The B-1 bomber: The underappreciated workhorse of America’s air wars – The Washington Post

And during a Senate hearing last year, Sen. John McCain pushed back hard on Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James’s description of the B-1 as an effective airplane for “close air support,” or the delivery of precision-guided bombs in support of embattled ground troops. “That’s a remarkable statement,” McCain scoffed. “That doesn’t comport with any experience I’ve ever had, nor anyone I know has ever had.”

What McCain didn’t seem to be aware of, and what the Times report failed to note, is the long third act of the B-1’s life. Converted in the 1990s from a Soviet-airspace-penetrating nuclear strike plane to a conventional bomber meant to pound the infrastructure and massed formations of an enemy army, the “Bone” converted again in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, into exactly what the Arizona senator found so hard to believe: not just a close air support plane, but, by all accounts, a hugely successful one.

Source: The B-1 bomber: The underappreciated workhorse of America’s air wars – The Washington Post

A nice write-up in the WaPo about the Bone.

The excerpt above simply shows how out of touch John McCain is, and why he’s long overdue for retirement. The days of rolling an A-4 into a 30 degree dive to drop a pair of Snakeyes for Close Air Support are long gone.

The B-1 is not just a good Close Air Support platform, it’s often the preferred platform. First, its three huge bomb bays can carry a massive load of bombs. And a recent upgrade of the system allows it to carry a wide “mix and match” variety of different bombs, for different types of targets.

It also has incredible endurance. For instance, F-18s cycling over Afghanistan or Iraq will typically have to cycle off station to a tanker every hour. A B-1 can stay on station for four or more hours.

It took a long time (and a lot of money) to make the B-1 a modern, capable combat aircraft. But today it is performing far and away better than it ever has before.

9 thoughts on “The B-1 bomber: The underappreciated workhorse of America’s air wars – The Washington Post”

  1. Having Bone on station for long hours, ready to dump a JDAM on anything I don’t like was really cool in Afghanistan. But it didn’t provide suppression, just destruction. Kiowas and Warthogs got people to settle the fuck down though. I like the B-1, but I don’t like people calling what it does CAS.

  2. I guess the B-1 could provide air support in a permissive environment (once they are properly trained and equipped). Just like the A-10, but much more expensive. In an environment with SAMS, however, I would think the B-1 would make an excellent target, significantly more vulnerable than the A-10. Of course the function of CAS would need to be restricted to using only precision guided weapons.

    1. We don’t do CAS before the SAM sites are desroyed. MANPADS, on the other hand, pose a threat impossible to destroy. The A-10 has to get within the MANPADS envelope, while the B-B-1 does not.

    2. The Russian S-400 system has a range of over 200 miles. How long will the ground forces have to wait while all that territory is cleansed to the satisfaction of the B-1 crews?

    3. So we keep hearing about how big and bad the S – 400 is, but it’s shot down how many planes in actual combat again?

    4. RE: “The A-10 has to get within the MANPADS envelope, while the B-B-1 does not.”

      Simply not true. The C upgrade gives the A-10 the same standoff range as any other tactical jet. It can do both now – with the added benefit of having the robustness to survive going low and having the gun that makes going low worthwhile.

  3. Can this kill people that a jtac very much wants dead?
    Yes
    Is it CAS?
    Who cares

    Effects over effectors

    And given this was a penetrating nuclear bomber id guess its at least somewhat survivable.
    Its no spooky of course, but it ain’t half bad.

  4. By definition, it is providing CAS. Big load and long loiter are plusses. In this environment, it doesn’t matter whether the bomb falls from an A, F, F/A, or B; just that it falls where and when requested in support of ground maneuver. The crew is probably the limiting factor in providing CAS as they are not optimized for the mission. I imagine that they need to maintain proficiency in other missions, too.

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