Contrary to popular belief, not all bombers are cumbersome and oafish. The Rockwell B-1B Lancer, more commonly referred to as the “Bone,” is an absolutely magnificent airplane. While it’s a massive jet, it has smooth, sleek lines and variable geometry wings that adjust according to the aircraft’s airspeed and energy state, much like the F-14 Tomcat. It is powered by four GE F-101 motors, each producing more than 30,000 pounds of thrust in afterburner.
Designed originally as a supersonic bomber, the B-1 has shown it’s a highly versatile, multi-mission aircraft. The airplane’s synthetic aperture radar is capable of tracking, targeting and engaging moving vehicles as well as facilitating self-targeting and terrain-following modes. In addition, an extremely accurate Global Positioning System-aided Inertial Navigation System enables aircrews to navigate without the aid of ground-based aids, as well as engage targets with a high level of precision.
The B-1B was first used in combat in support of operations against Iraq in December 1998. In 1999, six of the type were used in Operation Allied Force, delivering more than 20 percent of the total ordnance while flying less than 2 percent of the combat sorties. During the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom, eight Bones dropped nearly 40 percent of the total tonnage delivered by coalition air forces. This included nearly 3,900 JDAMs, or 67 percent of the total. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the aircraft has flown less 1 percent of the combat missions while delivering 43 percent of the JDAMs used.
The B-1B holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the design for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994. The most recent records were made official in 2004.
Seeing this airplane fly is a breathtaking experience. We’ve already talked about how loud the airplane is, but check out the maneuverability! Barrel rolls?? WHAT?!
Rockwell B-1B Lancer
Primary Function: Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber
Wingspan: 137 feet (41.8 meters) extended forward, 79 feet (24.1 meters) swept aft
Length: 146 feet (44.5 meters)
Height: 34 feet (10.4 meters)
Weight: approximately 190,000 pounds (86,183 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 477,000 pounds (216,634 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 265,274 pounds (120,326 kilograms)
Payload: 75,000 pounds ( 34,019 kilograms)
Speed: 900-plus mph (Mach 1.2 at sea level)
Ceiling: More than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)
Armament: 84 500-pound Mk-82 or 24 2,000-pound Mk-84 general purpose bombs; up to 84 500-pound Mk-62 or 8 2,000-pound Mk-65 Quick Strike naval mines; 30 cluster munitions (CBU-87, -89, -97) or 30 Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispensers (CBU-103, -104, -105); up to 24 2,000-pound GBU-31 or 15 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions; up to 24 AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles; GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition
Crew: Four (aircraft commander, copilot, and two weapon systems officers)
Initial operating capability: October 1986
Inventory: Active force, 66 (test, 2); ANG, 0; Reserve, 0