Maintenance needs limit availability of B-1 bomber fleet
WASHINGTON — The Air Force’s most maintenance-intensive aircraft isn’t its oldest, or even its stealthiest. It’s the B-1 Lancer, and the bomber needs about 150 hours of maintenance after each flight.
“The B-1 is the most manpower-intensive aircraft in the inventory by far,” said Col. Michael Lawrence, chief of the Air Force’s maintenance division. “That’s three to four times more than any other platform in the Air Force.”
The nation’s remaining 62 B-1 bombers are about 30 years old. They’ve seen constant combat for the last 15 years, and the pace of operations has taken a toll. Of those 62 aircraft, only about 25 are ready to fly on any given day, Lawrence said.
“Our No. 1 challenge is our inability to generate the number of sorties our aircrews need to make them proficient,” Lawrence said. “The Air Force is spending a great amount of time and resources to try and help with that problem.”
The B-1, a $317 million supersonic bomber that can travel at speeds greater than 900 mph and can be configured to carry more than 70,000 pounds of a wide variety of bombs, fills a mission gap between the Air Force’s 75 heavy-lifting B-52s and the 20 B-2 stealth bombers. B-2s are in the air for nuclear deterrence; they aren’t used in conventional bombing missions against a target like the Islamic State militants. The B-52s are used for conventional bombing but lack the B-1’s speed. That speed made the B-1 one of the largest contributors of munitions dropped on the Islamic State group until it was pulled back from that operation in early 2016 for maintenance and modernization.
Read more at: http://www.stripes.com/1.456096