The Air Force released a new video of a B-1 bomber carrying a cruise missile on the outside.
The service plans for the B-1 bomber to be able to carry up to 36 long-range cruise missiles.
If successful, just a dozen bombers would be able to bombard enemy targets with up to 432 missiles in wartime.
The U.S. Air Force released new footage of a test involving the B-1B Lancer bomber carrying a new Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM).
The test, which did not involve an actual missile launch, is an early step toward B-1Bs carrying JASSM on external pylons, increasing the number of missiles a single bomber can carry by up to 50 percent. See the test here:
In the test, which Edwards Air Force Base’s 412th Test Wing performed, a B-1B assigned to the base carried a single JASSM missile. The missile was attached to the fuselage just behind the cockpit.
The test is described as a captive carry test, meaning there was no intention to launch a missile, but simply determine the feasibility of carrying a JASSM outside the aircraft.
The B-1B was originally designed as a strategic nuclear bomber capable of carrying nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on pylons mounted underneath the plane. The ability to mount pylons was a capability never actually used, and the plane was eventually converted to a non-nuclear bomber to comply with arms control treaty obligations.
Today, the B-1B is used as a jack-of-all-trades, long-range attack aircraft that’s capable of sprinting to the aid of ground forces to drop bombs or launching cruise missiles. In April 2018, B-1Bs launched JASSM missiles against Syrian chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
The B-1 bomber on the ground with JASSM missile. It may not look like much, but the B-1 can carry an additional 24 missiles internally, and this test is the first step towards a total of 36.
U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Christine Saunders/DVIDS
The U.S. military is pivoting from ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to confronting Russian and Chinese military forces. This change in posture requires more jets, more tanks, and more missiles—all weapons of mixed or no real utility against the Islamic State or Taliban guerrillas. The shift also requires long-range aircraft capable of carrying long-range missiles, in order to deal with the huge distances involved in reaching the Asia-Pacific and Europe.
The AGM-158 JASSM air-to-ground cruise missile is one key weapon system of the new big-war pivot. Stealthy, precision-guided, and smart, the JASSM is able to penetrate modern air defenses and then deliver a powerful blow. The missiles are large, but recent upgrades to the B-1 bomber mean the “Bone” can now carry up to 24 JASSM missiles internally, in the big airplane’s two bomb bays.
One of JASSM’s best capabilities is its long range. The standard JASSM missile has an effective range of 229 miles, while a longer range version, JASSM-ER, has a range of 621 miles. JASSM-XR (“extreme range”), an even longer range version set to enter production in 2024, will be able to fly 1,100 miles to a target.
The missile’s range, particularly that of the -ER and -XR versions, means the carrier aircraft can largely launch outside the range of enemy air defenses, keeping bomber and crew relatively safe compared to bombers equipped with shorter range missiles—or regular freefall bombs.
The Air Force has determined a properly modified B-1 bomber can carry between six and 12 JASSM missiles on external pylons. That boosts the B-1’s total loadout to between 30 and 36 missiles, probably the largest loadout of conventional cruise missiles in any air force anywhere.
The Air Force would need a third fewer planes to carry out the same strike as one undertaken today. Just 12 bombers could deliver 432 precision-guided missiles against enemy targets, each with a single 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead—a devastating amount of firepower.
How does a country that starts a war with America deal with the loss of 400 or more headquarters, supply dumps, air defense systems, power plants, and other mission-essential sites per day to just 12 bombers?
That’s a question any potential adversary must ask itself before the war starts. And if it doesn’t have any good answer, it’s quite possible such a country won’t start a war at all.