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The least ready aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet in fiscal 2014 is also one of its busiest — the B-1B Lancer. The long-range strike bomber saw a mission capable rate of 47.7 percent in fiscal 2014, down from 57.7 percent the year before. The aircraft saw a 23.2 percent break rate in 2014, with 38.4 percent of those fixed within 12 hours.
“Just to give you an idea of the B-1, the average age of the fleet is 27 years old,” Henderson said. “It’s over its designed life span. Each aircraft has 8,700 hours on them. Over the past 10 years, there’s 23,000 hours per year on the fleet. They’re doing a lot of flying, and doing a lot of flying in combat environments. ... We’ve done a good job adapting.”
Because of this, B-1s are finding “new and inventive ways” of breaking, he said. To combat this, Air Combat Command has several upgrade, maintenance and testing plans for the fleet. These plans take multiple B-1s out of service at a time, contributing to its low mission capable rate.
The upgrades include: a new wheel brake systems improvement program, which will make the aircraft’s wheel and brake system 500 percent more reliable. Crews are inspecting and repairing the B-1’s wings after discovering cracks on the structure of the wings, along with pre-emptively fixing the skin on the aircraft’s wings. These changes are taking place while the Air Force is upgrading the B-1’s integrative battle station, which is the largest modification ever done to the aircraft’s weapons systems.