The B-1 Lancer is a swing-wing bomber intended for high-speed, low-altitude penetration missions.
Built at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale beginning in December 1974, the popular bomber program was canceled by June 1977.
In October, President Ronald Reagan revived the program as the B-1B. It first flew on Oct. 18, 1984.
Then on Oct. 23, 1984, he visited the Palmdale B-1 facility.
Four Rockwell International B-1As were built and used for flight testing.
In February of this year, the Air Force announced that it will begin retiring the B-1B Lancer from service by divesting 17 bombers from the current fleet of 62.
The divestment is being done to cut costs, streamline modernization and maintenance for other aircraft and prepare for the introduction of the Air Force’s future B-21 Raider bomber.
“Beginning to retire legacy bombers, to make way for the B-21 Raider, is something we have been working toward for some time,” Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, said in a release. “We’re just accelerating planned retirements.”
Four of the bombers will be kept in Type 2000 storage, meaning they may be returned if needed after maintenance but will most likely be stripped for parts. (The Air Force has already resurrected two B-52s).
But one B-1 bomber will continue to work during its retirement. After landing at Edwards Air Force Base last month, it will become the Edwards Aircraft Ground Integration Lab, or EAGIL.
With a maximum speed of Mach 1.2, B-1 bombers were originally intended to carry out nuclear strikes on targets deep in the Soviet Union.
Their speed and small radar cross-section enables them to quickly penetrate Soviet airspace and avoid detection by Soviet air defenses and radar, giving them a higher chance pf survival than the B-52s.
But the bomber, affectionately known as the “Bone,” has become an Air Force workhorse, conducting bombing missions on Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. The B-1 has even conducted close-air-support missions.
B-1s flew roughly as many missions as B-52s during the initial air campaign in Afghanistan and actually dropped more bombs, including twice as many guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS) as all other US aircraft combined.
Not a bad record for a plane that was once halted in development.