Last week, we wrote that the Air Force Council, the blue suiters board that advises the air chief, was considering deep cuts to force structure to meet aggressive savings targets laid out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. One option they are reportedly considering is early retirement of all 66 B-1B Lancer bombers, last delivered in the late 1980s.
While it may not save the fleet, the Lancers got a hearty shout-out from newly installed Afghan commander Gen. David Petraeus. “It is a great platform,” he told senators at his confirmation hearing. “It carries a heck of a lot of bombs… and it has very good intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”
It can loiter for long periods of time in a combat-air patrol, using its Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod which contains a laser designator, 3rd Gen. FLIR and digital cameras that function well both day and night to search out insurgent movements or IED emplacers. “It is almost like having another unmanned aerial vehicle in terms of full motion video and so forth,” he said.
“So it’s not just a case of a very, very capable bomber just boring holes in the sky waiting to open the bomb-bay doors, it is also the case of a platform that’s very capable even as it is just flying around in circles.”
So take heart Lancer pilots!
Of course Petraeus isn’t just randomly throwing out compliments to aging bombers, he was prompted by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.); the Lancer equipped 28th Bomb Wing operates out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in Thune’s state.