The supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber is poised to become the face of US air power in the Pacific as the Air Force repurposes it as a “missile truck.” A series of dramatic drills has recently demonstrated this commitment, but with roughly one-third of the fleet being retired due to wear, it remains to be seen how long the Pentagon can keep it up.
Now that Rockwell’s B-1B Lancer can carry many of the Pentagon’s new missiles, the plane is finding a third life with the Air Force as a tool for naval power projection in the Pacific Ocean, where the US has positioned itself to confront the rise of China as a naval power and regional political player.
“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” he added.
The Lancer’s lifting capacity is enormous at 50,000 pounds, enabling it, with a few modifications, to carry 40 missiles or specifically 31 hypersonic missiles, which travel at speeds of over Mach 5.
The Lancer has been certified to carry the LRASM since 2018, when the Air Force demonstrated the plane could carry up to 24 of them at a time. The missile has a purported range of 230 miles (370 kilometers), significantly further than the new extended-range AGM-84 Harpoon, which can reach 194 miles under ideal circumstances.
While in recent months several Lancers have been