Senior Airman DeQuan McHatten, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, performs a pre-flight inspection on a B1-B Lancer aircraft exhaust at a non-disclosed Southwest Asia location, June 12, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michelle Larche)[RELEASED]
B-1B Lancer tail number 087 became the first B-1B to reach 10K flying hours, June 12, 2010, at a non-disclosed Southwest Asia location. Carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory, the multi-mission B-1B is the backbone of America's long-range bomber force. It can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michelle Larche)[RELEASED]
Lt. Col. Steve Beasley (front), Capt. Chris Winklepleck and Capt. Miranda Brasko, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron pilots, arrive to board B1-B Lancer aircraft tail number 5087 prior to its reaching the 10K flight hour mark at a non-disclosed Southwest Asia location, June 12, 2010. Colonel Beasley is also the 34 EBS commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michelle Larche)[RELEASED]
by Senior Airman Spencer Gallien
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
6/19/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A B-1B Lancer achieved 10,000 flight hours here, June 12.
After 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit professionals braved temperatures in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit preparing the aircraft for the flight, the aircrew stepped in and performed the milestone-mission, despite an 18-hour duty-day.
"The tremendous amount of man-hours spent maintaining the B-1 and the sacrifices the maintainers endure away from their families, working extremely long hours in austere locations, has facilitated this historic event," said Master Sgt. Mathias Stewart, 34 AMU Airframe Powerplant General B-1 flight chief. "I am an extremely big fan of all maintainers, especially the crew chiefs who work for me, who have enabled this historic milestone on the B-1."
One of the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron's Thunderbird crews flew the 14-hour Operation Enduring Freedom mission which pushed the "workhorse" aircraft, aircraft number 85-0087, past the 10,000 flight-hour milestone.
"No other Air Force asset demonstrates the flexibility and adaptation to the counter-insurgency fight better than the B-1," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Hoog, Air Force Central Command's deputy commander. "It now boasts advanced targeting pods and communications systems while hosting payloads varying from lethal to low collateral damage munitions."
The B-1 came into the active Air Force inventory in the mid-1980s with an expected service life of 20 years, said Col. John Kubinec, 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander. It now has surpassed its expected service life while reaching this important milestone.
"This accomplishment is all about making the mission happen through teamwork," he added. "The fact this milestone was achieved during a combat sortie is a fitting testament to the dedication of the entire B-1 enterprise, from the systems program office and depot to the amazing Airmen on the flightline who make all of this possible."
The B-1 has been rotating in-theater since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and since August 2005 there has been a continuous B-1 presence. To date, the airframe has flown more than 7,500 combat sorties totaling 85,000 hours.
Since the 34 EBS arrived in theater January 2010, they have flown almost 500 combat sorties totaling close to 6,000 hours.
"The 34 EBS and its associated aircraft maintenance unit - the folks that keep it flying - are one of the best ops-maintenance teams I've ever seen," said Lt. Col. Steve Beasley, 34 EBS commander. "I attribute the historically high mission capable rates and combat mission effectiveness to that team."
The B-1 airframe, now scheduled to remain in operation until 2040, has an expansive history stretching back to the 1960s, said Colonel Beasley. It was initially envisioned as a replacement for the B-52 Stratofortress, but its development was delayed and restarted several times.
The B-1 took its first flight in December 1974.
Originally envisioned as a single-role nuclear bomber, it was modified to carry conventional weapons in 1994 and stood its last nuclear alert in 1997. Since then, it has flown operations in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Through the years, the aircraft has been upgraded to make it a more viable weapon system, adding GPS-guided weapons in 1999.
The 34 EBS led the initial deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and have been part of the combat rotation to Southwest Asia ever since.
On their last deployment, they were the first B-1 unit to employ the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, and on their current deployment, became the first unit to employ the low-collateral damage weaponry as well as their upgraded digital communications.
"In my more than 16 years on the B-1, I've seen its role changing from nuclear to conventional," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Justice, 34 AMU APG B-1 expediter. "I've had the opportunity to see the aircraft grow into what it is today. After being on the jet this long, I still get excited to see it takeoff on its mission, whether it be at home station on training sorties, or flying combat missions - maintenance made it happen!"
As the B-1's shelf-life grows, maintenance and ops professionals will continue to meet the needs of the Air Force and build upon the already storied legacy of the aircraft, said Colonel Beasley.
"The B-1 has an extensive history riddled with logistical challenges and myths of operational shortfalls," added Colonel Beasley. "The recent 10,000-hour milestone demonstrates the B-1 has evolved into a multi-purpose weapon system that has come of age over the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan as the backbone of the combat Air Forces. The credit for this transformation belongs to the B-1 maintainers and the crews that employ it."
(Brandice Armstrong, 76th Air Base Wing, Tinker AFB, Okla., contributed to this article)
7/14/2010 10:02:07 PM ET Way to go Thunderbirds see you soon.