B-1 Lancer bombers will be out of the mix indefinitely for the air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the top air commander in the region said Thursday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said that the four-engine B-1s, especially valued for their long-range capabilities and heavy bomb loads of precision-guided munitions, had been rotated back to the U.S. for upgrades, mainly to their cockpits.
"The B-1s have rotated out" but "we have plenty of capacity with other platforms," Brown said in a video briefing to the Pentagon from his headquarters at Al Udeid airfield in Qatar. "We lose maybe a little flexibility" by not having a bomber that "can carry as many weapons as it can," he said. "We are able to cover that. We knew this was coming so we postured ourselves."
Brown did not give a timeline for the return of the B-1s but said, "They will return to the mix. They will be back, I fully expect it."
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