The U.S. Air Force Has Started To Divest the B-1 Bomber Fleet With First BONE Retired At The Boneyard

Master Sgt. David Jackson, the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent, salutes a B-1B Lancer that is being divested prior to its final launch from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 17, 2021. 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 in today’s fight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jonah Fronk)

The first B-1 “BONE” bomber has flown to the Boneyard.

The U.S. Air Force has kicked off the divestment of the B-1 Lancer fleet on Feb. 17, 2021. The first “BONE” (from “B-One”, as the aircraft is unofficially nicknamed) flew from Ellsworth Air Force Base, to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, to be retired at the “Boneyard” of the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group).

A B-1B lancer that is being divested takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., for the final time Feb. 17, 2021. Divesting aircraft with the least amount of usable life allows the Air Force to prioritize investment in the health of the remaining fleet and crew training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jonah Fronk)

The plan is to divest 17 B-1B aircraft from the current fleet of 62 Lancers, leaving 45 in the active fleet in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act. According to the U.S. Air Force, of the 17 B-1 aircraft, four will be required to remain in a reclaimable condition that is consistent with Type 2000 recallable storage: in other words, they can be resurrected (as for instance done with the B-52s) when needed.

Most of the bombers will be retired this year: 14 before Sept. 30, 2021.

The divestment will allow the U.S. Air Force to focus maintenance and depot-level manpower on the remaining aircraft, increasing readiness and paving the way for the bomber fleet modernization and the introduction of the B-21 Raider.

“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. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command commander in a public release. “Due to the wear and tear placed on the B-1 fleet over the past two decades, maintaining these bombers would cost 10s 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.”

Assessments conducted on the fleet found that the 17 B-1Bs had experienced significant structural fatigue with cracks appearing in highly stressed
structural components joining the wings to the fuselage. Ten to 30 million dollars per aircraft would be required to bring the aircraft back to the status quo.

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

Marks identifying a B-1B Lancer as assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., are removed at the base Feb. 16, 2021, prior to the aircraft’s divestiture. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jonah Fronk)


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.