B-1 Can Do Only 50% of Its Job, Official Says

Associated Press

The Air Force's B-1B bomber, already behind schedule in meeting its warfare goals, now will accomplish about half of the job for which it was designed, a Pentagon testing official said Wednesday.

When asked to give the airplane an overall rating for how well it could perform its jobs of penetrating enemy airspace and surviving counterattacks, John E. Krings, director of testing for the Defense Department, said: "It will accomplish about 50% in terms of the gross assessment of what it was supposed to do."

Although the plane generally flies and handles well, electronic equipment that enables it to follow a ground-hugging flight path and avoid or confuse enemy radar remains a problem, Krings told a joint meeting of two House Armed Services subcommittees.

But, even with the problems, the B-1B still exceeds the capabilities of some other planes in the U.S. arsenal, he added.

Chief among the problem areas is the plane's electronic countermeasures system, which is designed to help the aircraft slip through enemy radar. The system has been unable to handle the job of detecting and processing the range of possible threats from air defense systems, Krings said.

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