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AVIATION HISTORY

B-1 STRATEGIC BOMBER

System Description

The B-1 strategic bomber is being developed by the Air Force to modernize its strategic bomber force. As a key element of the nation's strategic Triad of manned bombers, land-based and sea-launched missiles, the new bomber will be able to serve the United States' nuclear deterrence objective through its ability to deliver heavy payloads over long ranges and through a hostile environment.

A medium gross weight bomber powered by four 30,000 pound (13,600 kilogram) thrust class augmented turbofan engines, the B-1's three large weapons bays will provide it the flexibility to carry nuclear air-to-surface missiles, nuclear or conventional gravity bombs, mines, other weapons, or fuel as required by varying mission requirements. It will carry a crew of four.

While only two-thirds the size of the B-52, the B-1 is designed to carry nearly twice the payload. Its variable geometry, or "swing," wing will enable it to fly efficiently at supersonic speeds at high altitudes and at high subsonic speeds at treetop altitudes. This swing-wing feature will permit faster takeoff from much shorter runways. The aircraft will have greater hardness to the effect of a nuclear blast, far faster penetration speed, lower penetration altitude, and a greatly reduced radar cross section compared to the B-52.

The B-1 will also:

• Through a combination of rapid acceleration, short runway requirement, subsystem design and improved hardness to nuclear effects reach a safe escape distance from its launch base much faster than the B-52. This significantly improves its survivability should an enemy attempt a surprise ICBM or SLBM attack.

• Takeoff in a much shorter distance and will thereby be able to use about 150 more existing runways than are available to the B-52. This permits greater dispersal and faster reaction by the Strategic Air Command (SAC) alert-bomber force.

• Have a greater capability to penetrate an enemy's defenses. This stems from higher speeds at lower altitudes as well as advance electronic countermeasures and a small radar cross section.

Development Progress

Today's B-1 is the product of over 14 years of studies, design, development, fabrication, and exhaustive testing. Air Force development contracts were awarded in June 1970; North American Rockwell (now Rockwell International Corp.) was selected to build the B-1 airframe and and General Electric the F101 turbofan engines. Four aircraft currently are included in the development program.

Construction of the first aircraft was completed in Rockwell's final-assembly facility at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, and was roiled out there on October 26, 1974. First flight of the B-1 was successfully completed on December 23, 1974, with a 1 hour and 18 minute test flight from Palmdale to nearby Edwards AFB.

Work on the second B-1 aircraft is proceeding on schedule. The plane was rolled out at Palmdale on May 11, 1976, and is currently undergoing fuel and propulsion system checkouts in preparation for its first flight this summer. It successfully completed eight months of structural proof loads testing at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's Palmdale facility in June 1975 and will be used for structural loads flight testing.

The third B-1 was rolled out at Palmdale on January 16 and completed its first flight to Edwards AFB on April 1. This aircraft is the first B-1 with a complete offensive avionics subsystem and will be used to evaluate the capability of the B-l to perform its intended mission. Flight testing will involve the evaluation of offensive avionics subsystem functions, with primary emphasis placed upon low altitude penetration using automatic terrain following equipment, weapons delivery capabilities, navigation, and communications.

Development of the fourth B-1 commenced on August 15, 1975, with the award of an Air Force contract amendment to Rockwell International. The aircraft will include cost reducing design refinements to the forward fuselage (ejection seats instead of the current crew escape capsule) and engine nacelles, and redesign of the forward fuselage and aft avionics bay to accommodate defensive avionics equipment. It will be used for flight test of the B-l defensive avionics and is currently expected to fly for the first time in early 1979.

General Electric's F101 turbofan engine successfully completed its Preliminary Flight Rating Test (PFRT) on April 16, 1974. It is currently undergoing Product Verification (PV) testing and is expected to be tested sufficiently to verify readiness for initial production and service by this fall.

Initial production contracts are expected to be awarded late this year if a go-ahead is given by the Department of Defense and Congress. The first of 240 production B-1s could be expected to enter the Air Force inventory in mid-1979. Initial operational capability with the Strategic Air Command would then occur in early 1982.


All information on this page is from the USAF Fact Sheet of May 1976 regarding B-1 Strategic Bomber aircraft. aeroengineer.net only provided the web design for this page.