The B-1 Bomber in World War III
The Rockwell International B-1 had a troubled gestation, with the B-1A program having been canceled by the Carter Administration in 1977, with a revived B-1B program started by President Reagan in 1981. Initial aircraft were delivered to the USAF in 1984, though the 96th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB had not yet begun transitioning to the new aircraft prior to the outbreak of war. The Wing suffered several B-52 losses to Cuban SOF on Invasion Day, and the decision was made to have the wing reform at Edwards AFB in California to begin the transition to the new aircraft as soon as possible. Deliveries began in 1986, and B-1B production continued after the war, with the B-1C version appearing in the late 1990s.
This work will cover all four B-1 variants.
B-1A: Initial version proposed for SAC in the 1980s. Four prototypes built, one crashed, one dismantled for radar testing. B-1A program canceled by President Carter 1977, but flight testing continued into the 1980s. Both prototypes used during the war for testing of B-1B systems. Prototype number two on display Edwards AFB. Prototype number four on display USAF Museum Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
B-1B. Modified A model produced beginning 1982, with emphasis on low-level performance. Speed reduced from Mach 2.2 to Mach 1.25 at high altitude, but low-level speed increased to Mach .92. RCS reduced considerably from A model, and improved ECM. 100 aircraft initially ordered, wartime production increased B-1 orders to 275. Service in Operation EASTERN EXPRESS and in sorties over European Russia. Primary nuclear penetrator during the war and in the 1990s pending arrival of B-2. All Bs upgraded to C version.
B-1C: Final version produced for SAC. Reduced RCS signature from B, ECM suite upgraded, full conventional munitions capability added, including Sniper laser designation pods. Main SAC conventional penetrator, with full SIOP capability. Limited production run of new aircraft to fill attrition, most produced through CILOP (Conversion in Lieu of Production) of Bs. Aircraft expected in service through the 2030s.
B-1K: Version of B produced for RAF. Direct replacement for Vulcan force: five squadrons and an OCU served during the war, and last two Vulcan squadrons transitioned postwar. Primary RAF strategic bomber since the 1980s. Conventional strikes into European Russia during the war, and service in several postwar conflicts. RAF designation Lancer B. Mk. I. RAF conversion of existing airframes to C standard completed in 2009, designation Lancer B. Mk II.