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The Rockwell B-1A Lancer Was Way Ahead of Its Time, But Brought Down By Politics

The Bomber That Died and Was Brought Back To Life is Still Going Strong 32 Years Later

Official US Air Force photograph

When Rockwell and the United States Air Force (USAF) produced the film “B-1 On the Move- Supersonic” the Bone was still in test. Although the B-1A was a truly impressive and very capable bomber, political considerations did the aircraft in. President Jimmy Carter killed the program. President Ronal Reagan brought a modified version of the aircraft back to life a few years later in 1981. Bone fans will appreciate the footage of a young aircraft going through the testing program. The video was uploaded to YouTube by PeriscopeFilm.

Official US Air Force photograph

Today the Rockwell (Boeing) B-1B Lancer forms a significant part of the Air Force Global Strike command along with the stealthy Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit and the venerable Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. First envisioned during the 1960s as a replacement for both the Convair B-58 Hustler and the B-52, things didn’t quite go according to that plan. The B-1A program was chopped in part because of the capabilities of the Boeing AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).

Official US Air Force photograph

The B-1B in service today differs from the B-1A in several ways. The B-1B boasts a lower top speed at high altitude ( Mach 1.25) but is faster at low altitude (Mach 0.96). The B-1B is also equipped with vastly improved avionics and defensive countermeasures. The B-1Bs airframe is also strengthened to allow a higher maximum takeoff weight leading to improved payloads. The B-1B entered service first with Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1986, became a part of Air Combat Command when SAC was disbanded, and though 100 total airframes were delivered, 67 of them serve today with Global Strike Command.

Official US Air Force photograph

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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