October 5, 2017

BONE UP: B-1B To Fly Through 2040 Without Major Life Extension.

In 2012 and 2013, Boeing began fatigue testing the wing and fuselage, respectively, to validate the predicted life of the B-1B, which at the time was forecast to fly through 2050.

With 72% of wing testing and 20% of fuselage fatigue testing now complete, the Air Force estimates the B-1B can operate through 2040 without needing an expensive life extension.

Brig. Gen. Michael Schmidt, the Air Force’s program executive officer for fighters and bombers, says B-1B testing is extremely important and helps identify which parts of the swing-wing supersonic bomber need closer inspection and which need repair or replacing, and in what timeline.

“As of right now, we don’t plan a fully fledged life extension,” Schmidt confirmed during a Sept. 25 interview.

Like the Boeing B-52 and Northrop Grumman B-2, the B-1B was built tough and will fly longer than expected without needing new wings or other major structural upgrades, like smaller fighters and attack aircraft. The B-1B was originally designed to fly 9,681 equivalent flight hours. But data provided by the fighters and bombers directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, shows it lasting far longer. The projected service life of the B-1B, originally built by Rockwell and acquired by Boeing, will reach 19,900 equivalent flight hours, the service says.

That’s great, but the Air Force had better get moving with the planned B-21 Raider, because it looks like the B-1B and the B-52 will start entering retirement at about the same time.

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