- The United States and Russia are two of the three countries still operating long-range strategic bombers.
- Many US and Russian bombers are older than the pilots and crews who fly them.
- Washington and Moscow plan to keep these aging bombers in the air for years to come.
The United States and Russia are two of only three countries that continue to operate long-range strategic bombers well into the 21st century. China is her third.
What is particularly notable about the respective bombers of the US Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces is that many of the aircraft actually in service are older than the crews aboard the aircraft.
Despite their age, these long-range planes are still capable. Especially as efforts are made to keep it up to date on an ongoing basis. 19FortyFive reached out to analysts at defense intelligence provider Janes to discuss the capabilities of their current sky flagship.
The Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS (NATO reporting name “Bear-H”) is a highly updated heavy bomber developed from a Cold War-era aircraft that first entered service in 1952 and is still flying somewhere in the United States. It may be one of the oldest aircraft designs in existence. But it continues to score miles in the sky.
It is not the fastest aircraft in service, as it is the only propeller bomber in service, but it was developed to fly 5,000 miles and attack targets in the United States from territory in the former Soviet Union. Current models have a reported range of over 9,300 miles (15,000 km).
“The Tu-95MSM will remain operational in Russia for at least another 20 years,” a Janes analyst told 19FortyFive.
“In late 2009, the Russian Ministry of Defense launched a multi-stage Tu-95MS upgrade program,” they added. “This work is ongoing and includes a new radar, flight control and navigation system, JSDF suite, engines, and propellers. The Tu-95MS is the fastest modern turboprop in the world, and economical to operate (much more economical than the supersonic Tu-160), because it carries only cruise missiles. , classified as a missile carrier rather than a bomber, and despite its outdated appearance, it carries the most advanced cruise missiles in the VKS long-range air service, including the stealthy Kh-101/102.”
American B-1B Lancer
The swept-wing B-1B bomber was developed during the Cold War to carry out high-velocity, low-altitude invasion missions.
Lancer, commonly known to crews as ‘Bone’ due to its designation ‘B-One’, made its maiden flight in December 1974.
At the time, it was a giant leap in aviation design, smaller than the B-52 bomber, but with its advanced engines and high-lift variable swept wing, it could carry twice as much ordnance over much longer distances. I made it. faster.
Originally designed to attack cities deep within the Soviet Union, the B-1 first saw action in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. During this operation, the Lancer successfully penetrated the Iraqi air defense system and destroyed the Republican Guard barracks.
Last year, the Air Force retired 17 of its oldest and most worn Lancer bombers, freeing maintenance personnel to focus on keeping the remaining 45 bombers operational. These aircraft are expected to remain in service at least until the B-21 Raider enters service at the end of the decade.
“The USAF has not announced a planned IOC (initial operational capability) or FOC (full operational capability) timeline (of the B-21), other than an IOC scheduled for the mid-2020s. a Janes analyst told 19FortyFive.
“But the pace of procurement is slow, so the FOC will take longer. The USAF plans to procure 100 B-21s, with final deliveries likely by the late 2030s. No. The B-1 should remain in service until about 40. The B-21 is in service to avoid a capability gap. Means. Being upgraded to maintain operational effectiveness over this period. The timeline would require the B-1 to remain operational longer, but the B-21 avoids this possibility. We use mature technology to
America’s B-2 Spirit
The first B-2 Spirit was deployed from the final bomber assembly facility in Palmdale, California in November 1988 and first flew on July 17, 1989.
Originally, the Air Force planned 132 B-2 Spirits, but since the aircraft was a product of the Cold War, it was originally designed to penetrate Soviet air defenses. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Congress cut the Spirit’s budget, reducing production to just 21 aircraft.
The B-2’s combat effectiveness was first demonstrated during Operation Allied Forces, a NATO-led airstrike against Serbia. Spirit was responsible for destroying his 33% of all Serbian targets in his first eight weeks, including non-stop flights to Kosovo. Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) just returned from its home base in Missouri.
Bombers played a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, which began following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and Pentagon. The B-2 successfully flew one of his longest missions ever, flying between Missouri and Afghanistan and back.
The B-2 completed its first combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from forward operating points, 27 sorties from Whiteman AFB, and carrying over 1.5 million pounds of ammunition. did.
Like B-1, B-2 also has a shorter life.
“The B-2A fleet was planned to remain operational until about 2050, but the USAF plans to begin decommissioning the B-2A once the B-21 is operational,” a Janes expert told 19FortyFive. .
“The B-2A has a smaller airframe than the B-1, making it easier to replace, but it is unclear if the USAF will prioritize decommissioning the B-1 or B-2A when the B-21 enters service. Therefore, it is likely that the B-2A will also be in service by the early 2030s.”
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