By Matt Dean
The Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a prime example of U.S. Cold War-era ingenuity, initiative, and engineering competency. The initial vision for the heavy bomber was to replace the lumbering B-52 with a high-flying supersonic nuclear deterrent. The B-1B, like many high-dollar military aircraft investments, evolved over multiple decades to suit the ever-changing perceived need of the defense department.
The B-1B or “B-ONE” employs stealthy characteristics and — unless you live near Dyess Air Force Base in Texas or Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota the aircraft — is likely to avoid your detection. The only functioning one I’ve ever seen is from afar on the tarmac at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. I spied a non-functioning B-ONE at the Boneyard also at Davis-Monthan wrapped up for storage, too.
The main distinguishing feature of a B-1B is its ability to alter its wings from a 15-degree angle to a delta-shaped 67.5-degree angle. The wings move for speed when the plane is in the swept delta configuration and for control when in the typical, forward position.
The original B-1 was meant to be a super-fast mach 2.2 nuclear bomb delivery system in the age where a “recallable” nuclear deterrent was preferred.
As the manned nuclear delivery system fell out of favor, so, too, did the B-1. But, at a cost of roughly $280 million apiece, gargantuan investments like the B-1 program evolved instead of going away. As radar evading technologies were developed, the B-1 platform was deemed suitable for stealth features. Consequently, the B-1 became the slower but less-visible to radar plane called the B-1B and served in several conflicts. It continues to support U.S. military operations in Southwest Asia.
The B-1B Lancer is slim and eloquent. Much like a cat, the aircraft is meant to sneak up and then dart to the target low to the ground for the kill. The small, triangle-shaped vanes that help reduce turbulence near the nose of the aircraft are not unlike feline whiskers responding to the atmospheric conditions outside the plane.
Indeed, the B-ONE is high-tech machine of destruction and diplomacy that relies on the ancient techniques of the felis catus.
Matt Dean is a Prescott native and a teacher for Prescott High School’s online program who enjoys spending time with his family and walks with the dogs. Contact him at Matt.Dean@PrescottSchools.Com.