If these bones could talk

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kia Atkins
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"I'm honored to extend my warmest greetings to those gathered at Dyess AFB for the arrival of your first B-1 bomber. This latest addition to our strategic forces is dramatic proof that America has not strayed from its commitments to the protection of the liberties that our people cherish. The aircraft you inaugurate today helps ensure our nation's preparedness against aggression and reflects its dedication to the values that made it great. I salute you all who have made this moment possible. God bless and protect you in the performance of your vital duties in the service of our flag and country."

These words were read from a letter written by President Ronald Reagan during the arrival ceremony for the first B-1 here.

Richard Warner, 7th Bomb Wing museum curator, said the arrival of the first B-1 was met with crowds of thousands of visitors at the base, the flightline was covered with current (at the time) and World War II era bombers to show the proud heritage from which the B-1 had been born.

In the 1970s, the B-1A was initially developed as a replacement for the B-52. In October 1984, the first production B-1B flew and in June 1985, the first B-1 arrived at Dyess.

"The local community was really excited about being the home of the first B-1s," Warner said. "Everywhere you went in town there were billboards, bumper stickers, shirts, hats and numerous other items promoting the new aircraft and its arrival."

Upon the arrival of the first B-1, then Col. Alan Rogers, former commander of the 96th Bomb Wing, shared his thoughts with the base community through a commentary in the Peacemaker newspaper.

"Thanks Dyess and Abilene! Well, it's finally here," he said. "With the arrival of our first B-1B, 'The Star of Abilene,' (which now resides right beside the front gate) a new age in strategic aviation has begun. Last Saturday will remain with me forever - the image of our nation's new bomber as it roared low over our heads."

He went on to further thank everyone for their contributions in making the arrival of the B-1 a momentous occasion.

"We are a team -but the team isn't just Dyess; it's also the community of Abilene," Rogers said. "Without its support, the entire project could never have been completed. We're most fortunate to have such dedicated, patriotic, selfless and supportive neighbors. We couldn't have done it without them."

The local community saw an influx of new Airmen to fly and maintain the new weapons system, as well as contractors that came to build new base facilities to maintain and house the B-1.

"The new bomber was just that...all new," Warner said. "Everybody involved with the aircraft was excited for the new technology. Airmen were handpicked from all over the Air Force for this new weapons system."

The Air Force hadn't received a new heavy bomber in 24 years - after the arrival of the B-52s had been delivered so the B-1 was considered by many as cutting technology in 1985, Warner said.

Since 1985, Dyess has received 33 B-1s to aid the 7th Bomb Wing mission, which is to provide dominant air power and combat support to combatant and joint force commanders anytime, anywhere.

The B-1B carries the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory; the multi-mission B-1 is considered the backbone of America's long-range bomber force.

Dyess's B-1s have received numerous upgrades throughout the years to further establish its air superiority. Although it's close to 30 years old, upgrades to its radar systems and computer software have significantly increased the bombers longevity.

One of the more recent upgrades is the Integrated Battle Station upgrade, which is a combination of three different upgrades to include a fully integrated data link, a vertical situation display upgrade and central integrated system upgrade.

Upgrades such as these enable the B-1 to grow and keep pace with newer platforms that the aircraft may be working with.

"When you add up all that the aircraft is already capable of, and then add the reliability and new communication features; everyone is going to want the B-1 protecting their ground forces and providing directed firepower across the globe," said Master Sgt. Eric Dassinger, 7th Maintenance Group avionics manager.

Having seen the changes first hand for the last three plus decades, Warner said the B-1 has met those initial expectations and more.

"After all the bugs were worked out, the aircraft really evolved after the end of the Cold War," Warner said. "Its mission changed and as we all know its new record in combat is unsurpassed."