Lancers under Combat Stress

The Air Force finalized a five-year, $200 million contract with Boeing for full-scale fatigue testing of the B-1B bomber. The Air Staff is keen to ensure that the aircraft is structurally safe to meet operational demands for the remainder of its service life out to 2040. Despite a design life of 9,681 flight hours, several B-1s have already surpassed 10,000 hours and “actual use has been three to four times more severe than what was planned,” said Justin Evans, B-1 sustainment lead project engineer at Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla., where preparatory work for the testing is already underway. USAF officials accelerated the testing to provide concrete data on the health of the airframe to ensure that the B-1 fleet merits continued investment. The parties signed the contract March 4. (Tinker report by Brandice O’Brien)