A Flying Missile Truck: What the B-1 Lancer Can Really Do

Kyle Mizokami

Kyle Mizokami

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She might be old, but...

A Flying Missile Truck: What the B-1 Lancer Can Really Do

The B-1B, already known to carry a large number of missiles, could carry even more on external hardpoints.

Like many warplanes since the end of the Cold War, the B-1B bomber’s role in American airpower has changed to embrace new missions. Unlike other planes, the B-1’s mission changed even before the first aircraft took off. What started as a high-altitude, high-speed nuclear-penetration bomber has evolved into today’s all-purpose nonnuclear attack aircraft, a jack-of-all-trades with a huge carrying capacity for bombs and air-to-ground missiles.

(This first appeared several years ago.)

After the cancellation of the supersonic XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, the U.S. Air Force struggled with the best approach to penetrating Soviet missile defenses with a manned bomber. The advent of surface-to-air missiles had made the airspace of the USSR particularly deadly and a tough nut to crack, and air-warfare strategists were unsure whether a high-altitude, high-speed dash or a low-altitude sneak was the best approach. After no fewer than four bomber studies, the B-1A bomber first flew in January 1974. High altitude and high speed had won out—the B-1A was capable of Mach 2.22 at a height of fifty thousand feet.

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