Technology: The B-1B Bomber Could Bulk Up on Long-Range Weapons - PressFrom - US
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TechnologyThe B-1B Bomber Could Bulk Up on Long-Range Weapons

23:40  11 september  2019
23:40  11 september  2019 Source:   popularmechanics.com

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The B-1B Bomber Could Bulk Up on Long-Range Weapons© Larry Marano - Getty Images As strategic competition with Russia and China increases, the Air Force wants to max out the B-1B’s ability to carry larger and more advanced weapons.
  • New upgrades could allow the B-1B bomber to carry 40 more missiles, up from the present 24.
  • The upgrades would also allow the bomber to carry a hypersonic weapon.
  • While an improvement, only 7 B-1B bombers are currently ready for action.

As strategic competition with Russia and China increases, the Air Force wants to max out the B-1B’s ability to carry not just more, but larger and more advanced weapons. According to FlightGlobal, the Air Force recently showed off an upgraded B-1B to partners in industry.

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The bomber, belonging to the 412th Test Wing, includes an improved middle bomb bay expanded from 15 feet to nearly 22.5 feet. That’s large enough to carry a future hypersonic weapon. Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds of Mach 5 and above, giving enemy forces little time to react.

The second improvement involves carrying weapons externally. The B-1B was designed to carry nuclear-tipped Air Launched Cruise Missiles on external pylons, but doing so would have compromised the bomber’s stealthy design and the Air Force never trained with them. Now the service wants to resurrect that capability, giving the bomber the ability to carry 16 missiles on six external pylons.

A B-1B can already carry 24 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM), and an upgraded B-1B could carry 40 JASSMs. Two B-1Bs launched 19 JASSM missiles against chemical weapons facilities in Syria in April 2018. In the future, just two B-1Bs could launch up to 80 missiles. The B-1 fleet could likely carry an identical number of Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM), a new ship-killing missile based on the JASSM.

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The B-1B Bomber Could Bulk Up on Long-Range Weapons© U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem The test B-1B with mockup JASSM missile mounted on an external pylon.

All of this sounds great, but the Air Force needs to overhaul the aging B-1B fleet and restore the bomber’s relevancy. Today, only seven of the service’s 62 B-1Bs are ready for action, with the rest grounded by a lack of funding, spare parts, and structural issues that invariably show up in aging bombers. If readiness remains in the single digits, it’s not worthwhile to fund these new upgrades. The Air Force plans to replace the B-1B with the new B-21 Raider bomber sometime in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Source: FlightGlobal

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