On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.
In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.
A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.
The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.
If you are worried that the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a cadre of bombers to the U.S. Central Command theater is a major military escalation that could spark a war with Iran, take several deep, cleansing breaths.
The strike group originally left Norfolk, Virginia, in April as part of a regularly scheduled deployment, during which the Lincoln will literally sail around the world to arrive at its new homeport in San Diego — and while the carrier had been scheduled to transit the CENTCOM area of responsibility, its arrival there has simply been accelerated "in order to defend American forces and interests in the region," a defense official told Task & Purpose on Monday.