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Rockwell B-1B Lancer

posted by Jiri Wagner

The B-1B is a multi-role, long-range bomber, capable of flying intercontinental missions without refueling, then penetrating present and predicted sophisticated enemy defenses. It can perform a variety of missions, including that of a conventional weapons carrier for theater operations. The B-1B's electronic jamming equipment, infrared countermeasures, radar location and warning systems complement its low-radar cross-section and form an integrated defense system for the aircraft.

The swing-wing design and turbofan engines not only provide greater range and high speed at low levels but they also enhance the bomber's survivability. Wing sweep at the full-forward position allows a short takeoff roll and a fast base-escape profile for airfields under attack. Once airborne, the wings are positioned for maximum cruise distance or high-speed penetration. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground based navigation aids. Included in the B-1B offensive avionics are modular electronics that allow maintenance personnel to precisely identify technical difficulties and replace avionics components in a fast, efficient manner on the ground.

The aircraft's AN/ALQ 161A defensive avionics is a comprehensive electronic counter-measures package that detects and counters enemy radar threats. It also has the capability to detect and counter missiles attacking from the rear. It defends the aircraft by applying the appropriate counter-measures, such as electronic jamming or dispensing expendable chaff and flares. Similar to the offensive avionics, the defensive suite has a re-programmable design that allows in-flight changes to be made to counter new or changing threats. The B-1B represents a major upgrade in U.S. long-range capabilities over the aging B-52 -- the previous mainstay of the bomber fleet.

Significant advantages include:

Low radar cross-section to make detection considerably more difficult.
Ability to fly lower and faster while carrying a larger payload.
Advanced electronic countermeasures to enhance survivability.

Numerous sustainment and upgrade modifications are ongoing or under study for the B-1B aircraft. A large portion of these modifications which are designed to increase the combat capability are known as the conventional mission upgrade program. This three phase program will increase the lethality, survivability and supportabilty of the B-1B fleet. Phase I of the program, scheduled for completion by the end of FY 96, will add the capability to release cluster bomb unit weapons. Phases II and III will further upgrade the B-1B capability, to include the ability to deliver joint direct attack munitions ans standoff weapons. The first B-1B was delivered to the Air Force at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1985, with initial operational capability on Oct. 1, 1986. The final B-1B was delivered May 2, 1988. 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.  

General characteristics

Primary function Long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber
Contractor Rockwell International, North American Aircraft
Power plant Four General Electric F-101-GE-102 turbofan engine with afterburner
Thrust with afterburner 4x 30,800 lb 4x 137 kN
Length 147 ft 44.81 m
Wingspan 136.7 ft (41.67 m) angle 15 78.2 ft (23.84 m) angle 67,5
Height 34 ft 10.36 m
Weight empty 192,133 lb 87,150 kg
max. takeoff 477,000 lb 216,364 kg
Max. speed 825 mph 1,328 km/h
Range 7,456 miles 12,000 km 

intercontinental, unrefueled

Ceiling 50,000 ft 15,240 m
Crew Four (aircraft commander, pilot, offensive systems officer and defensive systems officer)
Armament Up to 84 Mark 82 conventional 500-pound bombs and 30 CBU-87/89/97. Also can be reconfigured to carry a wide range of nuclear weapons
Date deployed June 1985
Unit cost $200-plus million per aircraft


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