To B-1B or not to B-1B
The above is the B-1B Lancer and for a good chunk of the later Cold War this was to be one of the primary aircraft that would deliver nuclear payloads, should it ever be needed.
Originally conceived in the 50’s and into the 60’s the idea was to create a replacement for the venerable B-52 that would have extended range and supersonic capabilities. The first of the prototypes, the B-1A, flew on December 23, 1974. Originally slated to cost in the area of $40 million, By 1975 the projected cost had ballooned to over $70 million per aircraft.
By the time that Jimmy Carter took over the presidency, this B-1 program, and several others were on the chopping block because of their expense and the feeling that would be no better in payload or penetration of enemy airspace than the B-52. Carter killed the program and decided to focus instead on ICBMs and “modernizing” the current B-52 fleet.
Upon taking office in 1981 President Reagan decided that the B-1 could fulfill a designated role. He ordered 100 of the planes to be constructed. The B-1B officially joined the US armory on October 1st, 1986.
It has a max airspeed of Mach 1.5 at high altitude and Mach 0.92 at low altitude. With a combat radius of almost three thousand miles. The crew of four would be able to deploy over 125,000 pounds of ordinance on a given target. Conventional as well as nuclear. The most amazing thing? With potential upgrades and increased capabilities, the B-1B could potentially be in services until 2038 or later!
Of course, the photo above is a model of the unit.