Fiction: A U.S. Navy B-1 Bomber Hunting Chinese Warships

Fiction: A U.S. Navy B-1 Bomber Hunting Chinese Warships

Boeing lobbyists, Congress, and a dusted-off RAND study forced the matter. Twelve B-1B Lancers sent to the U.S. Navy. Six were based in Japan, six in Guam. Only one would make it to the fight.

Maybe we should have seen it coming? Fractured domestic stability, strengthening Taiwanese independence movements, and an aging Xi Jinping under threat of losing power necessitated a big win against an external enemy. Seems like today was the day. 

They flew on.


“I got another hit. X band, KLJ-7A off of FC-31 fighters. Multiple hits. Hostile and friendly. The world’s gone active. Something big is going on. Multiple surface search and fire control radars bear 006.”

Once opposing forces had found each other, the battlespace lit up with electromagnetic energy. No sense in being quiet once discovered. Kinetics followed. DF-17 hypersonic missiles launched from H-6N bombers slalomed out of the sky and were met with directed energy fire from Constellation-class frigates. Aegis-guided SM-3 interceptors slammed into DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles. Deep penetrating F-35 Lightnings parsed the battlespace to millimeter fidelity. Radars and countermeasures went dark as weapons systems delivered concrete results. Ships burned. Wingless aircraft tumbled from the sky. 

But that was none of his concern. 

The AN/ALG-161C electronic support measures system classified targets down to the hull numbers and he had a good idea which hulls needed destroying.

“Lenny, do you have anything for me?” asked Cohen. 

“I do. I’ve got Link 16 off a Triton. We are participating,” said Lenihan. 

The mission panel display electronically sketched out the largest sea battle since World War II in abstract symbology. Three Chinese and two American carrier strike groups had committed to destroying each other. The Kennedy and Ford had engaged the LiaoningShandong, and the newer type-003 Carrier, Chairman Mao Zedong

“Let’s get into the fight,” said Cohen. Now that he knew where he was going and who to shoot at, he descended to 500 feet and accelerated.


“Targets designated,” said Lenihan. “Platform.”

Cohen leveled the wings. Hit the pre-arm/release switch. He opened the bays and added power to maintain airspeed.

No need to get specific with AGM-158D’s. Their evil little minds had already tapped into the open architecture of the Offensive Weapon Suite and they had a pretty good idea of their role in the matter. The weapons collaborated and decided upon a course of action to defeat the shotgun destroyers flanking the Chinese carriers. They presented the plan to the aircraft commander as if he could come up with something better.

“Contacts inbound. FC-31s. We’re about to be engaged!” said Lenihan. “Am I cleared?”

“Cleared for release,” said Cohen.

One-by-one, the AGM’s fell into the slipstream. Wings snapped open like switchblades and engines ignited. Transition to cruise. 

Lenihan called the deployment. “One of sixteen away. Two of sixteen away.”

The sixth missile malfunctioned when one wing failed to extend. The motor ignited and the missile corkscrewed into the sea.

The first AGM’s out the door throttled back and waited for their siblings to catch up. The weapons formed and swarmed, splitting into three flights of five. Each calculated to travel 200 nautical miles and arrive on target within milliseconds of each other. 

 “Sixteen of sixteen away, cleared to maneuver,” said Lenihan.

Cohen closed the weapon bay doors and threw the aircraft into a hard ninety-degree knife edge turn. His little piece of the war was over. He pushed the nose down, aiming for 200 feet, hoping to get lost in the wave clutter. He firewalled the throttles. Nothing in the inventory flew better low-level than a Bone. 

FC-31s closed, and his defensive systems could feel the tickle of KLJ-7A radars burning through Lenihan’s jamming. The KLJ-7A radar guided two PL-12s, China’s AIM-120 equivalent, until the missile activated its own terminal guidance radar.

“Two PL-12s. Active. Stinger’s hot,” said Lenihan. “Platform.”

Cohen had a choice. Attempt to defeat the missiles with maneuver and conventional jamming or go wings level and let Stinger, the 90-kilowatt laser pod mounted to Bone Daddy’s empennage, work its sci-fi magic.

Well, he couldn’t pull 39 g’s to evade and the missile had a home-on-jam attack mode. “Platform,” he acknowledged. 

Wings level. 

Sitting duck.

The laser fired, indicated only by an alert on his panel. He held his breath and waited for the missiles to shred his aircraft. 

“Splash two. Targets down,” said Lenihan.

“Amen,” said Cohen.


Runway Six Left looked like a dirt strip, but it was far better than Six Right. A bulldozer pushed the wreckage of a bat-winged B-21. The aircraft had hit a crater at near takeoff speed and had disintegrated into a spray of toxic, composite fire. Somewhere in that tangled, smoldering mass were the remains of two pilots. Someone would look later. 

The Master Sergeant had impressed the walking wounded into working parties, and they groomed Six Left with shovels, rakes, brooms, and bare hands. It was like a zombie FOD walkdown, but he took what he could get. What was he supposed to do? The damn runways were his and until someone came along and told him to stop, he would do what he was supposed to do, keep it flat and smooth. Someone’s pickup truck arrived with bags of concrete acquired from out in town. They dumped the bags on the top of the tamped down rubble to fill in the gaps. If they could get some water, they could make a surface that might not tear the gear right out from under an aircraft. Maybe the Marines were right. Vertical was the way to go. 

He stood on a filled 30-foot crater and knew it was someone’s grave.


Cohen ran on fumes with engine number three shut down for high turbine temperature. He identified Guam by the smear of smoke marring the horizon. No one answered the radio.

He bypassed Andersen and marked on top Guam international. No one challenged him. Guam International still burned and the airfield looked like the surface of the moon, but the area around the airport looked intact. Thank God for precision weapons. 

Lenihan stood and peered through the windscreen “It’s still there.”

“Hard to sink an island.”

“They sure tried.”

Cohen flashed the wings over his house. If Rachael was alive, she would look up and see a B-1B with Jack Skellington nose art, and she would know he was okay. He tried to pick out his house through the smoke and summer haze, but he couldn’t.

“She’s okay,” said Lenihan.

“I know,” said Cohen, but he really didn’t. 

They overflew Andersen , entering a wide overhead pattern mindful of his one engine out. People and construction equipment scattered from runway Six Left. It looked rough, but he didn’t think his aircraft would drop into a crater. He extended his downwind and turned to final. Full forward sweep.

The main mounts touched down and chirped. He held the nose, bleeding off airspeed. The aircraft shuddered over the rough patches but didn’t sink in. When all three were on the ground, he deployed spoilers and brakes that threw him into his straps. The aircraft roller-coastered over the filled craters but it stayed straight and dirty-side down. He laid on the wheel brakes hard. 

God bless whoever filled those holes. He steered off the last taxiway and dead-ended at a smoldering pile of debris.

Fatigue swamped him, running right through his body like a train. He felt like he could sleep right here in his seat, the seat that still had the ejection seat pin in place.

He pulled the throttles to off, not bothering with the shutdown checks or starting the APUs, His cockpit faded to dark under protest. His NATOPS was around here somewhere.

“I have to go find Rachael.”

“I’ll go with you.”


Commander Martha Fluckey, Commanding Officer of the USS Barb, a Block V Virginia-class submarine, had the wounded and unescorted Mao Zedong, the sole surviving Chinese carrier, in her sights. The carrier had taken three AGM-158D hits from a lone B-1B coming at her from an unexpected direction. The ship’s island was a twisted steel stump and the hangar deck was a burned-out cave. It wasn’t fighting, but it still floated.

That was her problem to deal with.

She felt the thump of four Mk-48 torpedoes leaving her tubes. She waited and listened. 

Her sonarman turned and nodded. All four, thousand-pound warheads had detonated on target. 

“Launch drone.” 

The drone burst the ocean’s surface and streaked towards the mortally- wounded carrier. 

She vectored the drone’s BDA to the boat’s display panels.

She and her crew watched in silence. Such a high-definition spectacle seemed more like a Hollywood special effect than a military victory. Tons of water poured into the carrier’s hull. It rolled in a sudden catastrophic upset pitching debris and men over the sides. Such a monstrous thing to witness.

“Send message. Scratch one flat top.”

Mike Barretta Is a naval aviator having flown the SH-60B helicopter on multiple deployments. He currently works for a defense contractor as a maintenance test pilot.

This article first appeared at the Center for International and Maritime Security in December 2021 and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: U.S. Air Force Flickr.