Air Force Kills Fly with Sledgehammer

With B-1 bomber on the chopping block, a new mission — surprise! — surfaces

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Air Force

A B-1 bomber destroyed a small boat in the Gulf of Mexico with a bomb like this Sept. 4.

With many defense experts concluding that the Air Force’s B-1 bomber fleet should be retired to save money (for a newer, better bomber, of course), the B-1’s backers aren’t giving up without a fight.

“Ten to 20 years from now, we are going to need a bomber force,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget expert at the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “How do you do that? Well, if you are going to need a new bomber program, you may have to give up some of your legacy bombers.”

Not so fast, say the Bone’s backers (don’t confuse “Bone,” as in “B-one,” the needle-nosed bomber’s unofficial nickname, with its official nickname of the Lancer…not to be confused with the British medical journal the Lancet). The Air Force recently used one of its $200 miilion B-1 bombers to take out a small, moving boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Air Force

Goodbye pirates!

It’s an age-old story: as a weapon begins to show its age, those whose careers are invested in it scurry to find new ways to justify its continued operation.

“Many of the dynamic targeting skills we’ve refined over the past decade on land are directly applicable in the maritime environment,” Captain Alicia Datzman, an Air Force weapons expert, says in a service news story. “This is the perfect opportunity to validate and refine these tactics.”

Adds Lieut. Colonel Alejandro Gomez, the special projects officer with the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron that carried out the test Sept. 4: “Future wars might not all be on land, some may include surface combat, so we are evaluating the way we employ the B-1 to aid in completing the mission.”

Many of the bombs dropped from the B-1 are guided to their targets by GPS, which isn’t much help when it comes to taking out moving targets, like motorboats. But a laser designator can follow a moving target and guide the bomb to it.

With terrorists — OK, “pirates” if you must — increasingly using small boats to seize commercial vessels in the Indian Ocean, and with the Pentagon’s pivot to the Pacific, best known for 64 million square miles of water, what better mission for an aging strategic bomber, than sending small boats to Davy Jones’ locker?

Of course, Navy and Marine aircraft, far more common in the Pacific, also carry the GBU-10 laser-guided bomb the B-1 used to blast the boat.

It’s a bit of a step down for a warplane — resurrected by Ronald Reagan, after Jimmy Carter killed it — built to make the Kremlin cower.

Getting “tire-d”

Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton / Air Force

A B-1 on the tarmac in July, 2013, at an undisclosed base in southwest Asia.

177 comments
PoppaCharlie
PoppaCharlie

A good new strategic mission for the B-1 ought to be museum exhibit.  Boeing wants to make some bucks on replacements.

Maxoverload
Maxoverload

and some new inexperienced  high tech engineer , spends hours attempting how to figure out how to replace a proven design like the B1 , with a new aircraft at 10 times  the expense , with computer monitor problem prone designs , These cad designs just Do Not Work in the Real Imperfect World , best examples like ,  the perfect radius of a turn lane lined drawn on a highway intersection , to the latest littoral ships.
, and the newest public aircraft .

ryan.beale
ryan.beale

If you know anything about ordinance this was an INERT-bomb used in a training exercise.You can tell because INERT ordinance is painted blue, live ordinance is all olive drab with yellow lettering and this is standard across the US Armed Forces. As someone else mentioned you can see the wake of the boat that is pulling the little boat. You'll notice there is no explosion, the plume of water and the destruction of the boat is from the kinetic energy of the INERT-bomb impacting the surface. Water is like concrete at those speeds.

RealitySchmeality
RealitySchmeality

Those who choose to employ even a small dose of critical thinking versus coat-tailing on someone else's opinion would see that is this a demonstration to test the accuracy and preciseness of high-tech weapons, not an indication of the bomber's primary mission. It is interesting to see so many people running the line out after the hook has been set.

That said, however, the B-1 is a taxpayer burden and should be relegated to the boneyard.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

It's not as if we need more plowshares and pruning hooks, either, but health care, education, and bridges that stay up would be nice.

BSF1
BSF1

This is a boondoggle, plain and simple.  The plane has been draining our tax dollars for how many years ? (I've lost count) How many more $$$ willl be siphoned from other needs to keep this going? and for how long?

StephenSwain
StephenSwain

WELL .....WELL...WELLL.........THE AIR FORCE HAD $150,000 TOILET SEATS IN THE PAST......WHY NOT SPEND 2 MILLION DOLLARS TO KILL A SPEED BOAT !!!!!!!!!  That depends on who or what is targeted by the speed boat, sir or madam Valentine, God of Love.  If the speed boat is targeted a 1000 foot long natural gas carrier through the strait of Hormuz, this exercise is well worth it.  Remember:  Benefit/Cost analysis.  It's not always real straight-forward, but this is the way the real world works.



Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/20/air-force-kills-fly-with-sledgehammer/#ixzz2g9bE04rS

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

WELL .....WELL...WELLL.........THE AIR FORCE HAD $150,000 TOILET SEATS IN THE PAST......WHY NOT SPEND 2 MILLION DOLLARS TO KILL A SPEED BOAT !!!!!!!!!

IT IS LIKE......SAY ...VIETNA.M........WE TOOK FIRE FROM THE JUNGLE FROM 1 VIET CONG......AND WE SPENT 3 MILLION DOLLARS IN BULLETS, AIR STRIKES, ETC AGAINST THE UN-SEEN TARGET.

THAT IS AMERICAN.....MILITARY STRATEGY FOR YOU !!!!!!  PEACE THROUGH SUPERIOR FIREPOWER !!! LOL

VALENTINE, MILITARY HISTORIAN, COMEDIAN,.....LOL....

ApostasyUSA
ApostasyUSA

don't need bombers like this. plain and simple. cut the fat!

AnthonyHouse
AnthonyHouse

I think this is an appropriate way to handle any sea attach from terrorist. Pirates are very scary and they could have survived if the Air Force used a small bomb on the boat. A good example is the season finally of Dexter on showtime. Dexter was in a small boat heading into a hurricane with multiple tornados, his boat was destroyed into many little pieces but he survived. The US Military is making sure no pirate can come back from the dead, not a big deal!

DougDeNasty
DougDeNasty

These flying hydraulic fluid spraying crop-dusters are not a good choice for this type of operation. (look at the tarmac of any AFB that houses them and you can tell where they park from all of the leaked fluid on the ground). It would be better to look at aircraft like the P-8 (the P-3 replacement)  which is a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft rather than shoe-horning in a special need for the B-1. The B-1 has plenty of roles it can fill, this should not be one of them. 

Rio
Rio

In combating pirates loiter time is essential.  The B1 can easily do that. 

Zenith202
Zenith202

Are you suggesting we use a multi-billion dollar aircraft and fire multi-million dollar air to ground missiles

at a $250 dinghy?

hahahaha!



lwatcdr
lwatcdr

I wish that Time would find writers that had enough knowledge to write on the subject instead of enough arrogance to not ask questions. 
1. Of course, Navy and Marine aircraft, far more common in the Pacific, also carry the GBU-10 laser-guided bomb the B-1 used to blast the boat.

The B-1 has much greater range and can loiter much longer of the area than the F-18 which is the plane the navy and marines fly armed with the GBU-10

A lot of people are saying the A-10 would be a good choice. It would be cheaper but it is a small single seat aircraft and lacks the payload and endurance of the B-1 as well as the speed. If an A-10 got a call for help it would take longer to get to the target and frankly no A-10 pilot should have to fly 8 to 10 hour missions day after day. The B-1 has a larger crew and room to get up and stretch a little. It also has a toilet. 

Another option would be the P-3. It is faster than the A-10, has a good range, and can carry a pretty large weapons load. It does not have the range or speed of the B-1. For the anti-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean you would probably want to base out of Diego Garcia I do not think you want to put US fighters, bombers, or patrol aircraft in say Egypt right now so the speed and range of the B-1 is actually a good match for this mission. The costs would be lower than putting enough ships to provide the same coverage. A close second would be the P-8 but those are just coming into service and third would be the P-3 but the distance makes the p-3s speed a big issue. 

If they did decide to attack pirates with the B-1 they would probably use a smaller weapon the the GBU-10 like the GBU-44/Viper Strike or the AGM-176 Griffin. Both would be easy to adapt and would be ideal for the mission. 

Welcome to 21st century journalism. Arrogance and Ignorance is it's stock and trade. 
I

NavalAV*R
NavalAV*R

As a former Naval  attack aircraft aviator, this proves the decision to strip the Navy or it's  medium range bombing capability by retiring the A-6 without adquate replacement was stupid. 

IgnignoktMooninite
IgnignoktMooninite

This has got to be one of THE most misdirected weapon applications ever concocted by the military .

An A10 would be much more suited to a mission such as this , and much less expensive .

eagander
eagander

Those ships should all be outfitted with some rocket launchers on deck. Any boat that gets near blow it to smitherins!! 

msbhar
msbhar

This is a training exercise. You can see the wake from the boat, which would have been pulling the smaller boat.

Let's make some more news to rattle the pundit's cages..  

Get a grip sheeple.




ChrisWilson
ChrisWilson

$25K smart bomb used to destroy a $500 boat....

WarrenSearfoss
WarrenSearfoss

The hell with guided bombs.... with those small boats all you need is a 55 gal drum filled with cement and fins to guide it,   the weight and speed it gains in the drop will sink most small boats

DanToste
DanToste

Do they have to use a bomb that about the same size as the boat? they should load the bomber up with a bunch of anvils instead, it would be cheaper.

KenColey
KenColey

How about we just leave it alone.  Why waste millions of taxpayers money on stuff we should not be doing anyways.

Mothball the entire fleet until needed.

QuintanaRoos
QuintanaRoos

This is just the latest boondoggle. How could a B1 do the job for less money than a drone?

MichaelHallihan
MichaelHallihan

So, the Air Force wants to cut the A-10 but use B-1 bombers for pirate hunting. Can someone explain how this is cost efficient?

NDay
NDay

If the insurance cmpanies won't allow "armed" vessels, why not just have the ships carry a plane or helicopter drone or two of their own when needed?  They don't even need ordinance, just fill them up with a flammable liquid and use remote control.  Heck, the velocity of any drone into one of those skiffs has got to disable it, I'm sure.

MarkSweetipo
MarkSweetipo

Also the Navy might have something to say about this mission.  They have better pilots anyway and unlike the AF are actually useful in current warfare.

MarcLassiter
MarcLassiter

@DougDeNasty I think they are going for publicity... look at the title. IMO the B-1 is more known then the P-8.

lwatcdr
lwatcdr

@Zenith202 umm you have the prices of the missiles way off. Did you even check to see or did you just spout off?


PopEye
PopEye

@Zenith202 They should be able to sink a boat like that with a .223 or .308 caliber mini-gun off a drone.  And even if not sunk due to it being a bit larger boat, the crew would be dead, injured, or otherwise discouraged.  For sure, a .50 cal would decimate boats like that.

MaryRunaround
MaryRunaround

@lwatcdr Technical question for you-- With a laser guided bomb like a GBU, is a separate spotter/aimer who points the laser required to be somewhere in range of the target, or can the plane & crew do that aiming itself? In other words, if the laser aiming is not on board the plane, does the longer range of a b-1 really pay off if there is no other nearby help to do the aiming?  

normfarris4
normfarris4

I'd be surprised if the bomb cost only 25k.

normfarris4
normfarris4

@ChrisWilson A Coast Guard Cutter could make that boat disappear with their arms at a fraction of the cost.

Aiquoy2
Aiquoy2

@ChrisWilson You think that's a waste of money, you should see what we pay politicians


BenC
BenC

With a millions of dollars worth of drugs, or terrorists, or pirates or...

IgnignoktMooninite
IgnignoktMooninite

@MichaelHallihan  Seems to me an A10 would be much more suitable for this role .

A three second burp by a GAU8 is more than adequate , and the A10 would burn a fraction of the fuel loitering .

GregoryJudkowski
GregoryJudkowski

@MarkSweetipo If it wasn't for the AF, the Navy pilots would not be able to operate.  The B2 bombers flown by the AF have huge roles in softening enemy air defenses.  Without these preliminary strikes, the fighter planes would not be able to gain air superiority.  A lot of these middle eastern counties have very capable Russian air defense systems.

Rio
Rio

@DeweySayenoff @Rio Actually it would depend on the target.  Loiter time is very important as is having a human at the controls.  

MarcLassiter
MarcLassiter

@lwatcdr @Zenith202 I think he is exaggerating a little to make a point. but for a fact i know those tomahawk missiles cost more then the soldier firing it makes in a year. So i cant imagine what the B-1 bomb cost compared to its crew $ per year.

lwatcdr
lwatcdr

@MaryRunaround @lwatcdr  The B-1 is cleared to use the Sniper targeting pod. Actually the USAF and Navy have been using targeting pods since about 1970. Planes like the A-6 had a built in system since the 80s.  That is one problem with the using say a P-3 is that it has not been cleared to carry a targeting pod and since it only has a few years left in US service it is unlikely that anyone wants to pay for that. 


BenC
BenC

The Navy have Sub's equipped with Polaris nuke missiles. That should soften things.

Rio
Rio

@DeweySayenoff @Rio What carrier?  There are areas where there are no US carriers.  Plus a carrier is very expensive to run.  A bomber can take off with state of the art equipment and cannot be hijacked electronically (hacked).

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@Rio @DeweySayenoff Very true.  Hence why a drone is superior.  It can loiter longer and cheaper and have a fresh pilot at the controls every hour if need be.  With this kind of mission, it would be easy to positively ID the target and hit it, or not, depending on what the images say.  The images a drone would get are probably better than what a pilot on station would see.

If it's bigger than what a Predator can handle, you call in an airstrike from a carrier using their ready alert aircraft.  That way, you don't have the expense of having a bomber circling overhead all the time.

I can't imagine a target so small a Predator couldn't hit it, but if it's that small, it's likely not much of a threat.

FC2Gardner
FC2Gardner

Polaris missiles?  Wow, firing relics are they?  The current sub launched ICBM is the Trident II, however neither would be a good choice for softening air defenses since they are strategic nuclear weapons.