B-1 Bomber Crashes at Ellsworth; Crew Ejects Safely

A B-1B bomber crashed as it was attempting to land at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., on Jan. 4.

All four crew members ejected safely from the aircraft and survived, Ellsworth Air Force Base said in a statement.

The incident occurred during poor weather in below-freezing temperatures with dense fog limiting visibility, according to local weather reports. Radio traffic from local first responders said there was an “active fire” after an “explosion.”

“An Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base crashed at approximately 5:50 p.m. today while attempting to land on the installation,” the base’s 28th Bomb Wing said in a Jan. 4 statement. “At the time of the accident, it was on a training mission.”

The airbase is closed to flight operations, according to a Notice to Airmen/Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) advisory issued soon after the incident. The NOTAM was extended on Jan. 5.

One Airman is currently being treated at a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries, the 28th Bomb Wing said in a Jan. 5 statement. The other three crew members were treated on base for minor injuries. A typical B-1 crew consists of two pilots and two weapons systems officers, all with ejection seats.

A spokesperson for the wing told Air & Space Forces Magazine they could not provide further details of the incident.

Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Ellsworth Air Force Base is near Rapid City. It is one of only two B-1 bases. The 28th Bomb Wing operates over 20 B-1s, according to the base. The Air Force has 45 B-1s in its inventory.

The aircraft was initially designed to operate as a supersonic, nuclear-capable bomber with variable-sweep wings. But the fleet has been used hard over the last two decades in the Middle East after being converted to a purely conventional bomber. The aircraft is known to have a poor mission-capable rate.

Ellsworth is slated to receive the first operational B-21 Raider stealth bombers, which are scheduled to fully replace the B-1.

“The Air Force will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the accident,” the 28th Bomb Wing said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Jan. 5 with additional details.