HASC Subcommittee Worried About B-1 Readiness

A USAF B-1B Lancer from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, S.D., receives fuel from a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, after participating in Exercise Trident Juncture 18, over Iceland, on Oct. 30, 2018. Air Force photo by A1C Brandon Esau.

Dwindling B-1 availability is raising alarm at the House Armed Services Committee, which is asking the Air Force to report back on several aspects of a readiness recovery plan for the conventionally armed bomber.

“The committee is concerned B-1 readiness does not have the priority and resources to improve B-1 mission-capable rates,” according to the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s version of the 2020 defense policy bill. “This is evidenced by fully mission-capable aircraft currently in single digits and aircrew being rerouted from flying the B-1 to other aircraft due to lack of B-1 aircraft for training.”

Lawmakers say America may be jeopardizing its ability to perform long-range precision strike because of the aging B-1’s structural problems. The bombers were grounded for nearly four weeks earlier this year because of drogue chute problems in the aircraft’s ejection seats.

Air Force Global Strike Command chief Gen. Timothy Ray told reporters ongoing combat operations are overextending the B-1 fleet, which will work through increased maintenance.

The subcommittee mark, released June 3, tells the Air Force to send lawmakers a plan to boost B-1 readiness by March 1, 2020. It should address aircraft structural issues, lay out a plan to continue structural deficiency data analysis and testing, project how long it may take to repair problems that are found, and come up with strategies to avoid future issues.

The Air Force is also asked to provide a training plan for pilots and maintainers and assess how long it would take the fleet to recover for future deployments.