Strong BONEs Mean Muscle

May 2 will mark the 20th anniversary of the delivery of the last B-1B bomber to the Air Force. Back then no one really envisioned the then-nuclear delivery platform being used as it is today in conventional roles such as close air support. But since 2003, B-1Bs have maintained a continuous presence in Southwest Asia carrying out precision bombing runs in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its combination of speed, range, and payload—up to 35 tons of bombs—has made it especially popular in the ongoing war on terror. “It’s been the bomber of choice for [Air Forces Central],” said SMSgt. Chuck Klein, Air Combat Command B-1 aircraft manager. “It’s the right bomber for the mission in Iraq, which is close air support.” In some cases, the B-1Bs don’t even have to drop any munitions to be effective; Rather, just a flyby and a “show of force” and release of flares is enough to send the enemy scurrying. Currently B-1Bs are being equipped with the Sniper targeting pod, which will allow the aircrews to identify targets at standoff ranges. USAF has 67 B-1Bs. (Langley report by TSgt. Russell Wicke)