8 B-1s could be retired at Dyess AFB; Minimal effect on base personnel

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Under the President’s proposed budget, 17 B-1 bombers could be retired, eight of which are stationed at Dyess Air Force Base.

U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, who represents Abilene, said Dyess is projected to lose eight B-1 bombers and Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, will lose nine.

As for the projected loss of personnel at Dyess, Arrington said the initial amount would be 25-30 airmen.

The proposal to retire the 17 bombers came after a review of them following last year’s safety stand down, Arrington said.

“The Air Force has been conducting a conditions review and analysis,” Arrington said. “Based on those analysis, they came up with the number 17. They said it would compromise our mission and compromise the safety of our airmen.”

Arrington said he will continue to work with military and government officials to determine a final number of B-1s to be retired.

Arrington told KTAB/KRBC the bombers had been overflown. He said 80 percent of the fleet was beyond its life cycle.

“The B-1 is a critical component of our arsenal,” Arrington said.

Arrington stressed that airmen’s safety was a major factor in the proposal, along with national security.

Dyess received its first B-1 in June 1985, and has since played a crucial role in global strike and national defense.

The B-1 fleet thinning proposal absolutely does not threaten the future of Dyess’ mission, Arrington stressed. The decision for the B-21 to be based at Dyess secured the future of Dyess.

Statement from General Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Commander:
Dyess and the Abilene community continue to be amazing supporters of our Airmen, our Air Force and our national defense mission. Over the last 35 years, the B-1B Lancer community has continuously reinvented itself as a premiere long-range precision strike platform, and I know that first-hand from when I commanded there. 

However, continuous bomber support operations over the last 20 years have taken a toll on the B-1 airframe’s structure due to overuse in a manner not commensurate with its planned design. 

Currently a small portion of the B-1Bs, from Dyess and Ellsworth in SD, are in a state that will require tens of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to a status quo fleet in the short term until the B-21 Raider comes online. Because of this, we’re moving to retire 17 structurally deficient B-1Bs in 2021 so that maintenance dollars and manpower can be focused on the healthiest aircraft in the fleet. 

Additionally, in coordination with our contractors, the Program Office, Combatant Command planners and our most advanced weapons’ school Airmen, we have changed various flight employment tactics of the remaining B-1Bs to preserve the longevity of the aircraft. These changes will significantly extend the life of the remaining B-1B fleet and reduce costs associated with potential structural repairs during the transition to the B-21.

My goal is that our bases will be bomber bases, not B-1, B-52 or B-21 bases, but bomber bases. Dyess remains an important component to our national defense.

Statement from Congressman Jodey Arrington:
“Over the past four years, the Trump Administration and House Republicans have worked together to rebuild our nation’s military with an unprecedented investment in our armed services of over $2 trillion. As the voice for the Big Country, I am proud to have fully funded Dyess Air Force Base and it’s priorities, including the design, development, and acquisition of the B-21 bomber. Together we have helped provide our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to be safe and successful in carrying out our nation’s most important mission. As a result, our citizens are as safe and our country is as strong as ever before,” 

“Now more than ever, our military needs additional combat power to meet the threats identified in the National Defense Strategy and, as a result, both the Air Force and Congress understand the need to accelerate the deployment of the new B-21 Raider as a fundamental part of that mission. Ultimately, Congress is responsible for establishing the budget; therefore, I will be closely reviewing the administration’s recommendation and analyses and working with them to arrive at the right resources and plan for transitioning from the B-1 to the B-21 bomber in a way that ensures the most cost-effective strategy for defending our nation, the highest safety for our airmen, and the least disruption to base operations.”

B-21 artist rendering

In 2019, Dyess Air Force Base was selected to house both the new B-21 bomber aircraft and the weapons school for it.

Congressman Jodey Arrington made the announcement in March 2019 saying, “this decision not only secures the future of Dyess as a bomber base in the 21st Century, but it will also bring hundreds of new jobs and families to the Key City. Most importantly, it ensures the U.S. Air Force maintains air dominance into the future.”

The B-21 will replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft. Dyess AFB will house both the operational test squadron and the weapons training school for the B-21.

According to the Military Affairs Committee of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, 1,400 jobs are expected with the arrival of the B-21.

The B-21s was described as being “a long-range, highly survivable bomber aircraft capable of carrying a variety of mixed conventional munitions or nuclear ordinance. The B-21 will join the nuclear triad as a visible and flexible nuclear deterrent; assuring our allies and partners while also supporting national security objectives.”

The B-21 is expected to arrive in the late 2020s.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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