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The Air Force Is Exploring A Deadly New Role For The B-1B Lancer


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The United States Air Force’s 28th Bomb Wing based at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota could become the first Rockwell International B-1B Lancer unit to be equipped with Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile. Crews at the base started to train on the new weapon earlier this month.
“The crews were given all the academic training and some of the computer training that goes along with it and as we continue to get the crews qualified they’ll do a lot of training in the aircraft as well as in the simulator,” 28th Bomb Wing commander Col. John Edwards told KOTA TV .
While Edwards did not disclose an exact timeline for when the new LRASM missile would enter the 28 th Bomb Wing’s inventory, the addition of the AGM-158C would give the venerable B-1B a new maritime strike mission.
“It provides combatant commanders out there across the world with a very key anti-ship capability in what we call the counter sea mission,” Edwards told the TV station. “So it’s designed to specifically to go against ships and it increases the B-1’s lethality and the range at which we can employ this.”
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The B-1B’s new maritime strike role would be a surprise for the Lancer’s designers in the 1960s.
The original B-1A was a Mach 2.2 capable high altitude strategic bomber designed to deliver a nuclear payload into the heart of what was then the Soviet Union. However, as Moscow’s defenses against high altitude aircraft stiffened and Washington embarked on the development of cruise missiles and stealth technology—particularly the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit—then-President Jimmy Carter canceled the Lancer project in 1977.
President Ronald Reagan restarted the Lancer program in 1981, but the modified B-1B was redesigned to be a low-level penetrating bomber that had a maximum speed of about Mach 1.25. The new B-1B started deliveries in 1986 and by the time the 100th and last aircraft was delivered in 1988, the Air Force had already concluded that the jet would not survive against the Soviet Union’s fearsome air defenses.
However, the end of the Cold War gave the B-1B a new lease on life. With the Soviet Union a fading memory and the nuclear mission declining in importance, the Air Force disabled the B-1B’s nuclear capabilities and began modifying the massive bomber for the conventional precision strike role. The entire fleet was converted into the conventional role by 2011.
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The B-1B remains a potent weapon and has performed well in recent conflicts. Most recently, the bomber was used to launch nineteen AGM-158A JASSM cruise missiles against Syrian targets in retaliation for the Assad regime’s alleged chemical weapons attacks this past April. The JASSM, longer-ranged JASSM-ER and the LRASM—which all share the same stealthy missile body—ensures the B-1B’s ability to operate against heavily defended airspace. The Lancer long ago ceased to be a penetrating strike aircraft since modern air defenses are simply too capable for the non-stealthy jet to handle.
However, the B-1B is entering the last stage of its service life. The Air Force expects to retire its 66 B-1B and its 20 Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit bombers in favor of the new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bomber.
The last B-1B will likely leave service by 2036 when Air Force strategic bomber fleet will consist of the B-21 and long-serving Boeing B-52.

 

 

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The last B-1B will likely leave service by 2036 when Air Force strategic bomber fleet will consist of the B-21 and long-serving Boeing B-52.

The longevity of the 52 is still just... not even sure what word to use to describe it.

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"The new B-1B started deliveries in 1986 and by the time the 100th and last aircraft was delivered in 1988, the Air Force had already concluded that the jet would not survive against the Soviet Union’s fearsome air defenses."

 

Nonsense. The area defence SAMs were close to harmless to a terrain-following aircraft, and the few MiG-31 fighters with look-down radar and the few AEW aircraft left giant gaps in the Soviet air defences.

Moreover, the ability to bring AGM-86 to a suitable launch position was never in doubt.

 

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The use of a somewhat stealthy bomber (and B-1B is very stealthy relative to its size when seen from the front and could be even stealthier if modern RAM was applied) makes sense for the anti-ship missile launch job, but AGM-158C's long range (over 200 nm) may render this unnecessary even against notional PLAN CVBGs that include AEW.

Edited by lastdingo
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The last B-1B will likely leave service by 2036 when Air Force strategic bomber fleet will consist of the B-21 and long-serving Boeing B-52.

The longevity of the 52 is still just... not even sure what word to use to describe it.

 

B-52 = Cher. :closedeyes:

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"The new B-1B started deliveries in 1986 and by the time the 100th and last aircraft was delivered in 1988, the Air Force had already concluded that the jet would not survive against the Soviet Union’s fearsome air defenses."

 

Nonsense. The area defence SAMs were close to harmless to a terrain-following aircraft, and the few MiG-31 fighters with look-down radar and the few AEW aircraft left giant gaps in the Soviet air defences.

Moreover, the ability to bring AGM-86 to a suitable launch position was never in doubt.

 

-------------------------------

 

The use of a somewhat stealthy bomber (and B-1B is very stealthy relative to its size when seen from the front and could be even stealthier if modern RAM was applied) makes sense for the anti-ship missile launch job, but AGM-158C's long range (over 200 nm) may render this unnecessary even against notional PLAN CVBGs that include AEW.

 

Well they had to justify the B2 somehow. :)

 

There was actually a program to explore making the B1 stealthier by the incorporation of stealth technology. When you look at the mind buggering cost of the B2 program, you cant help but think a stealthier B1 was the way to go.

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The B-2 was entirely superfluous because of ALCM and air launched-MRBM technology.

The current new bomber project doesn't seem to make sense either. That's a self-serving bureaucracy on autopilot, without effective civilian oversight or political guidance away from teh path of pursuit of bureaucratic self-interest.

 

BTW, the B-52's first flight (1952) is closer to the Wright Flyer's first flight (1903) than to today.

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Truth be told, if you want a bomb truck, which seems to be whats most required these days, you may as well built an equivalent of the B52 based on new technology.

 

Its hard to see why an F35 with a tanker wouldn't be viable against pretty mcuh all the precision targets that ALCM's wont work on.

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The B-2 was entirely superfluous because of ALCM and air launched-MRBM technology.

The current new bomber project doesn't seem to make sense either. That's a self-serving bureaucracy on autopilot, without effective civilian oversight or political guidance away from teh path of pursuit of bureaucratic self-interest.

 

certainly looks like there is not much need for an "invisible" bomber, when you could buy lots and lots ALCM and MRBM instead. bussed around by something like the bone so the enemy cannot be too sure from where the missiles are bing launched.

 

BTW, the B-52's first flight (1952) is closer to the Wright Flyer's first flight (1903) than to today.

 

So is Cher's birthday. And like Cher no bolt is original after having been overhauled so often.

 

 

thank you Leo, for the laugh. :lol: :lol:

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American strategic air goes full circle--again. The selling rationale for the B-17 was to bomb(ard) invading fleets far at sea; the real origin of the name 'Flying Fortress' was as a flying coastal defense installation.

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The use of a somewhat stealthy bomber (and B-1B is very stealthy relative to its size when seen from the front and could be even stealthier if modern RAM was applied) makes sense for the anti-ship missile launch job, but AGM-158C's long range (over 200 nm) may render this unnecessary even against notional PLAN CVBGs that include AEW.

The B-1 can come in on the deck very close to super sonic. Even against an an AEW platform at altitude there isn't going to be a lot of warning before it is inside the 200+ range of AGM-158C. I suspect at some point there will be an upgraded version that trades the warhead for something smaller to fit more fuel. The LRASM maintains the 1000# penetrating warhead of the A/B versions, which is really unnecessary against any modern warship. I think it was retained just to expedite production.

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American strategic air goes full circle--again. The selling rationale for the B-17 was to bomb(ard) invading fleets far at sea; the real origin of the name 'Flying Fortress' was as a flying coastal defense installation.

Is that right? I always assumed it was a references to the Armament.

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The use of a somewhat stealthy bomber (and B-1B is very stealthy relative to its size when seen from the front and could be even stealthier if modern RAM was applied) makes sense for the anti-ship missile launch job, but AGM-158C's long range (over 200 nm) may render this unnecessary even against notional PLAN CVBGs that include AEW.

The B-1 can come in on the deck very close to super sonic. Even against an an AEW platform at altitude there isn't going to be a lot of warning before it is inside the 200+ range of AGM-158C. I suspect at some point there will be an upgraded version that trades the warhead for something smaller to fit more fuel. The LRASM maintains the 1000# penetrating warhead of the A/B versions, which is really unnecessary against any modern warship. I think it was retained just to expedite production.

 

 

Could they be thinking of Carrier plinking? The AS6 had a pretty hefty warhead as well.

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@Josh

Yeah, I wrote something like that - even C-17s with AGM-158 could likely get into launch position against PLAN CVBG with AEW cover. I just refrained from writing about it because I remember the propaganda about how awesome the F-14 as first layer of defence was supposed to be in the 80's and others might remember that too and begin to discuss about the margins of the possible instead of about expected attrition.

 

@Stuart

Yea, the USAAC/USAAF justified the B-17 during the late 30's in part by pointing at its supposed ability to defend against hostile fleets.

Its search capability was useful, but its bombing capability was marginal against warships (unless flown in near-suicidal skip bombing attacks as near Rabaul in 1942).

Edited by lastdingo
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No, it uses the exact same warhead as the previous versions and unlike AS4/6, most of it is the hard case of the penetrator. There's something like a hundred kg of actual explosive. It seems to me a thinner case with more HE would be more optimal for most any target; the WDU of AGM-158 could probably come out of the other side of a ship pretty easily.

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American strategic air goes full circle--again. The selling rationale for the B-17 was to bomb(ard) invading fleets far at sea; the real origin of the name 'Flying Fortress' was as a flying coastal defense installation.

Is that right? I always assumed it was a references to the Armament.
Yep. Consider that up through the B-17D, they were rather lightly armed4 manually-operated .50s and one .30.
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the B-17's best naval attacks were against enemy harbours. That is kind of a coastal defense I guess? ;)

 

 


 

B-52's used to carry Harpoon. Nothing new under the sun.

 

So did the Orion

 

 

Does. ;) Still in servce outside the US Navy.

 

But the P-3 is a maritime patrol aircraft, so not unexpecte to carry AShM. I guess they put the HArpoon on the B-52, because why not? You can shoot Harpoons at ships and land targets.

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Remember, the B-17 was conceived during the Billy Mitchell/Depression years. In those days, strategic bombardment was considered THE decisive tactic, but the planes were way too expensive for a struggling Congress, so 'defending the coasts against invading fleets' made them sound reasonable compared to the expense of capital warships.

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I'd always hoped for an anti-ship version of the ALCM -- about 10x the range of a harpoon, a 3,000 lbs class warhead, LO from the front (IIRC) and on top of all that the B-52 could carry vastly more (20 vs 8). As long as you had some way of externally feeding targeting data, it's hard to imagine the vast amounts of ocean a wing could cover.

Edited by Burncycle360
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I was kind of hoping this was a re-kindling of the counter-air B1B proposed (new radar software, rotary phoenix launcher)

Trying to do that with a newer Phoenix class missile even seems a little unworkable, given the likely future prevalence of very long range 'AWACS killer' AAM. I think if you were going to do it today, it would use one of the Standard missiles (Rim-174 ?) and would have ABM/ACM capability, i.e. an airborne area SAM system. This is close to the Russian approach discussed elsewhere.

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the B-17's best naval attacks were against enemy harbours. That is kind of a coastal defense I guess? ;)

 

 


 

B-52's used to carry Harpoon. Nothing new under the sun.

 

So did the Orion

 

 

Does. ;) Still in servce outside the US Navy.

 

But the P-3 is a maritime patrol aircraft, so not unexpecte to carry AShM. I guess they put the HArpoon on the B-52, because why not? You can shoot Harpoons at ships and land targets.

 

Still in service in US Navy, no?

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