The United States has three bombers – the B-1B Lancer, the stealth B-2 Spirit, and the B-52 Stratofortress – to deliver thousands of tons of firepower in combat.
A form of B-52 has been in use since 1955. The B-1B made its maiden flight in 1974 and the B-2 celebrated its 30th anniversary in the sky in 2019. A new stealth bomber, the B-21, is in operation. production and is expected to fly in December 2021, although details on this are scarce.
The US Air Force has conducted missions in Europe with B-52s and B-2s to project dominance against Russia and to train with NATO partners, but the bomber fleet encountered problems. The B-1B fleet struggled with low readiness rates, as Air force time reported in June 2019, likely due to its age and overuse in recent conflicts.
Here are all the bombers in the US Air Force fleet.
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on October 11, 2017.
(US Air Force)
The Air Force B-1B Lancer had mission readiness issues this year.
The Lancer is a versatile, long-range heavy bomber and has been in service since 1985, although its predecessor, the B-1A, was developed in the 1970s to replace the B-52.
The B-1B is built by Boeing and has a payload of 90,000 pounds. The Air Force is also looking for ways to expand this payload to carry more weapons and heavier weapons, including hypersonics.
The Lancer has a wingspan of 137 feet, a ceiling of 30,000 feet and can reach speeds of up to Mach 1.2, according to the Aviation. There are 62 B-1Bs currently in service.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer over the East China Sea Jan. 9, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt.Peter Reft)
The B-1B was considered a nuclear capable bomber until 2007, when its ability to carry nuclear weapons was deactivated in accordance with the START Treaty.
The B-1B is not expected to retire before 2036, but constant deployments to the Middle East between 2006 and 2016 ”broken” the fleet.
Service managers and policymakers are now wondering if the Lancer can continue to perform missions, when it should retire, and what that means for the bomber fleet as a whole.
B-52F dropping bombs on Vietnam.
(US Air Force)
The B-52 bomber has been in service since 1955.
The Air Force’s oldest bomber entered service in 1955 as the B-52A. The Air Force now flies the B-52H Stratofortress, which arrived in 1961.
He carried out missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and during operations against ISIS.
The B-52H Stratofortress can carry a payload of 70,000 pounds, including up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, and can fly at 650 mph. It also recently dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time in a decade.
The Stratofortress is expected to be in service until 2050, and the Air Force has several upgrades planned, including new engines, new radar, and a new nuclear weapon.
A B-52 bomber carrying a new hypersonic weapon.
(Edwards Air Force Base)
As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52s in service with the Air Force and 18 more with the Reserve.
Two B-52s were returned to service by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the “boneyard”, where retired or shelved planes are stored. .
One bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider” returned in 2015, and the other, “Wise Guy”, in May.
“Wise Guy,” a Stratofortress brought to Barksdale Air Force Bease in Louisiana for refurbishment, had a note scribbled in its cockpit, calling the plane, “a cold warrior who stood sentry over America’s darkest days from the cold war to the global fight against terrorism ”and ordering AMARG to“ take good care of her… until we need her again ”.
The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only stealth bomber in operation.
The B-2 was developed in a veil of secrecy by Northrop Grumman. It is a multipurpose bomber, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear munitions.
It has a payload of 40,000 pounds and has been in operational use since 1993. July was the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, and the Air Force currently owns 20.
A B-2A Spirit bomber and an F-15C Eagle over the North Sea, September 16, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The Spirit can fly at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet and has intercontinental range.
The B-2 operates out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and three of the bombers are currently flying from RAF Fairford in the UK.
Since Fairford, the B-2 has achieved several firsts this year – its first time training with non-American F-35s, its first visit to Iceland and its first extended flight over the Arctic.
(US Air Force)
Little is known about the B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s future bomber.
What we know: It will be a stealth aircraft capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.
Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is named after the Doolittle’s Raiders, the crews who carried out a daring bomb raid on Japan just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Air Force said last year that the B-21s would visit three bases when they start arriving in the mid-2020s: Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
The B-21 stealth bomber.
Air Force Magazine reported in July that the B-21 could fly as early as December 2021.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Stephen Wilson said on July 24 that he had an app on his phone “count the days … and don’t hold me back, but it’s something like 863 days before the first flight “, according to Air Force Review.
The B-21 also dominated the B-2’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, where the B-2 was built and made its maiden flight.
Company officials said work on the B-2 informed the development of the B-21, and the recently constructed buildings at Northrop Site 7 would be linked to the B-21.
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