B-1B Lancer Fleet To the Boneyard?

Back to the Title 10 side of the house for a moment; the Air Force Council meets today to consider further cuts in aircraft to meet aggressive savings targets laid out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. One option on the table: early retirement of all 66 B-1B Lancer bombers (the last delivery of which came back in 1988).

Force structure cuts might also extend to the air arm’s much cherished but currently under-utilized fighter force. The service already plans to early retire 250 fighters this year, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said last month; gone are 112 F-15s, 134 F-162, and 3 A-10s.

Some of the fighter wings, mainly A-10, are being chopped altogether, while others are transitioning from legacy F-15s to upgraded F-15s or to the fifth-generation F-22 and other wings are prepping to receive the F-35 at some uncertain future date.

“By accepting some short-term risk, we can convert our inventory of legacy fighters and F-22 (Raptors) into a smaller, more flexible and lethal bridge to fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 (Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter),” Donley said.

While short-range tactical fighters (and potentially bombers) are being cut, the Air Force is adding more MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones and more analysts to scrutinize the massive amounts of imagery they generate.

— Greg Grant

55 Comments on "B-1B Lancer Fleet To the Boneyard?"

  1. Sad to see these cuts, but the nation really cannot afford a first rate air force. Other spending has higher priority with our lawmakers.

  2. How is it we cant afford this but we can afford a single payer option with Healthcare. Hurry 2012 and come so we can get this guy out of office.

  3. look at it from the bright side, The Netherland don't even have 250 planes to retire.

  4. there is a typo. 134 F-162 should be 134 F-16

  5. I think we should cut Gates and Obama and keep the planes.

  6. Seems major world problems keep creeping up and now the feds want to cut many of the most dependable aircraft form our inventory. What's next????

  7. chaos0xomega | June 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm |

    Cut A-10s? What the hell is wrong with the Air Force!? WE NEED THOSE NOW.

  8. While I love the B1B and hate to see any A-10s go, be realistic people…why do we need over 1,000 F-16s? True, we may be involved in a major war in the distant future, but for now the more important costs involve supporting the troops on the ground with airlift and close air support. We easily have enough aircraft to do that, even with some severe cuts. In a perfect world we could patrol every border and every ocean, but you have to ask yourself what we need for the next ten years.

  9. Maybe I'm missing something but with the advent of air launched hypersonics and missile defense weapons to be luached from the air as well as the suggested laser payload, why are we getting rid of the B-1?

    Did I read that Warthogs are being canned with the strange suggestion F-35s can take up the roll? Is that after the fire suppression systems have been removed? And did I read that drones will take up the slack?

    I am having trouble squaring all this with the idea we are building an Air Force of the future. Maybe someone with expert knowledge can show me why I should not have serious doubts. Anyone?

  10. Why retire the B-1 and not the B-52?

  11. Why is it that the Air Force has the fanciest housing of all the branches? Everyone in the Air Force gets deluxe BOQ housing-even E-1s.
    When I was in the Navy the BOQ housing was pretty spartan, not luxurious like the Air Force-maybe we could save a little money here too.

  12. CantBelieve | June 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm |

    I don't understand the B-1 comments for a number of reasons: 1. the B-1 can carry more weapons than any other aircraft in Air Force inventory, B-52 included; 2. the B-1 has the lowest cost per weapon dropped of any aircraft because it can carry huge amounts of weapons and, unlike the extremely slow and bulky B-52, does not have to have a giant entourage of defender aircraft when it goes into battle to keep it out of harm's way. Yes there's some of that but nothing like the B-52's needs. In addition, if they decide to cut this aircraft I think that they will owe the public an explanation on why they would do this after just spending a billion dollars to upgrade various capabilities of that platform. Finally, I just don't understand the logic behind this when the B-1 has been used to such great effect in wars ranging from Kosovo to Afghanistan… if I remember my statistics correctly in the former they made up only 8% of the aircraft that participated in that war yet dropped over 46% of total weapons tonnage during the war. That is a massive capability that we would be remiss to give up. But not only that… how would this be a good economic decision? Just by economies of scale and the number of bombs the sucker can crank out that makes the B-1 the most economical platform. Do you really want to spend $200 million on a new fighter than can drop 2, maybe 4 JDAMs when you have an aircraft that, depending on weapons configuration, could drop 80+ in one swoop?

  13. The B1-B is a bomber without a mission, so it has to go. The older fighters are beyond economical upgrades and the F-35 is eating up the budget faster than a hog on slop. The US marines are under threat of disbanding and the US Navy can't afford to build enough ships to replace the ones to be decommissioned. The Chicoms must be loving the situation our current administration has created!!!

  14. CantBelieve | June 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    Actually you are incorrect. Although 700+ B-52s were built over the years, only 102 H-models were ever built and that is all the Air Force is currently using. Of those 102, FAS.org reports that 85 are active today (with 44 being combat-coded). I think it is hard to argue that 66 B-1s vs. 85 B-52s is a tremendous savings. Speaking of low RCS, one of the primary reasons that the B-52 is less costly to maintain is because it looks like a big flying barn on radar. The B-1 was one of the first RCS aircraft our country developed, and that along with its supersonic and low flight capabilities does make it a bit more expensive. So there is some added expense there yes but the result is greater survivability and a more diverse mission role. Also I'm not sure how a fighter vs. a supersonic bomber has a shorter time to target when we are talking about both loitering over an airspace for x amount of time and then attacking that target. If anything the bomber is going to be able to stay up in the air longer since there is room for rotating shifts and a lot more fuel reserve capability. Finally, the $40 million is a favorable number that Lockheed has come up with based on assumptions that they have made on the number of aircraft they will eventually sell, which has yet to be seen.

  15. Okay the article just says one option. Why are we acting like this is proof in fact? I mean damn why are the posts always so extreme. Anytime there is a post about anything there goes the Obama talk. Just like when Bush was in office the same deal. Look the president is not responsible for all of our problems. Heck he wasn't even in office when the recession started. Some posters are right, Do we need to be able to hit every country on the planet at the same time. Our technology so far past the rest of the worlds. Russia only has 16 of the equivalent tu-160. China is using old Russian bombers from the 50's. Honestly We have the only real bomber force. You guys talk about the size of the b-52 on radar, what do you think the tu-95 is with its propellers moving and all? And yes we do need a medium strike aircraft similar to the tu-22 for these missions that would be cheaper to maintain, remember our f-111 that was never replaced?

    I don't want to see the bone go either, but we can't keep it all for ever. World War II ended 60 years ago going on 70. After every war there is always a military cut, its just what happens so the economy can right itself. If you spent less time worrying about what you think Obama was doing, and more time making your life right you may be happier people, because you seem bitter and a little bigoted even though you haven't called it out. The rational most of the extreme use makes no sense to the center slightly right, or left. Grow up.

  16. The whole concept of a heavy bomber is hopelessly outdated. There is no heavy bomber in existence that can penetrate a modern defense net-not even the B-2 Stealth bomber. Any heavy bomber that is going to attack a modern country is going to go with with massive fighter and EW support (which the Air Force does not have), then the enemy will 'see' that they are coming hundreds of miles away and they'll meet them with hundreds of missiles and fighters.

  17. Give all those condemned military planes to His chosen G-d's people, Israel!

  18. John Coles | June 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm |

    I love dis plane lets suck all the money out of public schools buy loads and just teach kids to drive planes. the bomb accuracy of this bomber outbombs any other type of bomber and the wings are really nice and thin then the fine crafting of the inner plangie workings of this bomber really is worth the price Why does the gun and plane budget be cut how about not putting so much money into silly things like health and concentrate on the important thgings like bombers guns planes etc this is a dire crisis an abomination in my expert opinion

  19. Ted Washington | June 24, 2010 at 9:45 pm |

    Good post Greg.

    Cuts are coming big time. You know it, they know it, vegetable lasagna knows it (Seinfeld reference.) Where would the cuts come from if not from older less capable aircraft like some F-15, F-16 and B-1's? All branches will be affected. The existance of the Marine Corp is on the line. Rather than whine about what cuts are proposed (trial balloon) why not suggest cuts that you support to get to the same end result.

    Because big cuts are coming because the deficit hawks are circling – Blue Dogs and Repubs. Deficit hawks gotta eat in an election year.

  20. Ted Washington: I propose we cut the Obamacare monstrosity and "too big to fail" bailouts. There's your savings.

  21. Gee Greg,
    I come home after another hard day building the dangdest-bestest and user-friendly weapons of unimaginable lethality that ever flew the wild blue and find this thread…. Man! – I hate it when the kiddies are on Summer vacation. You just gotta start putting the childproof locks on the comments, or you're going to lose your readership. Well, the readership that has an income anyway.
    And since it (obviously) hasn't been stated in a while…
    Always remember: Fighters make noise and kill things… Bombers make Policy and Change Governments!

  22. Cut the BONE! Good ol' Rummy said it and now our pal Gates is banging that same drum. We don't need a Global Strike capability any more now that our Dear Leader is the Global President. Why can't we just retro fit the BONES into UAV's ala Dale Brown's Battle Born and retire the BUFF's instead?

  23. Obama gutting the US military profoundly… Shame on COMMIE Obama

  24. I work with the BONE every day, and not a lower level, we’ve heard nothing to support cutting all 66 jets at all, as a matter of fact, $$$ are being spent to reduce time in depot maintenance and push them out faster to the fleet. I could see a reduction in numbers, from 66 to 35-55 or whatever, but not to go all the way to zero.

  25. During the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003, 11 B-1s, 4 B-2s, 12 F-117s, and 28 B-52s were deployed. The F-117s have all since been retired (50 something aircraft). OIF required 1/5th the B-1 force and half the B-52 force. No aircraft fleet is 100% mission capable so you'll never see the entire fleet in the air at once. It seems dangerous to reduce those numbers if we're serious about maintaining a full-scale war level of bombers, especially since the long-range bomber replacement program keeps getting pushed off the calendar.

  26. I see people pst stuff like, "why do we need 1000 f-16 to fight curren war". well we dont, so my suggestion is dont deploy what we dont need, but dont scrap them either. Everything gates and obama is doing is killing our defense/offense capability. I could see scrapping the B1 if they were trying to make room for the F22B, but we all know that not gonna happen. Anyways, someone fill me in on the possibilty that the marines are gonna be disband? Havent heard this. SOMEONE FILL ME IN

  27. Nothing is too precicous to sacrafice on the altar of F-35.

  28. superraptor | June 25, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    Retiring the B-1b fleet is complete strategic foolishness by an air force leadership obsessed with tactical air power. In fact, the B-1 fleet should be expanded by adding new B-1Rs. Equipped with JASSM-ERs these planes project unprecented forward firepower and are very hard to defeat. They would not need forward airbases and have less need for air-to-air refueling. They could immediately be employed in distant conflicts. It is really time to recognize the limits of tactical strike aircrafts. With an expanded B-1 fleet we would not need air bases in South Korea and Japan, would not need that many JSFs and tanker planes and also could eliminate aircraft carrier battle groups. Look how much personnel you need to operate an aircraft carrier battle group versus a squadron of B-1bs. The cost savings would be huge. There is no way we could defeat an enemy such as Iran without strategic air power.

  29. William C. | June 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm |

    This is just sickening. Until we get a new bomber rolling off the production line, the 65+ B-1Bs in service are a major part of our strategic bomber fleet. They are greater than number than the B-2A, more survivable and faster than the B-52H, and have been upgraded with systems to allow delievery of the latest precision guided weapons like JDAM, JSOW, JASSM, and so forth.

    Gates has done little good for the USAF during his career, and Obama and the rest of the Democrats don't know the difference between a B-1B and one of those private jets moving Nancy Pelosi around on taxpayer money!

    And the A-10? The soldiers on the ground love that thing. We should upgrade as many A-10As to the modernized A-10C standard as possible and keep that flying tank in service for at least another decade.

  30. Mr. Obama thinks that the U.S. is to powerfull and a world bully. He is going to solve that problem by gutting military spending and using the money to expand social progress. Congress, the media, the unions and academia all support his plans. The American people must support those plans. They elected Mr. Obama by a significant majority and they keep returning the same democrats to congress. They buy newspapers and listen to NBC, ABC CNN et al on their TVs. They spend big bucks to send their children to be educated by socialist professors. We nave no room to complain. We brought this upon ourselves.

  31. Again, as a layman, I see several posts here that specifically identify the reasonable advocacy for the B-1 (and also the Warthog and F-22b). To the "experts" that say this is foolish, will you specifically address the claims brought up? You know which posts they are and until reasonable objections are offered here, it appears a much stronger case FOR the B-1 has been made.

    The context we are talking about includes present problems with basing and refueling, the cost of carrier groups, the likely need for speed and the ability to carry larger payloads associated with new generation munitions, defensive systems and advanced technology such as hypersonics and lasers.

    Defense Tech often paints a picture of the future threats and there seems a real disconnect between what this future implies for our needed capability and the decisions being made. N one seems to be saying there mustn't be cuts somewhere, but again, the case must be made in terms of strategic vision. For example, if you're going to cut the number of carriers and delay refueling and close distant bases, why take away a capability that overcomes such cost-cutting moves? If you're going to come up with new bunker-blasters (quite possibly equipping them with boosters for hypersonic capability) that may have to delivery quickly, why take away the capability? If the jet that spots the enemy first and fires the best missile wins, why stop F-22bs, instead of building them and improving their radar? What "expert" says the F-35 is any match for an F-22 or even a Pak-Fa? Isn't it important to make the case in a way that citizens can understand so the anti-administration narrative isn't amplified?

    Right now the moves seem counter-intuitive no matter the constraints on the budget…..domestic programs and present reforms bleed billions every month and right now America is the only nation really hold the world's crap together.

    Sorry for the number of posts on this issue…..I just haven't read any real answers to my questions yet…

  32. History is about to repeat itself again in a bad way! How many Raptors do we have? 186 I think? The F-35 is not realistically going to be operational until 2014 or later, and we want to further slice our combat capability?!? The military is already in the hurt locker from 9 years of sustained combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and continuing to make these cuts is only going to hurt the military… not help it.

  33. StevenDDeacon | June 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm |

    Cuts of F-22's, discontinuing the B1B, depending on very old B-52's, possible cuts of the F-35's, discontinuing the United States Marine Corp, and what only knows what kind of hacking of the U.S. Navy, Army, & Coast Guard. The states better start forming divisions of State Defense Forces to defend the Country because it looks like it's all were going to have left after our enemies whip our wimpy military.

  34. The B1 is surprisingly expensive to maintain, I have no idea why it's so expensive, I think it was just made out of exotic parts and materials for it's day and it has since become a bit outdated, it's lost it's luster. It's a neat jet but contrary to other opinions here it is pretty easy to destroy. It's capability was to fly low among the mountains and rooftops but that is not such an extraordinary capability, and it's a lousy way of protecting an aircraft with surveillance satellites and what not. You all just have to accept that the US buys a new family wagon every now and then, you can't fly the same one forever. Our current forces are a reflection of our economy, we'll scale down a little but not a whole lot, we'll still have a more capable military than the rest of the world combined.

  35. Why doesn't Obama leave the military to people who know what the hell they are doing and start taking care of the oil spill. Wait he does not know what to do there either!!!

  36. From what I have read is that area that controls the swing wings are maintenance intensive and may eventually need to be replaced which would be expensive.

    I actually think it would be smart to upgrade the planes vice get rid of them. THe reason for this is that the frame was designed for Mach 2 and if an improved engine is put in the plane could obtain a decent supercruise capability which would be good if we have troops in immediate need of aid but are to far away for tactical aircraft. The RCS could also be reduced but not to the RCS of the B-2. This reduction in RCS will still help insure survival.

    In the end it is all about money

  37. As somemody who works the BONES, it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. They want to keep these pigs flying for years. The current challenge to to double Ops capacity. Really, who's going to kill a bird that dropped more AOR muns in 2008 than all other airframes combined? I have a love-hate relationship with it but I feel secure in my job.

  38. StevenDDeacon | June 26, 2010 at 10:15 am |

    I know this is ancient history for most of you. The B-52 was actually designed as a high-altitude bomber for nuclear strikes. However, when the Soviet Union developed SAM missiles to knock out U-2 spy planes at 70K feet the tactics of the B-52 had to change to flying nap of the earth to get to target, which is what it was not designed for. The B1B Lancer was specifically designed to fly knap of the earth with its variable swept wing, (as found on the F117 and F14), and ground tracking avionics then bug out after delivering its nuclear payload. The B-52 is still a great high-altitude bomber and the B1B complements it by being able to perform both missions exceedingly well. With the B-2 and F111 stealth bombers and with air superiority achieved by our F-22, F15, F16, FA-18, and soon the F-35 fighters, plus surface to air and air to air missile countermeasure technology … we are assured of deploying all of our large bomber models by their respective tactical strengths. Remember that today we have very good stand off missile technology we can also deploy from our bombers. If anyone has any doubts about the A-10 I suggest they look at its kill rate during Desert Storm and the Gulf War.

  39. i don't think they get destroyed , they'll get wrapped up in a config. that can ,in a reasonable time ,be returned back to flight if need be. That is what they did with the F-117s. actually a smart move , leave them set hang out with no money being spent , then when we need them pull them off the shelf and let the chinese wonder what the hell just bombed them, having spent 10 years training to shoot down drones and what not, everything but bones :-)

  40. B-1R

    The B-1R is a proposed replacement for the B-1B fleet.[57] Boeing's director of global strike integration, Rich Parke, was first quoted about the "B-1R" bomber in Air Force Magazine.[58] Parke said the B-1R (R for "regional") would be a Lancer with advanced radars, air-to-air missiles, and Pratt & Whitney F119 engines (originally developed for the F-22 Raptor).[58] Its new top speed of Mach 2.2 would be purchased at the price of a 20% reduction of the B-1B's range.[58] This proposal would involve modifying existing aircraft. The FB-22 and YF-23-based designs are alternative proposals.[58]

    Boeing's proposal appears to modify the B-1B into a design able to serve these two purposes. For the bomb-truck role Boeing proposes the modification of existing external hardpoints to allow them to carry multiple conventional warheads, dramatically improving overall warload. For the air-to-air role, both defensive and offensive, they propose to add active electronically-scanned array radar and allow some of the hardpoints to carry air-to-air missiles. Even with its somewhat reduced range as compared to the original B-1B, its fuel capacity remains quite large. This would allow it to escape from unfavorable air-to-air encounters by simply running away; there are few enough aircraft capable of Mach 2+ performance in general, and those that are deployed can maintain these speeds for only very short periods of time" Wiki

    4 F-110 engines would give you 120,000 lbs of thrust. Some stealth coatings, tail redesign and you've got something that can lift big things, run from fire and cover some distance…….

    Its going to take some time for a drone to do anything like this….

  41. They better start thinking about some bennies, layoffs, and pay cuts if they expect us to continue to have a first rate military, if not we will got the way of the old Soviet Union. Sounds tough but tough time call for drastic measures.

  42. davec.0121 | June 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm |

    I've noticed several comments about the Marines. Other than sentiment and very good PR, why DO we actually need the Marines as a separate branch?

  43. Either way, When you cut item's from the overall force, Then all you do is make problems later on down the road. Cutting those weapon system's is wrong. The only way this nation can stand up against those is in having a strong fighting force. Cutting is so wrong.

  44. Retired Engine Mech | June 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm |

    There are too many people on drugs, here. War with Korea or China will chew up our shrinking, aging fighter force in short order. It takes YEARS to gear up to produce a modern warplane. What you have when the war starts is it. Ford, GM, and Chrysler aren't going to be able to quickly switch to weapons as they did in WW2. Our current fearless leader is setting us up for a BIG defeat. He wants to waste TRILLIONS of $$ on worthless programs, while leaving our military impotent, and our borders open for terrorists to sneek in and nuke us.

  45. remember what this administration said” we cant afford this many b-1 bombers and must make defense cuts” when the usa is burning and being infvaded by iranians and chinese. give the us military espically the air force a blank check. **** the health care issues, cause the miltary strength is the most important, besides what good is universal health care when were all dead!

  46. JAMES KING | July 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm |


  47. Get rid of the B-52s althogether, reduce the B-2s and start build a $h!tload of B-1Rs! Modernize and update the F-22s then produce more of them, scale back on the worhtless F-35s, move forward on 6th Gen aircraft. How do we pay for this you ask? That's easy! Quit defending the rest of the world, Europe especially! Get rid of this socialist Nanny state crap! Quit taxing the hell out of our industries to where they either move out or fold, so that we can bring back our industrial might. No, it's not cheap labor that they are leaving for, it's the FACT that our idiotic politicians (both sides) tax and regulate the hell out of them, making this a very unbusinessfriendly place. The only businesses that are left are the ones that are extremely corrupt and have bought off the politicians.

  48. The sad part is we pat ourselves on the back for saving a few bucks while our enemies in the world are arming and preparing to fight us.

  49. Cuts!!! We need those A10s and f16s. Just cut teh politician salaries for petes sake. Sure, cut down on fighters when countries like Russia, china and iran are building more. Control of the air is everything, once our precious fighters are scaled down in numbers what next?
    THe f35 wont be around for a couple years and they already are cutting down legacy fighters, how smart. Maybe they will launch reapers and predators at su30s, Ha!!!

  50. Obama is increasing the military budget even higher than Bush. It is the Generals who insist on fewer aircraft so they can be so expensive super duper.

    Retire the B-2s instead.

  51. The current administration didn't create the problem of the national debt rising out of control, which is the reason we need to find significant cuts today. The problem started in the 1982 with Reagan buildup, extending through the Bush term, building many of the most expensive systems while lowering taxes. These include 15 of our 18 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, 7 of our 10 Nimitz-class carriers, the B-1B and the B-2, and of course, SDI research.

    The current administration also did not start the expensive and unnecessary war in Iraq, but has disengaged from combat on the schedule set at the start of the term.

    The national debt is a serious problem which must be brought under control.

  52. All of the above mentioned aircraft are rapidly running out of their usable lifetime of flight hours.
    The f-15 fleet dates back to the late 70's along with the f-16's and a-10's. I am not privvy to the service life of different aircraft. They all did not arrive at different bases at the same time. They were all delivered in different production blocks. Some of the later delivered aircraft were the F-15E models during the late eighties early 90's.
    Some of the C 141 fleet were retired with over 40,000 flight hours.
    Another war horse rapidly running out of service life is the Black hawk helicopter fleet that is working with all of the services.
    The newer F-22 fleets that are deployed around our country in Alaska,Hawaii and at Langley are flat out expensive to fly and maintain. They typically have no advesary flying anywhere in the world. We also have a F35 program in three different versions that is about four years overdue dliveries to the Marines to replace the Harrier.
    The "A" model is going to the USAF the "B"model to the Marine Corps. and the "C' model to the Navy. It first was known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
    Another question is with the world as it now is,what is it that we really need for National Security? Who is are biggest threat?
    We have an Air Force that could strike anywhere in the world. We have 10 Aircraft Carriers roaming the world oceans from time to time and not all at once.
    We have a nuclear Submarine force roaming the oceans armed to the teeth a Coast Guard to guard our shores. Lets not forget the US Army that can be deployed globally if needed.
    The biggest threat I see in the near future is not from the middle east but from CHINA.
    Then there is also an immigration issue of 14 to 20,000,000 people in our country that do not belong here. With that large number it could actually be considered an invasion.
    Enough for now.

  53. B good if they could float like a seamaster, dive like a heron, climb like a x15sr71on an atlas4, couple of minotaur, could fly a long way, a viper 8 ld range would be good. Like the shuttle hey, lot of skilled workers, peaceful times call for peaceful measures. A lunar directorate, like Antarctica or the iss is needed for the moon and mars, some people love the puddle.

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