The “Unflagging” Bone

The Air Force’s B-1B bomber force has maintained an “unflagging” presence in Southwest Asia since combat operations commenced there after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, flying more than 6,900 missions and amassing more than 70,000 combat hours, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, who serves as USAF’s top military acquisition officer at the Pentagon. Testifying March 17 before the Senate Armed Forces strategic forces panel, Shackelford added that for operations in Afghanistan alone, the B-1, or Bone, force has employed nearly 40 percent of all munitions while flying only five percent of total sorties. That is why, he said, USAF has put “great emphasis” on sustaining the B-1 fleet rather than “leave a gap in our power projection capability.” Among key upgrades, USAF rates addition of the fully integrated data link (FIDL) capability, which concluded initial flight testing last fall, as No. 1, said Shackelford. (Written testimony)