Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber

PANAGYURISHTE, ($1=1.81 Bulgarian Levs) — A powerful impetus to the development of new weapons systems in the United States was the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan in 1979. In the summer of 1980, the US Department of Defense disclosed general information about the existence of the Stealth program [from English – secrecy, invisibility]. It was announced that work was being carried out in three areas: a bomber, a fighter, and a cruise missile.

Historic landing of the US B-1B Lancer in the Arctic [photos]
Photo credit: USAF

In 1981, the Reagan administration announced a plan to modernize the strategic forces, for which more than 180 billion USD were allocated. The points of this plan provided for the speedy deployment of new MX intercontinental missiles, the resumption of the “frozen” B-1 program, and the acceleration of the development of the promising ATV bomber [the future B-2].


Formally, the B-1 again participated in the next long-range strategic aircraft program called LRCA [Long-Range Combat Aircraft]. It was supposed to take an intermediate position between the obsolete B-52 and the promising “invisible” B-2 until the latter was put into service. Further, they planned to use the B-1 as a conventional bomber for delivering low-altitude strikes against stationary targets, since the search for moving targets from low altitude is practically impossible. The search for and destruction of mobile missile systems was to be undertaken by the B-2, operating from high altitudes.

Firm “Rockwell” presented a simplified modification of the B-1, designed for the use of cruise missiles. Instead of three bomb bays, there were two left on the plane, but their size was increased. They wanted to hang 8 missiles on revolving launchers in each. Another 14 missiles were fixed outside, under the fuselage. Thus, the total number of cruise missiles on board was increased to 30. The maximum speed of the B-1 was reduced to subsonic, and the ceiling was reduced by 8400 m [up to 12600 m]. Instead of a variable-sweep wing, a conventional one was installed, with a sweep of 25. The cost of a production aircraft was reduced to 43.3 million USD.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

In addition, the B-1 concept was considered an interceptor for enemy bombers armed with cruise missiles [Tu-95, Tu-22M]. At the same time, the aircraft maintained a high supersonic speed of Mach 2.2. They wanted to install the Hughes AWG-9 weapons control system and the AIM-54 PhenixoT long-range air-to-air missiles of the F-14 fighter. 24 missiles would be hung in the bomb bays and another 14 on external nodes. But this idea did not advance further than the intentions.

At one time, another project was known – B-1C, with the widespread use of Stealth technologies. According to its characteristics, it could surpass the ATV and was seriously considered by representatives of the Air Force. In 1982, Rockwell and Lockheed even signed an agreement on the joint development of such a machine, but the success of Northrop put an end to this interesting idea.

In May 1981, the Congressional Armed Services Committee recommended the B-1 as the basis for the LRCA program. The US Air Force made the appropriate decisions on this matter in June, assigning the aircraft the designation B-1B. On January 20, 1982, Rockwell received two contracts. The former funded the conversion of two B-1A aircraft into B-1B prototypes for flight testing. The second provided preparation for the serial production of 100 bombers, at a rate of 4 aircraft per month. 600 engines were purchased for them. To accommodate the B-1B, the modernization of four air bases began: Dyess in Texas, Ellsworth in South Dakota, Grand Fox in North Dakota, and McConnell in Kansas.

The final design of the B-1B bomber was somewhat different from the preliminary plans. It was decided to leave the variable-sweep wing. The maximum speed at high altitude was reduced to 1.25 M, thanks to which it was possible to abandon the adjustable air intakes, reduce their weight and simplify the design.

To facilitate production, the design of the B-1B airframe remained the same, retaining more than 70% of the parts from the B-1A. However, the maximum takeoff weight of the bomber increased from 180 to 216 tons, and in connection with this, its design was strengthened, the chassis was modified, and the pneumatics were replaced with more durable ones.


A new F101-GE-102 engine with a maximum thrust of 7718 kgf and 13974 kgf in afterburner was installed on the aircraft. It was specially designed as “low-smoke”, and due to the high bypass ratio, it also had weak IR radiation. The air intake acquired a curved “E”-shaped shape to reduce radar visibility.

The design of the nozzle on the B-1B had to be changed. It turned out that the turbulence of the airflow formed by the joint of the wing and the gap between the nozzles led to vibrations in the wings. To solve this problem, the length of the outer flaps of the nozzle was reduced from 1190 to 890 mm and their thickness was increased. The nozzle on the B-1A consisted of eight flaps with seals between them, which wore out a lot. The B-1B used 12 flaps that overlapped each other and did not require seals. The folding fairing was removed from the nozzle control mechanisms. At the same time, the number of nozzle parts was reduced, and its weight decreased by 39 kg.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

The engine has been intensively tested for loads corresponding to 10 years of operation. The operating time of the experimental engine was about 800 hours, of which more than half were at maximum mode. The number of inclusions of the afterburner was 4713. The volume of tests in the high-altitude chamber reached 150 hours.

The F101 engine was considered very serviceable, as the modular design allowed only the part that needed to be disassembled. A large number of borescopes holes served for visual inspection of critical areas in the engine housing. The first serial F101-GE-102 engine was handed over to the Air Force in early October 1983.


To protect the crew from the outbreak of a nuclear explosion, the cockpit windows are covered with nine aluminum panels [installation took 5 minutes]. Six of them have windows with a diameter of 140 mm, two of which are located at the level of the pilots’ eyes, and four provide a side view, two on each side of the cockpit. The portholes are made of a special transparent ceramic material, which becomes opaque during the flash. It takes him about 150 microseconds to do this. The B-1A was supposed to use goggles, but they did not allow viewing the instruments in the cockpit during the flash.

Externally, the B-1B differed from its predecessor in air intakes, shortened nose and tail fairings [the length of the aircraft decreased by 1.2 m], modified seals for the rotary-wing consoles made of rubberized fabric, and additional windows at the workplaces of on-board systems operators. Eight additional ventral units for the suspension of weapons were to be installed on the second series of aircraft.

The on-board equipment has seriously changed, which has been updated by 80%, this mainly concerned radio-electronic systems. The basis of the bomber’s offensive system was the AN / APQ-164 radar, which provided the search for targets, a survey of the earth’s surface, mapping, and flight at low altitude in the mode of following the terrain. All the necessary calculations, including target designation for missiles, were carried out by a complex of five onboard computers of the AR-101 F type. In total, the system included 66 blocks, with a total weight of 1300 kg.


The main defensive system was the AN / ALQ-161 electronic warfare system, which was rightfully considered the most powerful, complex, and heavy in the history of American aviation. In its original form, it consisted of 108 blocks (on serial machines reduced to 76) and weighed about 2500 kg. In addition, she was one of the few designed specifically for a specific type of aircraft. Its main parts were: an active jamming station, AN / ALR-62 radio intelligence equipment, a target detection radar in the rear hemisphere, and an active IR jamming station AN / ALQ-157.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

The main goal of the developers was to counteract air defense systems, regardless of the physical principles of their work. The system searched for and analyzed radio signals, rebuilt the ranges and frequencies of operation, and controlled the power of jamming transmitters and the firing of traps. The setting of active jamming was carried out at 360° by three antennas with phased arrays, with 10 emitters in each. Two antennas are located in the influxes of the center section and one – in the tail section. In addition, there are several knife and horn antennas on the fuselage in the front and tail sections.

The central computer could simultaneously monitor 50 potential sources of danger and sort them by priority. In first place were fighter-interceptors guided by D/1RO aircraft, followed by air-to-air missiles, ground-guided fighter-interceptors, and finally surface-to-air missiles. Threat information was displayed on three indicators in the cockpit. All this was quite consistent with the direction of a possible attack on targets on the territory of the USSR.

After all, the breakthrough was to be carried out from the north, where fighter-interceptors controlled by DLRO aircraft would really be the first air defense systems.

In the upper part of the B-1B fuselage, an eight-section AN / ALE-40 installation was placed for shooting heat traps and chaff.


Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

Significant changes have affected the weapon system. The main one was the combination of the two front bomb bays into one 9.53 m long. A removable partition was installed inside it, fixed over two nodes in its upper part. It began to be installed from the ninth production aircraft. In combat operations, the partition was never removed. Retractable spoilers were installed on the front walls of the bomb bays and the bulkhead, which improved the stability of the ammunition falling out of the bomb bay and reduced the level of noise and vibrations, which manifested themselves most negatively during the B-1A tests – in one of the flights, the bomb bay doors were even deformed and their attachment points were damaged. New sashes were made of composite material.

Nuclear bombs or missiles were suspended from a CSRL [Common Strategic Rotary Launcher] multi-purpose rotating launcher 4.57 m long. Ordinary bombs, sea mines, etc. were suspended from a special removable module. The armament was suspended outside the aircraft, and then the installation or module was delivered to the aircraft by a tractor and hung in the bomb bay.

TypeIn bomb baysOn external nodes
Nuclear bombs B281220
Nuclear bombs B431226
Nuclear bombs B612438
Nuclear bombs B832438
Nuclear sockets SRAM AGM-692438
Missiles ALCM AGM-86B822
Bombs Mk.82 kaliboom 227 kg84128
Bombs Mk.84 kaliboom 907 kg2438

In addition, up to three fuel tanks for 11360 liters each could be hung in the bomb bays. According to calculations, when using them and with an external armament sling, the aircraft could fly to Europe, complete a combat mission there and return to the base without refueling in the air.

To reduce the RCS, the proportion of composite materials in the structure has increased. The nose cone was radio-transparent only in a narrow frequency band; the toes of the wing and stabilizer, as well as the fairings of the wing root, were covered with a radio-absorbing coating. According to Rockwell specialists, the RCS of the B-1B compared to the B-1 A was reduced by 10 times to 1 m2 and brought to half the RCS of the Cessna 172 light aircraft [this is the one that overcame the USSR air defense and landed on Red Square in 1987].


On March 23, 1983, the reanimated second B-1A began flying in the interests of the B-1B program. After the depreservation, the control system was modified on it, in which spoilers were switched on for roll control at subsonic speeds, and not a differential stabilizer. The initial test program for this aircraft was designed for 275 hours and included:

  • aircraft stability and controllability studies [60 hours];
  • strength vibration and acoustic tests [95 hours];
  • testing of the power plant [15 hours];
  • weapons system testing [105 hours].

By mid-April 1983, vibration-acoustic tests of the open forward bomb bay were successfully completed with a velocity head of up to 4740 kgf / m2 [0.88M, height 1524 m].

By March 1984, this machine had completed about 38 flights and was ahead of schedule. The first stage of testing for dropping SRAM missiles, Mk.82 bombs, and B61 and B83 nuclear bomb models were completed. In the process of flight tests for the study of controllability, they wanted to simulate the failure of three engines. In this case, the aircraft had to continue flying on one running engine, but part of the fuel would have to be drained from the fuel tanks to reduce weight. However, the plans were disrupted by a car accident.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

August 29, 1984 B-1A [No. 74-0159] crashed on the territory of the test site in the Mojave Desert. This flight was the last in a series of tests to test controllability at low speeds and various swept wings with an extreme center of gravity.

The crew consisted of three people. The commander was test pilot Tommy Benefield [Tommie Douglas Benefield], nicknamed “Doug”. Having flown about 11,000 hours, he was considered a very experienced pilot. During his flying career, he mastered many aircraft, including such large aircraft as the S-124, S-130, S-133, and S-141. He had experience flying even on the Concorde. During the Vietnam War, Benefield flew 176 F-4C sorties and was the lead test pilot in the B-1 program. The co-pilot was the equally experienced Mr. Richard Reynolds and the flight engineer was Mr. Otto Waniczek.

The B-1 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, climbed to about 1500 m, and headed east towards the Mojave Desert. According to the task, the wing began to be rearranged to the minimum sweep, and the centering control system worked in manual mode to create the ultimate rear centering. After flying about 50 km, Benefield noted that the centering violation signal board lit up on the instrument panel. At this time, the car was north of Lake Harper, before the start of a mountainous area. From the F-111 escort aircraft, they noticed that at an altitude of 1220 m, the B-1 went into a nose-up with an angle of about 70°, and then began to fall. At an altitude of about 800 m, Benefield ejected the escape pod. The parachutes did not have time to open properly, and the capsule hit hard on the starboard side, while the inflatable pillows located on the bottom of the capsule did not help at all to soften the blow. His strength was such that Benefield’s chair was torn off its mounts, and he died from a blow to the side of the cockpit. Two other crew members, although they remained in their places, were seriously injured.

The unguided bomber crashed with nearly full fuel and was destroyed. A fire has started in the desert. A fire engine with a team of prisoners arrived at the crash site from the nearby Boron Federal Penitentiary and began extinguishing the burning debris, which was scattered over a relatively small area. At the time of the crash, the B-1 had flown 543 hours in 127 flights.

Secretary of the Air Force Edward Aldridge said the disaster would not affect production plans for 100 bombers or program timing. Tests continued on another machine – the fourth prototype B-1A (No. 76-0174). He had a small flight time and in 1982 flew to an exhibition in Farnborough, so he was in a good technical condition. On July 30, 1984, B-1A No. 4 took to the air, and its main task was to test onboard electronic systems.

Evaluation of the flight performance of the aircraft and testing of the power plant was to begin already on the first serial B-1B, after its transfer to the Dyess airbase. Parallel testing and mass production became possible thanks to the accumulation of a huge amount of information on the B-1 program over previous years. Fla this time the plane was waiting for success.

Production, history, combat missions, operations

In early May 1984, the assembly of the first serial B-1B was completed at the Rockwell plant in Palmdale. On May 10, the car was transported to the control and testing complex, where all its systems were tested for three months. After applying matte paint two tones of gray and one tone of green], the aircraft was calibrated for the fuel system and engine gas.

The first flight lasting 3 hours and 15 minutes took place on October 18, 1984. The bomber was lifted into the air by Rockwell test pilot M. L. Evenson, co-pilot of the AFSL. Schroeder [L. B. Schroeder], navigators-operators Mr. D. Hamilton [D. E. Hamilton] and Mr. S. Henry [S. A. Henry]. The aircraft flew to Edwards AFB for flutter and weapon systems testing. In 1987, the SRAM rocket was launched from it for the first time and 56 BDU-50 bombs [a training version of the Mk.82 bomb] were dropped.

The serial production of the aircraft began. It took 42 months to manufacture one machine, of which 12 took to assemble. B-1Bs began to enter service with the SAC in 1985. At the Ellsworth base, the B-1B became part of the 28th heavy bomber wing, at the Dyess base – the 96th, based on McConnel – 384th and based on GrandFox – 366th air wing.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

The pilots and the leadership of the SAC tried in every possible way to advertise the superiority of the new bombers. The series of world records continued. In 1988 B-1B [No.No. 86-0111 and 86-0121] set climb records for heavy aircraft in the weight category 150 and 200 tons. The best result looked impressive – 12000 m in 9.7 minutes.

In 1993, a pair of B-1Bs [No.No. 84-0057, 85-0082] from the 28th Wing flew around the Earth in 36 hours 13 minutes, and 36 seconds. They covered a distance of 36,797.65 km with six aerial refuelings, which was an absolute world record. On the route, the bombers made three training bombing attacks on targets in Okinawa and Italy.

They wanted to include AGM-129 cruise missiles made using Stealth technology into the armament of production aircraft. For this, even three aircraft were modernized. One was equipped with external pylons and two with launchers in the bomb bay for four missiles. But the rocket itself was unsuccessful, complex, and expensive, and in the end, it was removed from service. A similar fate also befell the AGM-131ASRAM II rocket, whose program was closed in 1991. The SRAM AGM-69A rocket was in service until 1993, after which the B-1B finally ceased to be a nuclear missile carrier.

Although B-1B lost its nuclear status long before that. In 1991, the combat duty of aircraft with nuclear weapons ceased, and in 1992 the legendary Strategic Aviation Command was disbanded. The end of the Cold War relieved tensions, and the bombers came under the control of the air armies of the newly created Air Combat Command [ACC]. B-1Bs fell into the 8th and 12th armies and were also temporarily assigned to various air groups for the period of the exercises.

The 96th B-1B air wing became part of the 7th air wing and, together with tactical aircraft, formed an experimental mixed operational air group. It was believed that such a connection would operate anywhere in the world without additional support and would be able to perform any task. In 1994, B-1Bs from the Grand Fox and McConnell bases were assigned to the 116th and 184th Air National Guard Wings, where they were used until 2002. By 2001, 92 aircraft remained in operation. One was decommissioned, and the rest were lost in accidents and disasters.

Changes in the structure of the US Air Force concerned not only subordination but also influenced the appearance of the aircraft. If earlier all strategic bombers were marked with a serial number and the SAC emblem, now the letters USAF [or AF] and two letters of the airbase designation appeared on the keels near the serial number. In addition, colored stripes of squadron affiliation and squadron emblems were applied to the keels. A little later, bright drawings [Nose Art] with mottos or with the aircraft’s own names began to appear on the bow of the B-1B.

The shortcomings identified during the operation were eliminated by improvements, in addition, planned work was carried out to modernize the aircraft systems. One of the first to improve the control system in terms of stall prevention at high angles of attack. The upgrade of the software and the increase in the accuracy of the angle of attack sensors took place in two stages and was completed in 1992. The SIS [Stall Inhibitor System] stall warning system began to react more harshly to approaching the maximum permissible angle of attack, not allowing the aircraft control stick to be pulled.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

In 1990, the bomber received the official name Lancer. Flo, it appeared very late and did not take root. In parts, the aircraft preferred to be called by designation – B-One. In one of the articles, the journalists missed the hyphen and they got just Bone – literally translated as “bone” or “skeleton”. This catchy nickname became the main one for the B-1B.

With the end of the Cold War, the US Air Force began to onboard aircraft systems. The first changes affected the electronic warfare complex. The fact is that it was constantly being refined, and its composition and software varied on different aircraft. This violated the unification and significantly complicated the operation, especially at remote bases, where there was no documentation for each specific board. Work ended in 1992.

Then we moved on to the weapons system. The exclusion of its nuclear component required appropriate modifications to the equipment, which were called the Conventional Mission Upgrade Program [CMUP]. The program included the installation of new connectors, data transmission systems, and the introduction of new standards for the B-1B, which were used in conventional weapons, from guided bombs and hanging containers with sighting systems to fuel tanks.

The first step was the installation of all necessary equipment. The aircraft received the designation B-1B Block B. Further, changes were made to allow the use of universal cluster munitions CBU-87, -88, 97 – B-1B Block C.

The following improvements – Block D took place for six years and ended in 2001. They allowed the use of GBU-31 JDAM-guided bombs guided by GPS signals. In addition, the communication system was finalized, and two Raytheon AN / ALE-50 containers were fixed along the sides of the tail section of the aircraft, each of which contained four disposable decoys towed on cables. The trap was a cylindrical container with a cruciform tail. Its receiver received enemy radar signals, amplified them, and the transmitter radiated back a more powerful signal than that reflected from the carrier and thereby attracting the GOS of anti-aircraft missiles. After use, the decoy was discarded. A similar system was installed on tactical aircraft F-16 and F / A-18.

Block E improvements began in 2005 and were completed in September 2006. They allowed the B-1B to use AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles, AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship missiles, AGM-154 JSOW glide bombs, and WCMD tang bomb clusters that correct the trajectory of the fall, taking into account the wind in the target area. Changes were made to the bomber system software to automatically change the type of ammunition, which made it possible to deliver successive strikes on targets with different types of bombs at the touch of a single button. For example, during testing on May 2, 2002, a B-1B struck three targets with three different types of ammunition [Mk.82 bombs, Mk.84 bombs, and CBU-89 cassettes] within 20 seconds.

The commander of the 28th Bomber Wing, Colonel Jeffrey Smith, summing up the results of the latest modernization program, said: “We have one aircraft that can carry all types of ammunition in large quantities and with a long flight time. We can carry 500- pounds in the front, 1000 pounds in the middle and 2000 pounds in the back. You always have the right bomb to work with minimal collateral damage. That’s a big luxury for a commander.”

In 2003, the SBP [Sustainment Block Program] bomber maintenance program was announced. It aimed for a systematic [annual] upgrade of the B-1B fleet with advanced avionics and software. Its first stage is known as Block F. The changes concerned the electronic warfare system. The number of its blocks was reduced, the software was improved and improvements were made to counter modern enemy air defense systems.

In February 2004, Collins was awarded a contract to replace the obsolete monochrome displays in the cockpit with 5×7 inch color LCDs.

In March 2008, the B-1B became the first aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds using a combined fuel, which was a 50/50 mixture of aviation kerosene and a synthetic fuel derived from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process. This flight was an important part of the US Air Force’s program to create cheap aircraft fuel.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

Another event in the history of the B-1B was the equipping of it with the AN / AAQ-33 Sniper optoelectronic container [from English – sniper] from Lockheed Martin. A container with an HD quality infrared television system and a laser rangefinder-target designator was hung on a pylon on the right under the nose of the aircraft. According to the developers, it allowed the crew to search, identify and illuminate the target without support from the ground.

Thanks to all this work, the B-1B became a universal carrier of precision weapons and could destroy any target anywhere in the world.

Despite ever-increasing opportunities, in 2001 the US Department of Defense decided to reduce the total number of bombers by 35 units to save budget funds. There were rumors about the sale of “extra” B-1Bs to the UK and Australia, but supposedly the negotiators did not agree on a price.

The first B-1B was withdrawn from service in August 2002. The aircraft was sent to the Davis-Monthan storage base. In total, 24 B-1Bs turned out to be there, the rest “dispersed” to educational institutions, and museums and began to eternally park in front of the gates of airbases. As of 2017, the United States had 62 B-1B bombers. 38 of them are concentrated at Dyess Air Force Base, in the 7th Bombardment Wing [BW], and 24 are part of the 28th BW at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The 7th air wing includes three squadrons [bomb squadron – BS]: 9th, 28th, and 77th. The motto of the unit: “Mor’s ab alto” [from Latin – death from above]. Tail code – DY.

The 28th air wing consists of two squadrons: the 34th and 37th. In memory of the actions of the aircraft of the air wing during World War II in Alaska, the Aleutian, and the Kuril Islands, the motto of the unit is Guardian of the North. Tail code – EL.

On September 4, 2013 B-1B participated in the research program as a maritime patrol bomber. The work evaluated the use of guided munitions against naval targets, such as GBU-54 laser-guided bombs, JDAM bombs, and AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship missiles.

In April 2015, B-1Bs were transferred to the AFGSC [Air Force Global Strike Command] Global Strike Command, whose main tasks are global deterrence, support for the US Armed Forces “anytime, anywhere.” In addition to the B-1B, it included the air wings of the B-52, B-2 bombers, and parts of intercontinental ballistic missiles. In fact, the Strategic Air Command was revived. Communication and control of AFGSC units are carried out through four E-4B air command posts.

In 2016, the bombers began to undergo improvements as part of the Integrated Combat Station program. New color indicators were installed in the cockpit and information and computer systems were updated.

The first combat use of the B-1B took place during Operation Desert Fox. The operation was carried out from 16 to 19 December 1998 against important military and political targets in Iraq, in response to Saddam Hussein’s refusal to comply with a UN Security Council resolution.

In mid-November 1998, six B-1Bs from the 37th and 9th squadrons were relocated to the Middle East. On November 30, the aircraft began to make training flights from the Tumrait airbase in Oman. The crews studied the situation and the theater of operations. The first target for them was the barracks of the Republican Guard of Iraq in Al-Kut. The operation began immediately after Ramadan. On December 17 at 22.30, a pair of B-1Bs took off from Tumrait. In the bomb bays of each of them, there were 60 Mk.82 high-explosive bombs. The pilots piloted the planes wearing night-vision goggles. Over the sea, eight F/A-18 escorts joined the B-1Bs. One EA-6V electronic warfare aircraft with HARM anti-radar missiles also entered the battle formation. In addition, a pair of F-14s with AIM-54 long-range missiles covered the entire group along the flight route. Such a serious outfit of forces spoke of the importance of what was happening. After all, the first sortie of the B-1B was supposed to go down in history as a resounding success, not a failure.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: airwar

Lancers crossed the Iraqi border at an altitude of 7900 m at a speed of 880 km/h. Operators of electronic warfare systems noted that the radars of the S-75 complexes began to work on them, but almost immediately they turned off. A little later, the EA-6B attacked with a HARM missile the Kub air defense system discovered in the area of ​​​​the Iraqi airfield Tallil. According to intelligence, the Czechoslovak L-29 converted into drones were based at this airfield, on which the Iraqis wanted to hang 500-liter containers with anthrax bacteria. But Tullil was in the area of ​​responsibility of the British Tornadoes, and the American group proceeded further.

In the target area, the radars of the S-125 complexes worked for several seconds along the B-1B. Probably, their operators were afraid of launching anti-radar missiles and therefore turned off their radars. Only anti-aircraft artillery was active, but it did not reach the B-1B flight altitude.

It was already December 18 when the planes dropped their bombs and with a right turn lay down on the return course. At 6.30 am the bombers returned to Tumrait. The results of the strike were clearly visible on satellite images: out of 10 buildings, at least six received direct hits. The following day, another pair of B-1Bs also successfully attacked an oil refinery in Basra.

In 1999, Lancers became participants in Operation Noble Anvil [from English – a noble anvil] – airstrikes against targets in Serbia. To reduce the time to reach the target, nine B-1Bs were deployed from the United States to the British base in Fairford. The first six bombers from No. 37 Squadron and a C-5A maintenance group landed in England on 29 March. Part of the aircraft underwent the Block D revision, as a result of which the electronic warfare systems were reconfigured to work against the Serbian air defense radar. Engineers from the 36th Engineering Test Squadron updated the software of the complex in just 100 hours, although this work usually took several months.

The first sortie took place on April 2, and the target was an oil refinery in the Novi Sad region. On the route to the target, a pair of B-1Bs were fired twice by the Kub air defense system. In both cases, the missiles hit AN / ALE-50 towed traps. The combat mission was successfully completed, 168 Mk.82 bombs were dropped on the plant. After shedding the load on one bomber, the bomb bay doors did not close, which led to excessive fuel consumption, but this did not prevent him from returning to base. After landing, the car found minor damage to the stabilizer caused by lightning.

The bombers were equipped with the MSTS [Multi-Source Tactical System] tactical target designation system, which received real-time target data from the Joint Air Operations Center located in Vicenza, Italy. The initial data came there from four reconnaissance satellites. MSTS allowed the B-1Bs to be quickly retargeted and strikes “on order” from an “air watch” position. It was a completely new word in the tactics of using heavy bombers. Previously, the operations of such aircraft were always carefully planned in advance. As a result of this approach, the B-1Bs, which flew only 74 sorties, which is 2% of the total coalition combat aircraft sorties, was able to drop 20% of the total number of ammunition. According to the Deputy Commander of the Allied Air Force Lieutenant Charles McGuirk, the technical serviceability of the B-1B was very high – at the level of 90%.

B-1Bs won the respect not only of their troops but also of the enemy. The Serbs were very surprised that conventional bombs could deliver such accurate strikes. Particularly unexpected for them was the ability of the Lancers to bomb “blindly”, through the clouds.

Since the fall of 2001, B-1Bs have been actively involved in operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. During the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom alone, eight bombers dropped almost 40% of the total coalition aviation ammunition. Unlike Serbia, where the Lancers operated exclusively with conventional ammunition, in Afghanistan, more than 60% of strikes were carried out with guided bombs.

The main tasks of the B-1B were airstrikes, close support of ground forces, and even the escort of convoys. The aircraft were based at the Tumright base in Oman and on about. Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. To visualize operational information about the situation on the ground and potential targets, the workplaces of combat system operators were “furnished” with conventional laptops connected to the bomber’s information system.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Each B-1B involved in Operation Enduring Freedom flew 3-4 sorties per month. The Lancers were in the duty zone for 5 hours, the flight took about 11 hours, and the maximum combat load reached 24 GBU-31 JDAM bombs. The blow was delivered from high altitudes, about 12,000 m, and, as one of the American ground generals Jeffrey S. Buchanan put it: “The enemy did not even have time to understand what happened.”

Of course, tactical aircraft did not have such capabilities. For example, their combat load was only 4 JDAM bombs. Gen. Daniel P. Leaf, who at the time was the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force for Air and Space Operations, said this about the use of bombers in Afghanistan: “If you suggested that I use the B-1B with JDAM in direct support of the ground ten years ago, I would have laughed heartily because this is not at all what we wanted before. However, faced with difficult tasks in Afghanistan, we used the aircraft in an extremely flexible form.

This very “form” was indeed flexible. B-1B had to work even in mixed strike groups. For example, in January 2002, four Lancers, along with four F/A-18s and an AC-130 gunship, destroyed a large al-Qaeda cave complex at Zakhwar Kili in eastern Afghanistan. This was a training camp, a warehouse, and a kind of al-Qaeda sanctuary. It was already hit by cruise missiles in 1998, but its effectiveness was low. This time the complex was completely destroyed.

Mr. Patrick McMahon briefly described his typical sortie for the press: “We will take off, meet the tanker after three hours of flight, fly another couple of hours to Afghanistan, get instructions from the command, look at the radar, and wait until someone will call us so we can fly in and do our thing. When our bombs are dropped, after aerial refueling, we will go home.”

Of course, real flights did not look so routine. According to the descriptions of the pilots, when the forward air controllers contacted the B-1B crews by radio, they, as a rule, were in the center of the battle. Sometimes screams, explosions, etc. were heard in the headphones. Most often, special forces groups asked for help in mountainous areas, they could be under fire from an enemy bunker or cave, which the B-1Bs were supposed to destroy.

Such proximity to the target could pose a danger to their soldiers. On June 9, 2014, the B-1B with the Sniper container became infamous after attacking friendly troops in Afghanistan. A detachment of special operations forces requested help from the air, hitting the encirclement. The forward air controller contacted the support center. The crew of a B-1B loitering nearby immediately responded and dropped two JDAM bombs at coordinates indicated from the ground. At the same time, the aircraft controller asked the crew if they saw the IR strobe lights on the helmets of the soldiers, and they answered in the negative. The strike killed 5 American and one Afghan commando. During the investigation, it turned out that the IR station of the Sniper container simply does not see the flashes of the standard strobe light for night operations, which are used in combat to identify friend or foe.

In 2003, B-1Bs reappeared in Iraqi skies. This time they participated in the larger-scale Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraqi Freedom), the purpose of which was to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. The first sorties were made by the bomber crews from the Tumright base on March 20. The main weapons of the aircraft were GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs. In 24 hours of combat work, B-1Bs attacked 240 targets in the Baghdad area. It is symbolic that the first bomber to fly over the capital of Iraq was the B-1B [Ne 86-0121] “Symphony of Destruction” from the 28th BW.

The bombers had to operate in the face of strong opposition from Iraqi air defenses. So, on March 21, a B-1B at an altitude of 8000 m was fired upon by missiles of the S-75 complex. The crew recorded at least two launches, and one of the missiles passed very close to the aircraft. The SAM radars were suppressed by the Lancer EW system and from the EA-6B escort aircraft, but the Iraqis launched their missiles in an unguided mode, hoping for an accidental hit and a psychological effect. However, the B-1B always emerged victorious in such cases. In the next run, he destroyed the battery of the 75th complex with direct hits of bombs.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: Wikpedia

April 7, 2003 B-1B [No. 86-0138] “Seek and destroy” became famous after the attack on the restaurant, which allegedly was Saddam with his sons. The bomber was on duty in the air over central Iraq. After receiving the task, it took the crew only 47 minutes to find and destroy the restaurant, but Saddam Hussein either managed to leave the building or was not at the indicated place at all.

In March 2011, four B-1Bs from the 28th BW took part in Operation Odyssey Dawn, the purpose of which was to strike at the forces of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The operation began on March 19, and B-1Bs joined the coalition air force at the end – on March 27. On that day, for the first time in its history, bombers struck from their “native” Ellsworth base.

The planes carried Sniper containers and a full load of JDAM bombs. The takeoff took place in conditions of poor visibility. After 12 hours of flight with two aerial refuelings, the B-1Bs were on target. The reports of the representatives of the Air Force did not indicate specific targets, but according to the plan of the operation, the bombers were supposed to destroy air defense facilities and command posts. The enemy anti-aircraft artillery was actively working on the B-1B, but it was not enough for the height of their flight.

Since August 2014, B-1Bs have been actively used against ISIS forces in Syria, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Until January 2015, Lancers completed 8% of the total number of US Air Force sorties. Bombers from the 7th BW dropped over 2,000 JDAM bombs, and from the 28th BW about 3,800. The chemical attack of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Douma hit Syrian military installations. According to representatives of the US Air Force, 19 AGM-158В JASSM-ER missiles were fired without flying into the Syrian air defense zone. This was the first combat use of cruise missiles of this type.

On July 8, 2017, B-1Bs were used in a show of force by flying along the coast of North Korea. From possible provocations and attacks, they were covered by F-15 fighters.

The B-1B has in many ways become a unique strategic aircraft. After the end of the Cold War, it lost its role as a nuclear bomber and could well have ended up in a landfill, but its characteristics and wide modernization capabilities allowed the Lancer to easily fit into the modern aviation strategy. He became a support aircraft, a kind of “bomber on call”, saving the lives of fighters and destroying any enemy targets with high-precision weapons.

However, such an unusual role for a heavy bomber also had negative aspects that could negatively affect the current state of military aviation in the United States. For example, in a 2015 congressional hearing, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said that air support could be provided by drones, F-16 and F-15 fighters, and the B-1B bomber. And that the maintenance of a whole fleet of 283 A-10 attack aircraft is impractical. To which Senator John McCain angrily remarked, “That’s a wonderful statement. It doesn’t fit with my life experience or the experience of my friends… Are you abandoning the B-1B bomber as an air weapon to replace the A-10?”

McCain was against such an unequal replacement. Still, professionals associate direct support with attack aircraft that “hang” over the battlefield and are seen by the fighters. But the very fact that a strategic bomber ousted an attack aircraft from the battlefield makes one treat the Lancer with respect.

Attack aircraft A-10 managed to defend, but times have already changed. And precision weapons have become a decisive factor in modern warfare. If earlier bombers could not compete with tactical aircraft in hitting accuracy, now one B-1B can hit as many targets in a sortie as 40 carrier-based strike aircraft destroy them. It is believed that since 2003, the B-1B has finally replaced the B-52 in matters related to the use of conventional weapons.

Assessing the B-1B, one cannot ignore its influence on the development of enemy aircraft. Fie secret that in response to the B-1 program in the USSR, they began to develop a similar aircraft – the now well-known Tu-160. It cannot be called a copy, but it cannot be said that the Tupolev Design Bureau created something special.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The history of the Tu-160 began almost simultaneously with the AMSA project. Just like overseas, various projects of the most incredible layouts were put forward for the competition, such as the T-4MS of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, which was a flying wing with variable-sweep consoles. In the end, the appearance of the Tu-160 was formed based on the B-1 concept. The final requirements for the Soviet aircraft were announced 6 years later, and it took to the air on November 14, 1981, when the Americans had already completed work on the B-1 A and began to prepare the mass production of the “B”. The USSR also wanted to build at least a hundred Tu-160s, but only 35 vehicles were produced. They began to enter service in 1987.

The operation of serial bombers in parts began to show the shortcomings of the aircraft. The first thing that the engineering and technical staff of the B-1B encountered was the high failure rate of various onboard systems. Most often, the fuel and hydraulic systems, the electronic warfare complex, the radar, and the built-in control system failed. According to the statistics of the first year of operation, it turned out that, on average, 2.2 failures were recorded in each flight on the aircraft. In parts, a lack of spare parts and blocks began to gradually appear.

A year later, thanks to the efforts of specialists from Rockwell, the failure rate was reduced to 1.6 and further to 1, but this figure can still be considered abnormally high. Even in comparison with the B-52, which had about 0.7 failures per flight. Many B-1Bs were simply idle waiting for repairs. They also had to resort to technical cannibalism, removing serviceable equipment from idle machines and installing it on the aircraft that participated in the flights. By the end of the 1980s, each squadron already had from two to four understaffed bombers.

Similar difficulties were experienced by the personnel of the units where the Tu-160 arrived. In almost every flight, failures of the onboard electronic equipment, the ABSU 200 control system were recorded, fortunately, vital systems had redundancy. A large number of malfunctions led to the fact that the preparation of one Tu-160 for flight could stretch for three days. Not without technical cannibalism. In the 2000s, most aircraft were in a non-flying state, blocks wandered from one side to another. For example, on August 18, 2005, when the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin decided to fly a Tu-160, there were only four serviceable aircraft of this type in Engels, of which only two could take off. The remaining 14 cars were in a semi-disassembled state.

The power plant delivered big trouble to the crews of the Tu-160. At first, the engine life was only 250 hours, now it has been extended to 750 hours. Problems arose regularly when starting engines, failures of automatic control in flight, especially in the nozzle control system. Once in the air at the Tu-160, two NK-32s stopped at once, the thrust reserve of two serviceable engines made it possible to successfully complete the flight. The case of engine failure on takeoff on August 2, 1988, during a demonstration of the Tu-160 to US Secretary of Defense Carlucci, became famous.

By the way, all the losses of the Tu-160 are connected precisely with the power plant. The second prototype crashed due to the destruction of one of the engines and a fire on board. The second incident occurred on September 18, 2003, when the Tu-160 exploded in the air almost immediately after takeoff, during a flyby of the power plant. Before the crash, the crew managed to report a fire in two engines. The aircraft’s fuel tanks are believed to have exploded.

Cases of power plant failures in the B-1B were also quite common. One of the first occurred in November 1988, when aircraft no. 85-0063 in flight, a fire broke out in two engines, and the crew ejected.

The B-1B was notable for numerous fuel leaks from the tanks, but they did not lead to catastrophic consequences. The main cause of leaks were vibrations, overloads, and deformations of the aircraft structure during flights at low altitudes. For example, in April 1986, 53 tank leaks were recorded on 11 aircraft. The following year, there were 41 leaks from 26 bombers. In addition to the tanks, the connections of the hydraulic system pipelines were leaking.

These problems could not be solved on the spot, by the maintenance personnel, and while the designers were looking for a way out of the situation, the Air Force banned flights with terrain envelopes at altitudes below 300 m, and the flight speed at this altitude was limited to 1050 km / h. The solution was to seal the fuel tanks with a new sealant. After the modifications, the leaks almost stopped.

The facts of the destruction of structural elements of the B-1B in flight are almost unknown. Although it is possible to give an example of the separation of nebulizers in the tail section of the aircraft. Tu-160 suffered from design flaws much more seriously. Due to vibrations in its air intakes, rivets sometimes came off, and cracks appeared. There was delamination of honeycomb tail panels. Several times in flight, parts of the fork and stabilizer came off. All these cases are associated with a low production culture or with the backwardness of the Soviet industry in the field of composite materials.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The hydraulic systems of both machines brought many unpleasant surprises to their owners. The B-1B suffered from wheel brakes. On April 4, 2008, after the failure of two hydraulic systems, the B-1B rolled towards the parking lot of C-130 aircraft and crashed into a concrete fence. There was a fire. The plane had just landed after a sortie to Afghanistan and had 908 kg JDAM bombs on board. The crew managed to leave the bomber, after which the detonation of the bombs began. The car was completely destroyed. Cases of landing gear failure and one landing on the fuselage are also known – as the May 8, 2005 incident.

Oddly enough, at the beginning of the operation of the Tu-160, errors were discovered in the design of the chassis. The main posts had to be shortened before cleaning into a niche, but this did not always happen. In 1988, the crews had to fly with the struts extended for several months, until the designers changed the kinematics of their creation.

Failures and malfunctions had a serious impact on the combat readiness of aircraft. You can’t really fight with the extended landing gear, but even less serious things limited the combat capability of the aircraft. For example, in the B-1B, the radar was the reason for the introduction of low-altitude flight restrictions. She perceived relatively small metal objects, such as power pylons, and metal roofs, as significant hills. At the same time, the aircraft was at a completely safe height, but the terrain envelope system gave the command to roll up.

The electronic warfare systems of both aircraft had problems with reliability and electromagnetic compatibility with other onboard equipment. The Americans often showed errors in the software, and the cooling system failed. The defense systems of both the Tu-160 and B-1B were subjected to constant improvements and began to be considered combat-ready only in the late 1990s.

On the B-1B, the developed on-board integrated control system CITS [Central Integrated Test Subsystem] covered almost all bomber systems with its sensors. It was designed to simplify maintenance by almost completely eliminating external control and inspection systems that previously had to be brought or brought to the aircraft during maintenance. But its complexity and branching played a cruel joke. In the first years of operation, the system could issue up to 120 false failure signals in one flight preparation. Thanks to improvements, this number dropped to 74, and in the late 1990s to a dozen, but still, such things cannot be considered the norm. Aircraft raids were decreasing, which led to the non-fulfillment of the combat training plan and worsened the qualifications of the flight personnel. In 1987, only 13 crews could fly on 30 bombers, and not one of them was prepared to break through enemy air defenses at low altitudes.

At present, most of the “childhood diseases” of both aircraft have been defeated, and they are used quite intensively. “Lancers” are engaged in supporting their ground forces, and the Tu-160 works as a deterrent and provocative component, it is quite often caught by Western fighters near their borders.

Tu-160 remained a plane from the past. It is still only a strategic bomber and a carrier of nuclear weapons, and today this is no longer enough. Its superiority in maximum flight speed does not give any advantages in the conditions of modern air defense, but only “eats” fuel. Yes, it can strike ground targets with cruise missiles with conventional warheads, but there can be no question of any support for ground forces. The Tu-160 simply does not have such capabilities. It would be very strange to hear from the command of the Russian Air Force that the Tu-160 can replace the Su-25 attack aircraft. Perhaps that says it all. In terms of armament and equipment, the B-1B absolutely surpassed its counterpart. The B-1B is expected to be in service until 2025 and its history is not over yet.

Technical description

The aircraft is a cantilever low-wing aircraft with a variable-sweep wing having an integral aerodynamic layout. The design is made mainly of aluminum and titanium alloys, as well as composite materials. The crew of the aircraft consists of four people: two pilots and two navigators-operators of onboard systems. The left one is the operator of the onboard defense complex, and the right one is the operator of the sighting and navigation complex.

The fuselage is semi-monocoque, divided into five sections. In the front, there is a radar compartment, a cockpit, and an airborne electronics compartment. Under the cockpit, there is a niche for the retracted position of the front landing gear. The cockpit has four Weber ACES II class “0-0” ejection seats. Access to the cab is through a hatch located behind the niche of the front landing gear. A ladder is built into the fold-down hatch cover. Outside, this section is equipped with “wings” of the automatic system for damping elastic vibrations SMCS, made of composite material.

The next section of the fuselage contains the forward bomb bay, fuel tanks on both sides, and air defense compartments in the toes of the root fixed part of the wing. Next is a welded power beam – the central wing box, made of 80% titanium. Wing consoles and main landing gear are attached to it. The third section of the fuselage is occupied by niches of the main landing gear, rear bomb bay, and fuel tanks. Engines are attached to this section. The next section of the fuselage is an integral fuel tank, and the tail section is the BKO compartment. The loaded elements of the aft fuselage structure and the skin in areas exposed to high temperatures are made of titanium.

The wing consists of a central caisson and two consoles hinged on it. Wing consoles – two-spar. The central caisson and console caissons are fuel tank compartments. The sweep of the console along the leading edge can vary from 15 degrees to 67.5 degrees. The hinge of its turn is made of a titanium alloy. A double-row bearing is installed along the hinge axis. The screw mechanism of the console drive is located in the nose of the root fixed part of the wing behind the ACS compartment. The drive is powered by four hydraulic systems. The gap between the rotary consoles and the fixed part of the wing is closed with flaps and fabric rubberized inflatable seals.

Historic landing of the US B-1B Lancer in the Arctic [photos]
Photo credit: USAF

The mechanization of the wing consists of seven-section slats, six-section single-slotted flaps, and four sections of spoilers on each console. The maximum deflection angle of the flap is 40 degrees, and the slat is – 20 degrees. The release and retraction of the flaps and wing liners are carried out using screw mechanisms, and the spoilers are driven by hydraulic cylinders. There are no ailerons on the wing. Roll control is provided by spoilers in conjunction with a differentially deflectable stabilizer. When the sweep of the consoles exceeds 20 degrees, the two inner sections of the flaps are fixed in the retracted position. In-flight at supersonic speed, external spoilers were fixed.

The tail unit includes a fin, rudder, and all-moving stabilizer. Keel and stabilizer – caisson design, two-spar. The rudder is three-section and has a three-layer structure with a honeycomb core. The tails and noses of the stabilizer are fiberglasses. The stabilizer consoles are fixed on steel axles, which are installed in the central bearing at about 30% of the keel span. They can deflect both synchronously [pitch control] and differentially [roll control]. The rudder moves in the range of plus or minus 25 degrees. The stabilizer deflects 10 degrees up and 25 degrees down during pitch control, and within +/-20 degrees during roll control.

The landing gear of the aircraft is a tricycle with front-controlled support. In-flight, the landing gear retracts into the fuselage niches and is completely closed by doors. All chassis legs are telescopic. Four-wheeled carts are installed on the main racks, with two wheels on the front. Chassis track – 4.42 m; base – 17.53 m.

The power plant includes four General Electric F101-GE-102 afterburner turbojet engines, which are located in pairs under the fixed part of the wing. Engine thrust at maximum mode – 7718 kgf, afterburner – 13974 kgf. Bypass ratio – 2. Engine length – 4598 mm, diameter – 1397 mm, dry weight – 1996 kg. The engine is two-shaft, includes an axial two-stage low-pressure compressor (fan), a nine-stage axial high-pressure compressor, an annular combustion chamber, a single-stage high-pressure turbine, and a two-stage low-pressure turbine. The guide vanes of the inlet device and the first three stages of the high-pressure compressor are rotary. The engine air intake is unregulated with a curved inlet channel, in which two curved longitudinal baffles are installed in tandem.

The fuel system consists of eight tanks [five fuselages and three wings] with a total capacity of 112,635 liters. Refueling is centralized through two nodes on the right engine nacelle. The fuel on the aircraft is used as a coolant to cool the REO. It is possible to hang in each bomb bay one additional tank with a capacity of up to 11,000 liters. A shortened 4864 l fuel tank can be installed in the forward bomb bay together with a revolving launcher for cruise missiles. The aircraft is equipped with an automatic fuel transfer system to maintain centering when the wing sweep changes or the combat load is dropped; an in-flight refueling system [the fuel receiver is located in front of the cockpit canopy] and an emergency fuel drain system [drain valves are located at the wingtips].

Aircraft control system – booster, irreversible type. Booster control wiring is rigid. The backup control system is electrically remote. The aircraft is equipped with an AFCS automatic control system with subsystems for improving stability and control characteristics.

The hydraulic system provides for the rotation of the wing consoles, the operation of the steering surfaces and wing mechanization, the cleaning, and extension of the landing gear, the control of the front support and wheel brakes, and the operation of the bomb bay doors. It consists of four simultaneously operating independent systems with a working pressure of 280 kg/cm2.

The power supply system provides consumers with the alternating three-phase current of 230/400 V with a frequency of 400 Hz. The sources of electricity are three generators with a capacity of 115 kVA, which are connected to four buses.

Onboard equipment includes radar station AN/APQ-164; inertial navigation system SKN-2440; satellite navigation system, Doppler ground speed and drift angle AN/APN-218; astro-inertial navigation system NAS-26; satellite communication system AN/ASC-19; radio stations AN / ARC-190 and AN / ARC-171; radio station for closed communication channels KY-58; identification system “friend or foe” AN / ARKH-101A; intercom system; high altitude radio altimeter AN/ASN-131; low altitude radio altimeter AN/APN-224; radio navigation system TACAN AN/ARN-118; radio landing system AN / ARN-108; rear hemisphere warning system AN/ALQ-153; tail protection radar; AN / ALQ-161 electronic warfare system, AN / ALQ-157 active IR jamming station, AN / ALE-40 decoy shooting installation.

aircraft armament. In two bomb bays, you can hang rocket and bomb weapons weighing up to 34,000 kg, including free-fall bombs Mk 82 [84 pieces] or Mk 84 [24 pieces], sea mines Mk 62 [84 pieces] or Mk 65 [8 pieces], bomb clusters CBU-87/89/97 [30 pcs] or CBU-103/104 WCMD [30 pcs], guided bombs GBU-31 [24 pcs.] or GBU-38/54 [15 pcs.], cruise missiles AGM-158A / C [24 pcs].

Wingspan, m
– maximum41.80
– minimum24.10
Aircraft length, m44.50
Aircraft height, m10.36
Wing area, m2181.16
Weight, kg
– empty plane86,183
– maximum takeoff weight214,650
Internal fuel, kg88,450
Engine type4 turbofan General Electric F-101-GE-102
Thrust, kN
– unforced4 x 64.94
– forced4 x 136.92
Maximum speedM1.20
Cruise speedM0.95
Ferry range, km12,000
Practical range, km
– without refueling8,195
– with refuelingup to 17,530
Practical ceiling, m18,300
Max. operating overload2.5
Armamentin the bomb bay – up to 34000 kg
on external hangers – up to 26700 kg
Unguided weapons:
24 B-61 bombs or 24 B-83 bombs.
up to 84 Mk.82 or Mk.62 bombs or 12 Mk.65 bombs or
30 cluster bombs CBU-87, CBU-89 GATOR, CBU-97
Precision weapons:
12 GBU-27 or AGM-154 JSOW or
24 JDAM or JASSM or 30 WCMD


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