Flying the B-1B Lancer


The B-1B Lancer is a highly valued and formidable aircraft that has been worked hard in recent years. Philip Stevens asks B-1 aircrew how they employ the bomber and its weapons systems in combat in the Middle East – a key theatre of its operations for almost two decades.

An Ellsworth-based B-1B follows a low-level route in the mountains of eastern Wyoming.
All photos Philip Stevens unless stated

The original B-1A was designed by Rockwell as a long-range strategic bomber for low-level ingress to targets in the Soviet Union. The B-1A prototype flew in late 1974. However, with the development of look-down/shoot-down radar making a low-level penetration aircraft ‘visible’ and easier to defend against, and with stealth technology under development, US President Jimmy Carter cancelled the project in June 1977. Four years later, President Ronald Reagan reversed that decision with an order for 100 B-1Bs, featuring an improved electronic warfare suite and an increased weapons and fuel load. The first B-1B flew in March 1983 and deliveries to Strategic Air Command were completed by 1988. The type is now only employed in the conventional role.

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