The first B-1B Lancer bombers are back in the air after concerns over its ejection seats grounded the entire fleet nearly a month ago, Air Force Global Strike Command said Tuesday.
The B-1B fleet was grounded by Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Global Strike Command, March 28 over concerns with the drogue chute system, which corrects the seat’s angle to allow an airman to safely eject from the bomber. It was the second time in a year the Air Force grounded the Lancer over an ejection seat issue.
B-1Bs will be returned to flight status individually, as inspections and maintenance are finished on them, the command said in Tuesday’s news release.
Maintenance personnel and aircrew flight equipment technicians inspected the entire ejection system during the stand-down, before clearing each aircraft to fly again.
“We are proud of the tremendous efforts of our maintainers and aircrew flight equipment technicians in identifying, inspecting and remediating any potential issues with the B-1B egress system,” Maj. Gen. James Dawkins Jr., commander of the 8th Air Force, said in the release. “The aircraft are still safe to fly and we are confident that this stand-down has resulted in increased safety within the B-1B fleet.”
Despite high demand, there are only a handful of B-1B Lancer bombers available to take off at a moment's notice.
The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Air Force Gen. John Hyten, told Senate Armed Services Committee members this week that the service has only six bombers that are ready to deploy.
"We have B-1B bombers; this is the workhorse of the Air Force today," Hyten said during his tense confirmation hearing to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Right now, of all of our B-1 bombers, we have six of them that are fully mission capable: five split between Ellsworth Air Force Base [South Dakota] and Dyess Air Force Base [Texas], one is a test aircraft, 15 B-1s are in depot," he said. "The remaining 39 of 44 B-1s at Ellsworth and at Dyess are down for a variety of discrepancies and inspections."
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