In support of efforts to modernise America’s bomber fleet, the U.S. Air Force have announced that it will begin retiring 17 B-1B Lancers from its current fleet.

“This action will not affect the service’s lethality or any associated maintenance manpower. It will allow officials to focus maintenance and depot-level manpower on the remaining aircraft, increasing readiness and paving the way for the bomber fleet modernization ready to meet future challenges”, the U.S. Air Force said in a statement.

“Beginning to retire legacy bombers, to make way for the B-21 Raider, is something we have been working toward for some time,” said Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

“Due to the wear and tear placed on the B-1 fleet over the past two decades, maintaining these bombers would cost tens of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to status quo. And that’s just to fix the problems we know about. We’re just accelerating planned retirements.”

The 17 B-1B aircraft will be retired from the current fleet of 62 B-1s, leaving 45 in the active fleet. Of the 17 B-1 aircraft, four will be required to remain in a reclaimable condition that is consistent with Type 2000 recallable storage.

“Retiring aircraft with the least amount of usable life allows us to prioritize the health of the fleet and crew training”, Ray added. “Our ability to balance these priorities will make us more capable and lethal overall.”

With fewer aircraft in the B-1 fleet, maintainers will be able to give more time and attention to each aircraft.

“The divestiture of the B-1 is necessary in order for the Air Force to create an even more lethal, agile and sustainable force with a greater competitive edge for tomorrow’s fight,” Ray said.

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Such an elegant and yet somehow sinister looking thing. I do wonder whether history will look back upon manned aircraft, especially ones designed to actually take large tonnage of heavy explosives to another location such as these, as being anachronistic in the extreme.


In the same way we have realised that individual armour for our soldiers is essential, yet had written that off as being obsolete after the medieval period?

Things go in circles, but a big thing carrying lots of little things nearer to their destination being more efficient than the little things all going all the way direct – is unlikely to lose its fundamental appeal.

Just as we still want frigates doing the same things frigates did centuries ago, despite the inventions of aircraft and submarines that cover the ground faster and with more capability.


The whole armour thing going out of fashion is not actually true. It was more that the effectiveness of available armour vs cost and effectiveness made it a poor investment for for general use in large field armies. surprisingly metal Armor covering the torso was still in wide use by many Cavalry forces in the opening stages of world war 1 as these were smaller forces, where the weight of armour and cost were less of an issue, they were also expected to close and need protection against edged and pointed weapons. Just at the point everyone realised metal torso… Read more »


The B-21 passed its Critical Design Review in December 2020 which means that the design is now frozen and the cost determined – $550 million in 2010 dollars – about $650 million. Two aircraft are in production. The first test flight is expected in the next six months but, given the classification of the program, it’s unlikely the Air Force will provide any detailed information.

Daniele Mandelli

First test flight? It may have flown already from Groom. If not full size a smaller version.


No. There is absolutely no reliable information that a demonstration aircraft or a smaller version has been produced at Palmdale and sent to Groom Lake, as the USAF calls it. It makes no economic sense to produce it. Nor an engineering one. That was not done with the B-2 and the USAF has followed the same practice here. The USAF Program Director himself has spoken about the first flight which he had hoped would occur in December of 2020 but didn’t. Most likely COVID related.


You have no idea what happens at Groom, or around it.
I would be my life that something, or rather some things, related to the B21 have been flying from Groom et all for over a decade. Hence why the program has gone seemingly so smoothly. That is after all, the idea…


Nonsense. I actually have ben at Groom Lake TDY on several occasions while on active duty and I know one hell of a lot more about it than you do. Bet your life all you want, you’ll just lose it. You just don’ know what you are talking about. he very fact that you refer to it as “Groom” indicates you don’t.



If you had actually been anywhere in that area you would not be bragging of it on an internet forum.

Your total lack of insight is further evidence.


See my reply to Daniele Mandelli. The bullshitter here is you. You are ignorant of the facts and have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.


What facts? Your posts are a fact free vacumn!

NTTR absolutely does have platforms in support of B21. Only a eejit would try and deny that. It’s not a major secret, nor is it unexpected – the secret bit is what they are exactly, what they can do and what is done with them.

I bet the closest you’ve ever been to that area was watching a film set in Vegas.

I’d ask you what colour the boat house is at Groom but I don’t think a teenager would have seen that film.

Daniele Mandelli

“Groom” is the same as us saying “Lossi” for Lossimouth PK, so that is a poor comparison. If you have served there, who can say, and if so then of course you can comment on the location, though not on programmes as you should know full well things are compartmentalised. I think anyone who studies the subject that much as some here know what the names for Groom Lake are, and there are several apart from its official designation. Rogbob has suggested what I was thinking, as in other “black programmes” it was suggested subscale demonstrators may have flown, much… Read more »


The US Air Force, a number of years ago, acknowledged the existence of Groom Lake AFB and has listed it as one of its bases for a number of years. Airman assigned there acknowledge that they are assigned there. The work may be classified but the base and location are no longer. Your knowledge is based on uniformed alien spotting bloggers; mine is from first hand knowledge. And I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not. It would be cost prohibitive to build a demonstrator. One was not built for the B-2 and there is no need… Read more »

John Stott

There are several aliens who post on here sadly.

Daniele Mandelli

Deary me.


The UK should seriously consider a squadron of B-21s.

Supportive Bloke

Paid for by cutting what?

@ £500m each we can’t afford them if we are struggling to buy enough F35B’s which are only £80m each…..

Steve R

Why? For the price of a single B-21 bomber we could have half a dozen F35s or Typhoons. A dozen B-21s would cost £6.6billion; the equivalent of… – Over 80 x F35s or Typhoons, or 50 of either plus a half dozen extra, each of P8 Poseidons and E7 Wedgetails. – 4 x Astute class submarines – 5 x Type 26 frigrates plus change. – 20 x Type 31 frigates – enough to completely replace Challenger 2 at least on a one for one basis. I’d much rather any one of those to a squadron of shiny bombers without much… Read more »


You need to think lifecycle costs. Upfront purchase is relatively small beer vs in service costs. Where the nunber of people and infra required starts to be significantly different, then the in service costs will be logarithmically higher. So a dozen B21s, or more accurately say 8-9 (equiv to C17/P8 fleets) is going to be more like a 20-30 strong Typhoon force, 1 SSN or 2 frigates. At that point the long range and endurance, plus high capacity of the B21 suddenly look very different. I wouldnt look at it as a penetrating strategic ac – its the range/endurance and… Read more »

Steve R

Except those 30-odd Typhoons are much more versatile than a large heavy bomber. Those 8 or 9 bombers cannot intercept enemy aircraft, nor can they provide close air support to our ground forces. Their only job is long range heavy bombing missions. I can’t think of a single likely scenario where those bombers can do it better than what we already have. The fact that people need to face is this: our defence budget is limited. We cannot afford to spend half a billion pounds on a bomber that is for a single purpose and can be done by existing… Read more »


Those 30 Typhoons are borderline useless actually. Not even useful for training increasingly given the differences between them and Tranche 2/3 war goers. Even of limited use for QRA given Meteor. And all at a pain in the arse maintenance burden (vs newer) that is only going to get worse. It’s why the RAF wasn’t unhappy to be rid of them, and post this IR may well be! Binning them for something that can provide persistent capacity at range would be a massive gain for the force. Describing it as one trick or frivolous exposes your own ignorance. We also… Read more »

Steve R

I wasn’t talking about our old Tranche 1 Typhoons, I was referring to Typhoons generally. As in: if we had a £6billion+ pot of money to spend on aircraft I’d rather it go on more Typhoons, or F35b than a squadron of heavy bombers. Scrapping the old Tranche 1s wouldn’t make any difference in being able to afford heavy bombers. You mention my ignorance at my calling such heavy bombers one trick ponies, but what else can they do?! Useless in air to air combat, can’t do close air support, too much of a prized asset for a recce sortie.… Read more »


Actually it was me talking about old Typhoons because, and making this point is becoming weariesome – they exist, and they cost us a fortune in all those life cycle costs I wrote about, whilst you still obsess on sticker price. Your 6B is a misnomer. It is the 30+ years of operating and support costs that matter. And your sqaudrons of Typhoons and F35s will cost far more in that sense than a nominally equivalent procurement cost of B21s. If we only need a pair of Typhoons, given we have c100 Tr2/3, why would we need more? The RAF… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Fascinating explanation.

It is probably moot anyway, would they even consider selling the aircraft? Even to the UK? I know they offered a version of F117 to the RAF once but that was in Reagans time.


Well yes, the elephant in the room! Perhaps, they sold us RJ, we are well embedded in F35 and its not in the same secrecy league as B2 was nor does it have the legislative restrictions that accompanied F22. But in truth it is perhaps a bit too much aeroplane given the Pacific like range and a capacity more tied to USAF weapon stores vs our own which we depleted using a couple of dozen Tonka/Typhoons! AIUI, pre end of the Cold War more was hoped for F117 including developed version(s) and a permament Europe det, for which UK was… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks for that.

Daniele Mandelli

Good Lord no.

No one but the USA can afford them. And we have no need for a penetrating strategic bomber. For nuclear role Trident/Vanguard is more than enough.

Conventional role we have Typhoon and F35 for 1st night penetration or stand off weapons platform. And TLAM.


If we needed to drop a lot of bombs on someone we should buy B-52’s.

Daniele Mandelli



Are you serious? $548m a pop?? Get real Billy! We don’t need them. We will be lucky if we ever get 4 active F35 squadrons at ‘only’ $85m per ship. Lets have a fixed wing FAA worth the tag. 4 frontline squadrons and ditto for the RAF. Big bombers? Not for us.


Can the RAF have some second hand B1Bs? Handy to have a few long range carpet bombers. Haven’t had that capability since the Vulcan – which was sent to the South Atlantic.