Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

B-1 Lancer

The Boeing B-1B Lancer is a long-range heavy bomber in service with the USAF since 1986. Together with the B-52 Stratofortress it is the backbone of the United States's long-range bomber force.

The B-1A model never went into production. The USAF acquired four prototype flight test models in the 1970s, but the program was canceled in 1977. Flight test of the four B-1A models continued through 1981.

The B-1B is the improved variant initiated by the Reagan administration in 1981. The first production model flew in October 1984, and the first B-1B was delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1985, with initial operational capability on October 1, 1986. The final B-1B was delivered May 2, 1988. A total of 90 front-line aircraft were produced at a cost of over $200 million each.

The B-1B has a blended wing and body configuration, along with variable-geometry design and turbofan enginess, to improve range and speed with enhanced survivability. Forward wing settings are used for takeoff, landings and high-altitude maximum cruise. Aft wing settings are used in high subsonic and supersonic flight, enhancing the B-1B's maneuverability.

The B-1B's offensive avionics include the forward-looking offensive radar set employing synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator and terrain-following radar modes, an extremely accurate Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System, the avionics control unit complex, a Doppler radar, and a radar altimeter. These features enable aircrews to globally navigate, accurately refine aircraft position without the need for ground-based navigation aids, update mission information and target coordinates in-flight, and perform precision bombing.

The B-1B's electronic jamming equipment, infrared countermeasures, radar location and warning systems combine with its low-radar cross-section to aid the aircrat's survival in hostile airspace. The current defensive avionics system consist of the ALQ-161A radio frequency surveillance and electronic countermeasures system, the tail warning function, and the expendable countermeasures system, and is supplemented by the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System.

The defensive avionics system is a comprehensive electronic countermeasures package that detects enemy threats and applies the appropriate countermeasures, such as electronic jamming or dispensing expendable chaff and flares to protect against radar-homing and heat-seeking missiles. The TDS complements the system by providing greater protection against RF threats. Low-radar cross-section is provided by the combination of aircraft structure and radar-absorption materials that reduce the aircraft's radar signature to approximately 1 percent that of the B-52. Similar to the offensive avionics, the defensive suite has a reprogrammable design that allows in-flight changes to be made to counter new or changing threats.

The B1-B has been upgrade since production through the Conventional Mission Upgrade Program. This has improved the precision and standoff weapons and the electronic countermeasures suite. The upgrade program includes GPS receivers, a weapons interface which enables the use of the joint direct attack munition and other weapons, secure radios, and improved computers to support new precision and near-precision weapons such as the wind-corrected munitions dispenser, the joint standoff weapon, the joint air-to-surface standoff missile.

These improvements help lay the foundation for future precision miniature munitions, such as Small Diameter Bomb. These and other improvements such as the replacement of the current ALQ-161 with the ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Counter-Measures, are intended to ensure that the B-1 will be viable up to and beyond 2010.

The B-1B holds several world records for speed, payload and distance. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the B-1B for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994.

The B-1B was first used in combat in support of operations against Iraq during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. B-1s have been subsequently used in Operation Allied Force.

General Characteristics

Primary Function:Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber
Builder:Boeing, North America (formerly Rockwell International, North American Aircraft)
Operations Air Frame and Integration:Offensive avionics, Boeing Military Airplane; defensive avionics, AIL Division
Power plant:Four General Electric F-101-GE-102 turbofan engine with afterburner
Thrust:30,000-plus pounds with afterburner, per engine
Length:146 feet (44.5 meters)
Wingspan:137 feet (41.8 meters) extended forward, 79 feet (24.1 meters) swept aft
Height:34 feet (10.4 meters)
Weight:Empty, approximately 190,000 pounds (86,183 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight:477,000 pounds (216,634 kilograms)
Speed:900-plus mph (Mach 1.2 at sea level)
Range:Intercontinental, unrefueled
Ceiling:More than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters)
Crew:Four (aircraft commander, copilot, offensive systems officer and defensive systems officer)
Armament:Three internal weapons bays can accommodate up to 84 Mk-82 general purpose bombs or Mk-62 naval mines, 30 CBU-87/89 cluster munitions or CBU-97 Sensor Fused Weapons and up to 24 GBU-31 JDAM GPS guided bombs or Mk-84 general purpose bombs
Date Deployed:June 1985
Unit Cost:$200-plus million per aircraft
Inventory:Active force, 72; ANG, 18; Reserve, 0