B-1 bombers pulled from IS fight

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One of the biggest and most dependable U.S. weapons in the battle against ISIS in Syria and Iraq will be out of the fight for the time being, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command says.

As CNN reports:

Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said the fleet of B-1 Lancer bombers had been sent back to the United States from their deployment in the Mideast.

The four-engine bombers are due for upgrades to their cockpits, a process that will keep the jets stateside for an undetermined amount of time, Brown told reporters at the Pentagon via a video link from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

The B-1s have drawn praise for the amount of weapons they can carry, their accuracy in using those weapons and their reliability during the campaign against ISIS.

Speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition last September, Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman III, the Air Force’s assistant vice chief of staff, gave a hint of what the B-1s are capable of.

“Last Tuesday, we emptied three B-1s over Iraq and Syria — 80 targets in 20 minutes — that’s significant,” Hesterman said.

B-1s from the 28th Bomb Wing out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, home to 27 of the bombers, flew 490 sorties against ISIS in a six-month deployment that ended in January, according to a release from the bomb wing. They dropped 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets, a base release says.

Brown said other U.S. and coalition aircraft would pick up the B-1s’ missions during the upgrades.

“We actually have plenty of capacity with other platforms,” he said. “We lose maybe a little flexibility. The B-1 is a workhorse. The fact that it can carry as many weapons as it can and stay airborne as long as it can, it does provide a great capability.”

Brown said the air campaign against ISIS will continue and the B-1s will likely be part of it again.

“They will be back, I fully expect,” he said.

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