No BONES about it, the B-1 is combat proven, future ready

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joel Mease and Airman 1st Class Kedesha Pennant
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With tens of thousands of pounds of engine thrust generated from each of its four afterburners, it would be hard to mistake the sight, sound and feel of the B-1B Lancer as the bomber passed by 30,000 plus onlookers during the 2015 Dyess Big Country Airfest here May 2-3, celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Whether flying over West Texan skies or over the rocky terrain of Afghanistan, Americans and their allies have come to welcome the sight of the B-1.

Since 1985, when the B-1B was introduced to the Air Force, the aircraft affectionately dubbed, "the Bone," has amassed a band of uniformed and civilian supporters who have aided in the development, operation and sustainment of the jet.

In combination with the Dyess Big Country Airfest, more than 400 former and current aircrew, maintainers, logisticians, contractors, and support personnel from the B-1 community recently gathered at the site where the Bone debuted 30 years earlier, reuniting to celebrate their shared history and advocate for the future of the airframe.

Built with the Cold War in mind, the B-1 was originally manufactured as a peacekeeper. The B-1's architects designed it to serve as a nuclear deterrent, capable of slipping into deep Soviet territory to deliver mutual destruction. And while the advent of the B-1 hastened the end of the Cold War, peacetime was indefinite. As towers fell in New York City, the B-1 was once again called upon to secure the nation's best interests.

The true calling of the B-1 became apparent during Operation Enduring Freedom, where the range, persistence and speed of the bomber offered ground forces a war-fighting platform that could respond to nearly anywhere in Afghanistan within an hour and still have hours of overhead support. Within the first six months of the war in Afghanistan, the B-1 dropped 40 percent of all the tonnage, and as B-1 crews adapted to support interdiction missions as well as close air support missions, the Lancer quickly became the top choice of the combatant commander.

For more than a decade, the B-1 has served as the most revered -- and feared -- bomber in the world. During Dyess' 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron's latest deployment, the unit released a record-breaking number of ordnance, dropping more than 2,000 bombs in the performance of close air support activities during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve. To date, the B-1 has been deployed in support of combat operations for 139 months and counting.

With an illustrious, 30-year career, it would be easy to rest on the Lancer's laurels, but the B-1 community is looking to the future. In fact, the fleet is currently undergoing the largest modification in its program history, ensuring the B-1 remains a viable combat asset through its projected service life of 2040.

Pushing the jet to fly faster and farther and become more lethal than ever before, the B-1 community is once again adapting to meet the needs of the Air Force and maintain its status as the combatant commanders' breadwinning airframe -- which means advocates of the Bone can appreciate the sight, sound and feel of the B-1 overhead for another quarter-century.