Why the Air Force Might Give its B-1 Lancer to the Navy

Kris Osborn

Warrior Maven Video Report:How long will the B-1 Bomber remain in service? Will it retire when the B-21 arrives?

By Bruce Bibee - Senior Warrior Maven Writer - Former US Army officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expert. Vietnam Veteran

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) released a study suggesting the USAF spends more than it should in order to ensure American remains ‘king of the skies.’ It was also suggested that the B-1 Lancer be retired. Once again I feel that I must differ with a group of well-funded subject matter experts - the USAF may not need the Lancer to perform its current mission set; but the USN certainly could use this asset in a sea control mission - especially against the PLAN which is becoming much more assertive especially in the waters inside the first island chain.

Currently, each Lancer can carry twenty four long range stealthy anti-ship cruise missiles which can be fired from stand-off locations - locations that can be reached quickly given the Lancer's speed. Operating from dispersed hardened locations across the first and second island chains, the Lancer fleet can hold any ship in the PLAN fleet at risk in hours rather than days. It should be noted that both Russia and the PRC have long range 'ex-bomber' aircraft with long range anti-ship cruise missiles specifically to deny the USN the capability to employ its carrier fleet. .. **This topic is also taken up in an in depth article from Over The Horizon ( Story Here Over The Horizon) ***

A secondary mission would be to use the Lancer fleet to each deliver twenty four 2,000 pound precision guided sea mines* to quickly close strategic choke point exits that the PLAN might try to use to escape from its bases inside the first island chain into the Indo-Pacific for offensive operations against the USA and/or its allies. At somewhat more risk, sea mines might be sowed to close down PRC ports to both its naval operations and to its commercial traffic.

Just the creditable threat that all waters claimed by the PRC may be mined would likely spike commercial insurance rates on all ships and cargos transiting either to or from the PRC - and no foreign owned ship is likely to risk damage or destruction to their commercial assets. Such a mining operation will likely quickly shut down the PRC economy - and mines need not even be laid. A submarine torpedoing a naval or commercial ship in waters that have been declared subject to mining would likely be enough to disrupt virtually all commercial traffic. *This 2,000-lb bomb is the Quickstrike-J, which has the JDAM guidance kit attached, a magnetic/seismic sensor fuse, and is commonly called the Skipjack. They mirror the dimensions and weight of their JDAM siblings and have been dropped from the B-1 already.

Bruce Bibee - Senior Warrior Maven Writer - Former US Army officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expert. Vietnam Veteran

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Kris Osborn can be reached at Krisosborn.ko@gmail.com

Comments (6)
No. 1-3

Others have recommended the same, that as the B-21 enters the Air Force fleet that it begin transferring the B-1Bs to the Navy for use as naval heavy bombers. This is an entirely sensible proposal.

For all the talk over the last half dozen years about the Chinese practicing anti-access/area denial against our naval ships, including our CVNs, it is actually far more feasible, and likely, that the US and our IndoPac allies can overnight turn the East China Sea and the South China sea as no-float zones for the Chinese.

Imagine, if you will, the only means that China has of conquering Taiwan, or the Ryukyus, or Japan, or Vietnam, or the Philippines is via amphibious assault. Aircraft simply cannot transport enough men and equipment, and heavy transports are easily shot down by air defense systems and fighters like the F-35. They have to transport by sea.

A single squadron of B-1Bs loaded up with 24 LRASM each could literally destroy an entire Chinese invasion force long before they ever set foot on the beach in Taiwan, or anywhere else for that matter.

The Navy should also start work now on developing their own fleet of heavy naval bombers for that purpose, because the B-1Bs are only expected to operate up through the 2040s, so they are only an intermediate term solution.


A B-1 full of whatever mix of anti-ship missiles, anti-radiation weapons, or even a bay full of Amraam's, etc., coupled with a the F-35's data link provides an awful lot of flexibility for assault, defense, and a whole lot more for adversaries to defend against.


Unless this aircraft is equipped with arresting gear the blue ring guys will not accept the role Kris has outlined.