fulfilling nearly all of the USAF requirements for their new bomber.

Due to the shifting political landscape of the United States in the late 1970s, the B-1A initiative was cancelled in favor of further development on ICBMs and cruise missiles. This left just three completed B-1A aircraft. The cancellation of the B-1A and its GE engine came on June 30th, 1977 with the inbound Carter Administration though the product was able to exist in limited development for possible future value. The 1978 defense spending budget allotted funding for a fourth B-1A.

The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

As the B-1A program wound down, Northrop Grumman was working on the USAF's new "Advanced Technology Bomber" (ATB) - a true stealth initiative that was to serve as a replacement to the B-52 and as successor to the B-1A. This platform was to become a much more advanced product than the B-1A but with such advances came heavier costs - of the 132 originally envisioned, just 21 would be actually procured. Also, the B-2 would not come online (in strength) until 1987 which left a noticeable gap between its arrival and outgoing B-52 Stratofortresses. This forced the USAF to consider modified versions of either its F-111 or B-1A stock for the interim - the availability of these airframes allowing for express conversions to a new bomber standard.




Rockwell B-1 Lancer (Cont'd)

Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft

Rockwell B-1 Lancer (Cont'd)

Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft



Interim Measures, Again

Of the two, the B-1A was selected in October of 1981 and this ultimately begat the B-1B variant - testing would be completed on two of the existing B-1A airframes. The B-1B program officially began on March 23rd, 1983. A crash of one of the aircraft in August of 1984 delayed progress some - the crew capsule ejection system working as designed but the crash still resulting in the death of test pilot Doug Benefield and injuries to two of the three surviving crew. Flight testing was concluded in October of 1985.

By this time, serial production of the B-1B had already commenced (back in 1984) and this continued into 1988 with 100 aircraft delivered to the USAF. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the mark occurred in 1986. 1987 marked the first lost of a B-1B when the low-flying aircraft hit a bird - in addition to the four crewmembers aboard were two observers in non-ejecting seats. Three of the six crew (two observers and one standard crewman) died when one of the four ejection seats failed to launch.

The B-1B Over the B-1A

Compared to the B-1A, the B-1B carried all-new flight controls, improved avionics, upgraded Electronic CounterMeasures (ECMs), fixed air inlets (replacing variable types, this reducing maximum speed to Mach 1.25), individual ejection seats (replacing the ejection capsule approach), increased Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW), and RAM (Radar-Absorbent Material) for some base stealth capability. The internal weapon bays (three) were configurable for a variety of munition types including precision ("smart") bombs and cruise missiles as well as non-combat components like extra fuel stores. A non-nuclear bomb-carrying function was eventually integrated following the demise of the Soviet Union and the thawing of East-West relations. B-1Bs were taken off their nuclear duty role in 1991 making the aircraft a full-fledged conventional bomber in the USAF inventory and no longer restricted to just the low-level penetrator/strike role.

Not a Stealth Bomber

The B-1B is not a stealth aircraft as the Lockheed F-117 "Nighthawk" or the Northrop B-2 despite its use of a slim profile and RAM coating. It still relies on low-level flight and speed to bypass or outrun enemy defenses. To help the aircraft in this role, it is equipped with Terrain Following and Terrain Avoidance radar modes for use over land or water. This lets the aircraft "hug" the terrain below while promoting itself as a more difficult target to track/engage. No one Lancer has been shot down as an enemy target in war - recorded losses attributed to accidents and general operational attrition than anything else. The B-1B also holds excellent endurance thanks to the shared cockpit workload and in-flight refueling. It is also the recipient of aviation records including time-to-climb records across three different weight categories.

The North American to Rockwell to Boeing Brand Evolution

The B-1 bomber product was born under the North American Aviation brand label before the merger with Rockwell. From this joining spawned Rockwell International, the brand label most commonly associated with the B-1 Lancer until 2001 when the product fell under Boeing ownership. As such, the B-1B Lancer today is recognized as a Boeing product - a common result of the many mergers seen in the latter decades of the Cold War.

The Current B-1B Stock and Its Future

The USAF did not purchase more than the stated 100 B-1B bombers since the aircraft's introduction. Sixty-two of this stock remain in service as of 2014 and are expected to fulfill their roles into the 2040s. The B-1 never replaced the B-52 and has served alongside it, as well as alongside the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, simply due to the USAF need. Amazingly, the service life of the B-52 is expected to reach into 2040.

Since its inception in 1986, the B-1B has proven an effective warplane but also an expensive and complex one. Its technology-laden design means it is an inherently costly platform and, thus, a regular contender for retirement which each passing budget year. The B-52 has required less over the long run to keep that aged fleet airborne for longer and is another proven battlefield performer - though lacking any stealth capabilities in its design.

The B-1B has been upgraded along several lines to keep it a viable aerial weapons delivery platform for the foreseeable future. Its radar system was upgraded through the Radar Reliability and Maintainability Improvement Program (RRMIP) as reliability of these units became a recurring sticking point in service due to age. The navigation suite was also upgraded as were battlefield situational awareness systems. The cockpit will see a revision to include color Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) added as well as instrumentation upgrades. Work is expected to be completed by 2020.

The B-1R "Regional"

A proposed B-1 upgraded variant is the B-1R ("Regional"). The line would receive air-to-air missile capability on additional external hardpoints, new Pratt & Whitney F119 series turbofan engines, modern radar (including AESA), and increased speed to Mach 2.2 though with reduced range.

Combat History

The B-1B has seen combat action over Iraq (Operation Desert Fox, 1998), Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003). It missed out on Operation Desert Storm (1991) for its conventional bombing functionality has not been added by then and engine issues further kept the aircraft from participating. For the offensive against Saddam Hussein's vaunted forces, the B-52 took the place of the B-1B in the conventional bombing role.

Throughout its operational tenure, the B-1 has served with Strategic Air Command, Air Combat Command, the Air National Guard, and with the Air Force Flight Test Center. Two B-1A bombers were claimed as museum showpieces while some eight B-1B series aircraft have also been saved from the scrap heap in the same way. Though stripped of its nuclear-carrying and delivery capability, the remaining B-1Bs in service can very well be retrofitted for the nuclear role once more if needed.

The B-1 is affectionately known as "Bone" for its designation - "B-One".




PROGRAM UPDATES

February 2016 - Lancers have been called to the fight against ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq. In February 2016 it was announced that the large bombers were being recalled for the interim in an effort to outfit them with more advanced cockpits. Its six-month deployment in the war consisted of 490 sorties in which some 3,700 targets were bombed with upwards of 3,800 munitions according to the USAF. It is expected that the B-1s will return to the war zone once the work is completed.

August 2017 - On August 17th, 2017, a B-1B Lancer bomber successfully test-fired a production-quality version of the new Lockheed AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missile. The missile series is set to be introduced in 2018 across several of the U.S. military aircraft platforms including the Lancer line.

February 2018 - The Rockwell B-1B is set to be replaced by the in-development B-21 stealth bomber by Northrop Grumman.

May 2018 - The USAF B-1B Lancer fleet has been grounded pending the review of an emergency landing incident at Midland International Air and Space Port (Texas) on May 1st, 2018. The incident involved an escape hatch being blown off and a failure of the ejection seat to launch. None of the Lancer crew was hurt and the aircraft landed safely.
MEDIA







General Assessment (BETA)
Firepower  
Performance  
Survivability  
Versatility  
Impact  


Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating (BETA)
88
The MF Power Rating takes into account over sixty individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 1000mph
Lo: 500mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (833mph).

    Graph average of 750 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LDN
LDN
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MSK
MSK
 
  TKY
TKY
 
  SYD
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  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Rockwell / Boeing B-1B Lancer's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
104
104

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
A2A
Interception
UAV
Ground Attack
CAS
Training
ASW
Anti-Ship
AEW
MEDEVAC
EW
Maritime/Navy
SAR
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
VIP
Passenger
Business
Recon
SPECOPS
X-Plane/Development
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Supported Arsenal
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an air launched cruise missile weapon
Graphical image of an air launched nuclear weapon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft guided bomb munition
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.