The Rockwell B-1 Lancer[N 1] is a four-engine supersonic variable-sweep wing, jet-powered heavy strategic bomber used by the United States Air Force (USAF). In the early 1990s, following the Gulf War and concurrent with the disestablishment of SAC and its reassignment to the newly formed Air Combat Command (ACC), the B-1B was converted to conventional bombing use. It first served in combat during Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and again during the NATO action in Kosovo the following year.Designed by Rockwell International (now part of Boeing), development was delayed multiple times over its history due to changes in the perceived need for manned bombers.
Role Supersonic heavy strategic bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer North American Rockwell/Rockwell International Boeing
First flight 23 December 1974
Introduction 1 October 1986
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced 1973-74, 1983-88
Number built B-1A: 4 B-1B: 100
US$283.1 million in 1998 (B-1B
Conceived by Rockwell for the low altitude penetration nuclear bombar role and developed for the USAF in response to the latter's Advanced Manned Strategie Aircraft requirement, issued in 1965, the B-1 was selected as a replacement for the B-52 in 1970 after it had seen off rival designs. The first of four B-IA prototypes performed its maiden flight on 23 December 1974, but in June 1977 the project was cancelled by the Carter administration. The bombar was resurrected four years later as part of President Ronald Reagan's rearming programma, and 100 improved B-lBs ware ordered Strategie Air Command had hoped to acquire 320. The B-model featured improved avionics and systems, low observable features such as radar absorbent material coatings to the outer fuselage skinning, strengthened undercarriage, fixed air inlets and the all-important APG-164 radar for navigation and terrain following. The core of the aircraft's defensive systems was the Eaton ALQ-161ECM suite, which proved unreliable in service. The prototype completed its first flight on 18 October 1984, and production jets began reaching the 96th BW in July 1985. All 100 B-IBs had been delivered by May 1988, just as its primaiy nuclear strike mission against the USSR disappeared following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. The USAF initially struggled to fmd a mission for its hugely expensive fleet of B-ls, but in the mid 1990s it commenced the Conventional Mission Upgrade Program, which saw the bomber modified so that it could carry guided and unguided ordnance. Although retaining its nuclear strike capability, the B-1 Lancer (so named in 1990) can now also employ GPS-guided J-weapons and conventional iron bombs. The jet made its combat debut over Iraq during Operation DesertFox in December 1998, and bas since seen action over the Balkans in 1999 and during the ongoing Global War on Terror. Some 67 B-ls are currently used in frontline service, with the remaining aircraft having been retired to the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center, where they are used as spares for operational jets.