air craft military Aircraft Military

Astonishing Display of Air Power: B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit Fly in Formation

B-1 Lancer The B-1B Lancer is a supersonic, long-range conventional bomber that has served the United States Air Force since 1985. The aircraft is expected to continue operations until 2040 and beyond, with Boeing partnering with the Air Force to maintain its mission readiness. Originally designed for nuclear capabilities, the B-1 has since switched to exclusively conventional combat roles since the mid-1990s. During Operation Allied Force, the B-1 flew 2 percent of the strike missions and dropped 20 percent of the ordnance, while during Operation Enduring Freedom, it flew 2 percent of the sorties and dropped over 40 percent of the precision weapons. The B-1 has seen almost continuous deployment in combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

B-2 Spirit The Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is a heavy strategic bomber that features low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses. The aircraft is subsonic and can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons. It has a crew of two and is the only known aircraft capable of carrying large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration. The development of the B-2 started under the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (ATB) project during the Carter administration. Though it was one of the reasons for the cancellation of the Mach 2 capable B-1A bomber, it continued during the Reagan administration. The total program cost, which included development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.13 billion per aircraft in 1997.

Due to the B-2’s high capital and operating costs, the project was controversial in the U.S. Congress. Congress reduced the planned purchase from 132 bombers to 21 in the 1980s and 1990s. As of 2018, twenty B-2s are in service with the United States Air Force, with plans to operate them until 2032, when they will be replaced by the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider.

The B-2 is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet with a range of over 6,000 nautical miles on internal fuel and over 10,000 nautical miles with one mid-air refueling. It entered service in 1997 as the second aircraft designed to have advanced stealth technology after the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk attack aircraft.

It has been used in combat dropping conventional, non-nuclear ordnance in the Kosovo War in 1999, and later served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

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