Evolving for the Mission

B-1 Celebrates 35 Years of Transformation

June 29, 2020 in Defense

Thirty five years ago, Boeing heritage company North American Rockwell delivered the first B-1B "Bone" bomber to Dyess Air Force Base. Today, the B-1 still dominates the skies, as our Boeing B-1 team discovers new ways the jet can transform to support the long-range bomber force.

Introduced during the Cold War, the B-1B was originally designed as a strategic nuclear bomber. However, with the introduction of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the U.S. Air Force removed the capability for nuclear weapons and the B-1 evolved to a conventional mission. The B-1 made its combat debut during Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and the aircraft began a decades long role in precision bombing operations from the Balkans to Southwest Asia.

“The B-1 is the U.S. Air Force ‘poster child’ for transformation," said Scot Oathout, Bombers program director. "The aircraft started out in the 1980s as a penetrating nuclear bomber. In the 1990s the jet transformed to a long-range conventional strike platform. It transformed again to a close air support weapon of choice in the war on terrorism in the 2000s."

Several of our Boeing team members have watched the B-1 transform from the front-lines. The Strategic Development and Investment Manager for the Bombers Program, Rob Gass, started flying the B-1 as an Air Force pilot in 1987, less than two years after the first delivery. With more than 3,100 hours in the B-1 and almost 700 hours in combat, Gass describes the B-1 as “a rugged and superbly versatile global striker.”

“It has the speed, the range, the payload,” he said. “With all of the warfighting advantages the B-1 brings to the U.S. Air Force, I believe the Bone has a bright future in employing our newest weapon technology to project global power." 

West Anderson, Global Sales and Marketing manager and former B-1 Weapons Systems Officer agrees that no other aircraft offers a flying experience like the B-1. Anderson started flying the B-1 in 1989 and with more than 2000 hours flying and over 350 hours in combat, he recognizes the connection B—1 crews have with the aircraft.

"No matter how long or hard the flight was, no matter the conditions or dangers; when I got off the jet I always had a smile on my face,” Anderson explained. “But more importantly, the B-1 was always ready for another flight."

Boeing team members West Anderson (L) and Rob Gass (R) flew the B-1 in combat and use their experience to identify opportunities to modernize and modify the aircraft.

Boeing team members West Anderson (L) and Rob Gass (R) flew the B-1 in combat and use their experience to identify opportunities to modernize and modify the aircraft.

Today, our Boeing B-1 team continues to modernize the aircraft to bring even more state-of-the-art capabilities. Boeing recently delivered the final kit for the B-1 Integrated Battle Station upgrade (IBS). IBS integrates three major aircraft modifications that enhance situational awareness and communications for the crew. And expanded carriage demonstrations showed the feasibility of increasing the B-1 weapons capacity to incorporate future weapons systems such as hypersonic missiles.

"I've been thrilled to watch the aircraft get back to its roots as a global power projector for America and ready for the next transformation to deliver high-tech hypersonic missiles," said Oathout.

As the aircraft continues to transform, the B-1 is on track to continue flying, at current demanding operations tempo, out to 2040 and beyond. And our Boeing team continues to provide support so that the next generation of engineers, maintainers and aircrews can transform the B-1 again.