Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Air Force's B-1B Lancer fleet is stretched thin and falling apart, general says
The U.S. Air Force overcommitted its B-1B Lancer bomber fleet in Middle East operations over the last decade, causing it to deteriorate more quickly than expected, according to the head of Air Force Global Strike Command.
The bombers were recently called back to the U.S. to receive more upgrades and maintenance to prepare for the next high-end fight.
"We overextended the B-1s in [U.S. Central Command]," Air Force Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of AFGSC, told reporters during a defense writers group breakfast Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
"Normally, you would commit -- [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft -- about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot," he explained. "We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade. So the wear and tear on the crews, the maintainers, and certainly the airplane, that was my cause for asking for us to get out of the CENTCOM fight."
Last year, the B-1s returned to the Middle East for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years to take over strike missions from B-52 Stratofortress bombers. The last rotation of bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, returned home March 11, according to Air Force Magazine.
"A lot of what we were doing was in support of ground forces in the fight against [the Islamic State], and now you know their status," Ray said, referring to the militants' significantly reduced strongholds in both countries. He said he doesn't foresee a "capability gap" despite the fact there are no bombers deployed, because fighters and other aircraft can focus on Middle East operations, particularly in Afghanistan where airstrikes continue.
Ray said the decision to bring the bombers home from the Middle East is in line with former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' prioritization of the National Defense Strategy "to turn to the high-end conflict" with near-peer militaries such as Russia or China.
But by the end of March, Ray had ordered the stand-down, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.
AFGSC officials said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged "drogue chute" incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.
"A drogue shoot 'rights' an ejection seat when it departs … and I didn't like what I saw," Ray said, so he ordered the March 28 stand-down. The issue is "part of the egress system," the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency.
Ray said his immediate concern was for the aircrews' safety.
"I don't care how bad the readiness is, your personal safety is more important," he said Wednesday.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, flies a training mission over the Pacific Ocean Aug. 16, 2017 (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot)
The B-1 has experienced three setback "events" in about a year's time, Ray said, referring to an emergency landing incident related to an ejection seat issue and two fleetwide groundings, including the most recent one.
In addition to the recent halt in operations, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns last year, a problem also related to the Lancer's ejection seats. Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected.
That stand-down was the direct result of an emergency landing made by a Dyess B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1 had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn't blow during an earlier in-flight problem.
Months after that incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber's ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem, but rather the sequence system.
The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.
The most recent ejection issue does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC has said.
Ray said he expects this stand-down to last a while longer.
"A typical aircraft will take seven to 10 days to inspect … to give a very, very thorough scrub of the egress system," he said, adding that the command so far has not discovered any additional concerns from the inspections.
Ray said the command is inspecting roughly three aircraft a week at Dyess and two a week at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. The Air Force has 62 Lancers in its fleet. The service plans to retire the bombers in 2036.
"This is going to be a slow and steady process," he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com
More articles from Military.com:
- Air Force Grounds B-1 Fleet Over New Precautions Concerning Ejection Seat
- Next-Gen Tracking Sensor Could Help Avoid Friendly Fire Accidents
- B-1B Lancer's Evolving Mission Includes More Close-Air Support
WATCH NEXT: A B-1B Lancer Gunship Is A Terrible Idea
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As many as 380 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan – which has nearly 300 passengers who have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 – will be extracted Sunday from Yokohama and flown to Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield and a Texas base for further quarantine.
The Army wants more soldiers, and it's using esports to put a 'finger on the pulse' of potential recruits
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.
The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.
Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, "build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth."
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Army National Guard soldier from Mountainair, who served as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in the town, died Thursday from a non-combat related incident while deployed in Africa, according to the Department of Defense.
A news release states Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is requesting about as much money for overseas operations in the coming fiscal year as in this one, but there is at least one noteworthy new twist: the first-ever Space Force request for war funds.
Officials say the $77 million request is needed by Oct. 1 not for space warfare but to enable military personnel to keep operating and protecting key satellites.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker.
In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.