The bomber conducted a flyover of the city of Abilene before landing. Rumors spread widely that the noise from the bomber would break windows all over town. This, of course, did not happen, but the first rumble of the B-1B was satisfyingly loud.
The B-1 Lancer is a swing-wing bomber intended for high-speed, low-altitude penetration missions. Its first flight was in December 1974, but by June 1977 the program was canceled. Four Rockwell International B-1As were built and used for flight testing with the final flight made in April 1981. In October, President Ronald Reagan revived the program as the B-1B. It first flew Oct. 18, 1984, could operate at 60,000 feet and had a range of more than 7,000 miles. The US Air Force (USAF) ordered 100 B-1Bs in 1982, and the first B-1B aircraft was delivered to the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., in October 1984, just 33 months after contract go-ahead. The last Rockwell B-1B rolled out of final assembly at Palmdale, Calif., on Jan. 20, 1988.
On Jun. 29, 1985 “The Star of Abilene” (83-0065) the second operational B-1B bomber was delivered to the 96th Bombardment Wing at Dyess.
A crowd of about 45,000 people gathered at the Dyess flight line to see the new aircraft. The bomber conducted a flyover of the city of Abilene before landing. Rumors spread widely that the noise from the bomber would break windows all over town. This, of course, did not happen, but the first rumble of the B-1B was satisfyingly loud.
Lore of this event says the Star of Abilene did not actually make it’s debut that day due to engine trouble. The only other operational B-1B (82-0001) on standby at Edwards AFB, with a Star of Abilene decal applied flew in for the dedication instead. During the flight the decal ripped partway off because the recently placed decal had not had time to cure to the painted hull. According to Dyess AFB Memorial Museum and Linear Air Park Facebook page, no documentary evidence of this story was found, but several related individuals reported the story.
The “Star of Abilene” (83-0065) was retired to the Dyess Linear Air Park for display inside the Dyess main gate following her final flight on Mar. 1, 2003. She gave 17 years and seven months of faithful service.
Initial operational capability (IOC) for the B-1B bomber was achieved on Oct. 1, 1986.
The USAF eliminated the nuclear mission for the B-1 in 1994. Even though the Air Force expended no further funding to maintain nuclear capabilities, the B-1 was still considered a heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armament until 2007. The conversion to conventional only began in November 2007 under the original START treaty and was completed in March 2011 under the New START treaty.
Today the multi-mission B-1 is the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force: in fact it can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Allison Payne / U.S. Air Force