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Airmen keep B-1B ready for bombs on target

by Senior Airman Brok McCarthy
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/3/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Keeping B-1B Lancers constantly ready to help coalition forces defeat terrorists are Airmen assigned to the 7th Aircraft Maintenance Unit here.

With its ability to carry the largest payload of any aircraft in the U.S. inventory and flying in excess of 900 mph while fully loaded, maintainers work 24 hours a day to ensure the bombers are operational and ready to support the warfighters on the ground.

The majority of missions for the B-1B are used for are close-air support in Afghanistan, though some do go into Iraq, said Tech. Sgt. Jack Thomas, the 7th AMU airframe power plant generation section chief deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

"The B-1B's primary mission is (long-range bombing), but because of the nature of combat these days, we have moved into more of a close-air support role," said the native of San Angelo, Texas. "We can fill that role because of the Sniper (advanced targeting) pod we have on the bomber. We can do the same thing (an F-15E) Strike Eagle can do, but we can carry a lot more munitions, and we can stay up there a lot longer."

The Sniper pod is a device that allows the B-1B to identify targets at long ranges accurately without additional aids such as other aircraft or ground personnel. The system is similar to Sniper pods successfully used on the F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs.

Because of the accuracy provided by the Sniper pod, the amount of munitions a B-1B can hold and the length of time it can stay in the air, the bomber is a highly requested asset, Sergeant Thomas said.

"The bomber can loiter in one part of Afghanistan, and as soon as they get a call, they can be somewhere else quickly to drop weapons," said Master Sgt. Guy Matherly, the 7th AMU B-1B Specialist Flight chief deployed from Dyess AFB.

For the B-1B to complete its mission here, more than 150 Airmen from eight Air Force specialties work together.

"The B-1B is probably the most maintenance-intensive aircraft in the Air Force inventory. It's a technical monster," Sergeant Thomas said. "It takes the most man-hours to generate flights, so everyone who's attached to B-1B maintenance works really hard."

The reason it's so technically difficult to work on is because of how specialized and sophisticated the B-1B is and how often it receives upgrades. The bomber regularly receives upgrades to its software, weapons, avionics systems, so there is a lot for maintenance workers to keep current on, Sergeant Matherly said.



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