The B-1B Lancer was developed by Rockwell International, now Boeing Defense And Space Group, and is the US Air Force long-range strategic bomber. The B-1B has the largest internal payload of any current bomber. The B-1B became operational in 1986. In July 2001, the US Department of Defense announced plans to cut its B-1B inventory from 92 to 67 as a cost-saving measure. The first aircraft was withdrawn from service in August 2002. Following Operation Iraqi Freedom, it was decided that there should be 67 aircraft in the fleet.
The remaining fleet operates from Dyess AFB, Texas (38 aircraft) and Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota (29 aircraft). The B-1B is expected to in be service until 2025. In May 2010, Boeing B-1 bomber has completed its 25th Anniversary of operations at Dyess US Air Force Base.
The low radar cross section, variable-geometry wings, modern avionics, and afterburning engines enable the B-1 to carry the largest payload strike and offers long range, maneuverability, high speed and survivability.
In March 2008, the B-1B became the first aircraft to fly at supersonic speed using synthetic fuel. The fuel was a 50/50 blend of conventional JP-8 petroleum and a synthetic fuel derived from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process. The flight was part of an ongoing USAF programme to certify the alternative fuel for all USAF aircraft.
B-1B Lancer upgrade programme
In February 2009 Boeing received a $45m contract from the US Air Force to upgrade avionics software on the B-1 heavy bomber. The contract ensures that B-1 crews are well equipped to meet its ever-expanding role.
Boeing has recently upgraded the B-1 aircraft with a fully integrated data link (FIDL) and the upgraded aircraft took its maiden flight in July 2009. The upgrades included cockpit modifications, new processors, colour displays and communications architecture, enhancing B-1 crews' situational awareness and communications capability and Ethernet network.
The FIDL system reduces the workload of the crew by automatically retasking the weapons system. Boeing Integrated Defense Sytems is expecting a contract in November 2010 from the USAF to installing FIDL systems in its B-1 fleet.