As tensions with North Korea escalate in the wake of that country's sixth nuclear test, the United States is also flexing its military muscle.
One of the primary systems being spun up is the B-1B Lancer.
This Cold War-era bomber is a very powerful system – it carries 84 500-pound bombs internally, and also could carry another 44 externally. Should Russia try to take the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Lancer is very likely to take out their ground forces with weapons like the CBU-97.
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)
That sort of deadly precision can also apply to Kim Jong Un's massed artillery. The preferred weapon in this case would be more along the lines of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. Each B-1 can carry up to 24 of these weapons, enabling it to knock out hardened artillery bunkers. The B-1B can also use smaller GBU-38 JDAMs, based on the Mk 82 bomb, to hit other positions.
According to airforce-technology.com, the B-1B is equipped with powerful jammers and the Federation of American Scientists web site notes that the plane was designed as a low-altitude high-speed penetrator.
A B-1B bomber deploys a LRASM. | Public Domain photo
The B-1B has recently been demonstrating its capabilities over South Korea. North Korea has denounced those test flights, claiming that the United States is preparing for nuclear war (although most reports indicate that the B-1B no longer carries nukes).
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986. It has a top speed of Mach 1.2 at sea level, and "intercontinental" range. Among the other weapons it can carry are the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. A Navy release noted that the B-1B recently tested an anti-ship version of the JASSM.
You can see the B-1B carry out one of its recent training missions over Korea in the video below. Note the heavy F-15 escort. These are valuable bombers – and only 66 are in the active Air Force inventory.