The B-1 is a "swing-wing" strategic bomber of blended wing-body design intended for high-speed low-altitude penetration missions. Eventually, it will replace the aging B-52 bomber, operational since the 1950s. The B-1 uses shorter runways than the B-52, can carry twice the payload, and has a smaller radar profile than the B-52's, making it harder for the enemy to detect. Construction of the first prototype B-1A began in late 1972 and the first flight occurred on Dec. 23, 1974. By the end of June 1977, three B-1As had made 118 flights totaling 646 hours of flying time with over 21 hours at supersonic speed and more than 35 hours at high speed below 500 ft. B-1A production was canceled by presidental decision on June 30, 1977, but in Jan. 1982, as a result of another Presidental decision, the USAF directed Rockwell International to begin production of 100 B-1Bs, an improved version of the B-1A.
The aircraft on display is the fourth and last B-1A built. It was first flown in Feb. 1979, and was used primarily as the avionics test bed for the B-1B program. Unlike the other B-1As, which had crew escape modules, this B-1A has ejection seats, which are standard on the B-1B. After the B-1B became operational on Sep. 30, 1986, this B-1A's role in the program came to an end. The aircraft was flown to the USAF Museum on December 16, 1986. It is painted as it was during the early phases of the flight test program.
Also aiding the B-1's survivability is its relatively low radar cross-section (RCS). Although not technically a stealth aircraft in a comprehensive sense, thanks to the aircraft's structure, serpentine intake paths and use of radar-absorbent material its RCS is about 1/50th that of the B-52 (probably about 26 ft² or 2.4 m²), although the Lancer is not substantially smaller in mass than the Stratofortress.
Span: 136 ft. 8 1/2 in. fully spread; 78 ft. 2 1/2 in. fully swept.
Length: 150 ft. 2 1/2 in.
Height: 33 ft. 7 1/4 in.
Weight: 389,000 lbs. loaded
Armament: 24 AGM-69B short range attack missiles (SRAMS) or 75,000 lbs. of bombs carried internally plus 8 SRAMs or 40,000 lbs. of bombs carried externally.
Engines: Four General Electric F101-GE-100 afterburning turbofans of 30,000 lbs. thrust ea.
Serial number: 76-174
Maximum speed: 1,390 mph.
Cruising speed: 647 mph.
Range: 6,100 miles
Service Ceiling: 60,000 ft.