America’s B-1 bomber teaches Iran a firepower lesson
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On Friday, US Air Force B-1 bombers downed 85 targets at four Iranian proxy militia target areas in Syria and three in Iraq. And they did it from Texas.
The White House has promised a multi-tiered campaign against the militias with the support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. So far, President Biden and his team are relying on air power to detain and punish Iranian proxies.
But let me assure you, the strikes on Friday were just a taste of what the B-1s can unleash.
For the B-1 crews who flew Friday, those parts of Syria and Iraq are their backyard. B-1s have flown combat missions for Central Command for years, hitting fixed targets, eliminating chemical weapons sites, and flying over friendly ground forces for hours, targeting ISIS terrorists with one bomb precise at the same time.
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The B-1s have the largest payload of any American bomber. Heck, each B-1 can carry 42,000 pounds of precision munitions, which can be targeted individually. That means IRGC safe houses and military routes in Syria and Iraq can be turned into moonshine. Think about that, Esmail Ghani.
The sleek and supersonic B-1 bomber was famously retired by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. President Ronald Reagan brought it back in 1981, and built 100 B bombers -1 in California.
In the words of George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ 1982 rock, this plane is bad, bbb-bad to the bone. Literally. The B-1B bomber is officially named the Lancer, but is affectionately known as the B-ONE or “Bone”.
Hands down, it’s the sleekest bomber ever built. It’s not a stealth design like the B-2 Spirit or the new B-21 Raider, but the B-1 just screams speed. Four General Electric F101 twin rotors, after firing turbofan engines, push the B-1 to a top speed of Mach 1.2, or about 900 miles per hour.
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Interesting fact: the B-1’s variable sweep wings move while in flight. The wings are forward at a 15 degree angle from the fuselage for takeoff and landing. The wings sweep back to an angle of 67 degrees, and the lifting efficiency allows the B-1 to go faster than the speed of sound at low or high altitudes.
Back in the Cold War, the B-1 was designed to enter Soviet Russian airspace at very low levels, kissing the ground to disguise its target approach during the war Crews trained for the missions at night, in the weather, in the mountains. Going nine miles a minute at 400 feet or less, “there’s a lot of blur when you look out the side window,” said former B-1 pilot Lt. Gen. Gen. Chris Miller, who had retired.
Today B-1s fly at higher altitudes for combat so they can use precision weapons. And they fly very long missions. Like from Texas to Syria and back.
The B-1 mission from Texas was all part of the combat routine. However, sitting on an ejection seat for 30 hours is no fun. Having four B-1 crew members—two pilots, and two combat systems officers who work magic with electronic warfare—helps manage fatigue.
“Energy power, pay attention to nutrition, and don’t be too caffeinated. You can do 24-20 hours and you still feel good,” said Miller.
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Personally, I can’t imagine a global combat mission with limited coffee, but there is room to stretch out between the front and rear cockpit areas. The most comfortable position for naps in the B-1? In addition, the inner foam and vinyl engine cover is always carried on board on long missions. And yes, there is a camp toilet in the B-1.
To my mind, last Friday’s B-1 strikes were a stark reminder that America can launch a sustained air campaign at any time.
B-1s move to bases in theater and strike Iranian ships at sea, blow up air defense systems or other sensitive sites from long ranges with weapons like the Joint Air to Surface Missile (JASSM) and the Joint Sustaining Army (JSOW. ) And, in particular, keep the pressure on terrorist terrorists and militia from Syria to the Houthis in Yemen.
The B-1s have done it before. In August 2014, a B-1 was taking off from Qatar for a mission over Afghanistan when the crew was called upon to support Iraqi troops who were in danger of being overrun by Islamic State forces. within 30 miles of Baghdad.
B-1s began flying 10-hour missions over the battlefield, launching one-on-one precision munitions at ISIS insurgents and pounding entrenched sites.
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In early 2015, B-1s broke the siege of Kobani, a town on the border between Syria and Turkey, by knocking out over 1,700 weapons in a few weeks of close air support for Kurdish troops. That battle halted the advance of the so-called ISIS caliphate.
US and coalition aircraft went on to drop more than 114,000 bombs from 2014 to 2018 alone.
Struggles with spare parts and costs have reduced the B-1 fleet to a valuable 45 aircraft. But there’s a reason the Air Force retired 17 B-1s to keep the others flying: China. Out in the Pacific, the B-1’s supersonic speeds could play a big role.
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Currently, the Air Force is testing a new outer wing pylon developed by Boeing that would allow the B-1 to carry large, hypersonic missiles on its wings. The B-1 has already tested the GBU-72 Advanced 5K guided missile and other precision weapons on the pole. It’s all very useful if China gets aggressive.
Yes, B-1 is bad for the bone. Not the plane that Iran or China want to crash with.
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