The United States military is unquestionably the largest and most powerful on the planet, but even the massive U.S. defense budget no longer supports the age of platform development America enjoyed in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  A half century ago, America was already developing a number of the combat aircraft we continue to employ to this day – aircraft like the U.S.’ first stealthy long-range bomber, the B-1B Lancer.

Originally designed to carry nuclear payloads through enemy air defenses, the B-1B Lancer was eventually converted for use in multiple conventional attack strategies.  Its massive payload capacity of 75,000 pounds, coupled with its supersonic capabilities and fighter jet-like handling make it a valuable asset on the battlefield to this day.

Because of the massive expense associated with maintaining combat operations in multiple theaters around the globe simultaneously for the better part of 16 years, there has been an increased need to find new and creative uses for existing platforms in order to better engage potential threats in the near future.  While new planes are indeed under development, even the F-35, which should have been fully integrated into force-wide operations years ago, has dragged on well past deadlines and budget ceilings.  In order to combat near-peer enemy forces like China or Russia, it’s clear that the United States must find new solutions in old platforms; and that’s just what it now intends to do with the Lancer.

Last week, a B-1B Lancer bomber successfully deployed the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) during free-flight operations for the first time.  The successful test not only marks the first “end-to-end functionality test” for the new LRASM, but also served as proof of theory that the B-1B can provide valuable anti-ship offensive and defensive options in support of America’s Navy.