Lancelot's Comeback: How a Retired B-1B Lancer is Taking to the Skies Again

B-1B Lancer Bomber
April 8, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: B-1BB-1B LancerBombersU.S. Air ForceMilitaryDefense

Lancelot's Comeback: How a Retired B-1B Lancer is Taking to the Skies Again

This month, the Air Force announced the return of a retired Rockwell B-1B Lancer, "Lancelot," to active service, marking the first revitalization of this model in decades.

Summary: This month, the Air Force announced the return of a retired Rockwell B-1B Lancer, "Lancelot," to active service, marking the first revitalization of this model in decades. Hailing from the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Lancelot's reactivation is part of the Air Force's commitment to maintaining a strong long-range strike fleet. The decision followed a catastrophic engine failure of another B-1B at Dyess AFB, Texas, leading to the cost-effective choice of refurbishing Lancelot rather than repairing the damaged aircraft. The restoration process at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, includes necessary upgrades to align Lancelot's capabilities with the rest of the fleet. This initiative underlines the Air Force's adaptability and focus on mission readiness, utilizing a blend of new and repurposed parts to ensure Lancelot's return to operational status, thereby supporting national power projection and air superiority efforts.

Resurrecting Airpower: The Remarkable Return of B-1B Lancer 'Lancelot' from the Boneyard

Earlier this month, we reported that a retired Rockwell B-1B Lancer long-range strategic bomber would be returned to active service from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona – the long-term storage facility of U.S. military aircraft more commonly known as the "Boneyard."

It would be the first B-1B Lancer to be revitalized in decades.

This aligns with the air services commitment to maintaining a robust fleet, as parts from another B-1B, recently decommissioned after an accident, will be repurposed for this resurrection. The endeavor further reflects the ongoing efforts to sustain a formidable long-range strike capability, showcasing the Air Force's adaptability and dedication to mission readiness, even as the fleet ages and faces incidents necessitating such complex regeneration processes.

Welcome Back B-1B "Lancelot"

The Air Force further confirmed that the soon-to-be-back-in-service B-1B recently arrived at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; where it will it begin the regeneration process. The aircraft has been nicknamed "Lancelot," according to the Air Force Material Command.

"The need to pull 'Lancelot' from retirement arose when another aircraft experienced a catastrophic fire engine failure during routine maintenance at Dyess AFB, Texas, in 2022," AFMC stated. "After this accident, the B-1 System Program Office at Tinker proposed multiple courses of action to return the B-1B fleet to its congressionally mandated size and maintain its operational readiness. With projected repair costs to fix the fire-damaged aircraft expected to be cost-prohibitive, Air Force officials elected to regenerate 'Lancelot.'"

The team from the B-1 System Program Office has been working with their engineers and logistics colleagues to build a statement of work that provided the requirements to prepare the aircraft which spent two years and eleven months at the 309th AMARG. It was meant to ensure that the program office provided the right requirements to ensure a safe and reliable flight.

Restored, Updated, and Upgraded

Lancelot is now being restored, while the aircraft will also receive upgrades missed during its retirement so that its capabilities match other B-1Bs in the U.S. Air Force fleet. After Tinker's OC-ALC Artisans complete their work, the Cold War bomber will then undergo a functional check flight by the 10th FLTS before being delivered back to Dyess AFB for operational sorties.

"Pulling 'Lancelot; out of the 309th AMARG and putting it through program depot-level maintenance at Tinker will restore the aircraft to the operational units, allowing them to continue to support the nation's call for power projection," explained Lt. Col. Michael Griffin, 10th Flight Test Squadron director of operations.

B-1B Lance

"I feel this project is important in continuing to prove the reliability of the B-1 and its use for airpower and air superiority," added Jason Justice, a technical analyst contractor at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center with more than 30 years of experience supporting the B-1.

Justice assisted with the regeneration project and helped to build the proper work requirements and compile the equipment and personnel needed to complete the regeneration task from the 309th AMARG. His team coordinated with the 10th Flight Test Squadron aircrew at Tinker and provided up-to-date status and maintenance support to ensure current software requirements were met for the crew to fly the aircraft.

"Our B-1 community is a tight knit family who demonstrates over and over that the B-1 is a viable platform when given the right people and money, to produce the requirements needed to meet our flying commitment to airpower," said Justice.

Production of the Rockwell-made supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber entered in 1988. A total of 104 B-1s were produced, but fewer than 50 remain in service. The U.S. Air Force last retired 17 B-1s between February and September 2021, after it was determined that to restore them to the "status quo" would cost tens of millions of dollars for each bomber.

Four of the aircraft – including Lancelot – were maintained "in a reclaimable condition," which will speed up the process of getting it back in the air.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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