Losses and Aviation Safety

USAF has only 6 Fully Combat Ready B-1B Strategic Bombers

Of the fleet of 61 B-1B Lancers, 15 are in depot maintenance and 39 aircraft are down for inspections or other issues.

At the Senate confirmation hearing for Gen. John Hyten on Jul. 30, 2019 it was disclosed that the U.S. Air Force has only six fully mission-capable B-1B bombers.

The B-1 fleet is in the midst of an intensive slate of maintenance work and upgrades. Of the 61 jets, 15 are in depot maintenance and 39 aircraft are down for inspections or other issues, Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota senator, said during the hearing.

As reported by Air Force Magazine, in response, Hyten implored lawmakers to provide B-1 maintenance funding to reverse the fleet’s problems.

“We were just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them,” Hyten said. “We had to pull back a little and get after fixing those issues. The depots can do that if they have stable funding.”

The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee hinted at the issue in legislation earlier this year. House lawmakers asked the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to report back with a readiness recovery plan for the conventionally armed bomber. Long known as a workhorse overseas, the B-1s were grounded for nearly four weeks this spring due to issues with ejection seat.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-1B Lancer 28th FW, 34th BS Thunderbirds, EL/86-129 / 2005

According to the subcommittee’s version of the 2020 defense policy bill, Senators want the Air Force to take more responsibility for solving the problems. “The committee is concerned B-1 readiness does not have the priority and resources to improve B-1 mission-capable rates,” the report states. “This is evidenced by fully mission-capable aircraft currently in single digits and aircrew being rerouted from flying the B-1 to other aircraft due to lack of B-1 aircraft for training.”

The Air Force also grounded B-1s in June 2018, after the wing of an aircraft from Dyess AFB, Tex., caught fire during training—and the ejection seat would not budge.

Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has acknowledged B-1 inspections as necessary for the aging fleet despite affecting readiness. The Boeing-built B-1s entered service in the 1980s, but didn’t fly their  first combat mission until 1998. Since then, however, it’s been a workhorse.

“It’s not a young airplane,” Ray said. “Wear and tear is part of the things we find.”

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • “House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee”

    Talk about MICRO-managing stuff.
    1. The SENATE probably has such a committee too.
    2. This means the Navy and other services are FIGHTING over funding support from this committee, its members, lobbyists, staff, etc.

    Just give the military a BUDGET and a Mission and get the hell out of their way.

    Pick a number, any number. $1 Trillion, 5% of GDP, 20% of federal revenue. Any number will do. Then let the experts, not a bunch of Sunday morning backseat quarterbacks who THINK they know what is best for the military (they barely know what is best for their constituents) (and the ONLY person they care about doing what is best for is themselves), do what is best to FULFILL that MISSION.

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