Entire B-1B Bomber Fleet Grounded For Potential Fuel Leak
All 57 Rockwell B-1 Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bombers were grounded this week after a fuel filter leak was discovered on one bomber.
On April 8, B-1 Lancer serial number 86-0104 experienced a malfunction of its augmenter fuel pump filter housing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. This prompted the Air Force to ground all of the bombers for inspections.
Fuel issues for the B-1 were first reported Thursday by The War Zone.
The immediate inspection of 86-0104 on April 8 revealed a massive hole in the filter housing. This filter is on the outside of the F101-GE-102 engine, but plays a crucial role. Needless to say, with a hole, it leaks large amounts of fuel. 86-0104 had been seen trailing a large plume of unburned fuel on landing. A pressurized fuel leak is a hazard in itself, but if the filter housing is not functioning properly, the pilots cannot select augmented thrust — better known as afterburners.
Without afterburners, the available thrust is significantly reduced. The F101 is rated at 17,390 pounds for maximum military power (dry thrust). Maximum afterburner almost doubles available thrust at 30,780 pounds, and is needed for emergencies and some maneuvers. Above all else, afterburner operation is critical for B-1 takeoffs. B-1s cannot fly at all without properly functioning afterburners.
No timeline has been given on the inspection process of all the B1s. Air Force Global Strike Command’s (AFGSC) public affairs said other bombers, including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, would continue global operations.
AFGSC released this statement about the ongoing B1 issues:
The Air Force Global Strike Command commander, Gen. Tim Ray, ordered a safety stand-down of the B-1B Lancer fleet April 20. The safety of Airmen is the command’s top priority. During the inspection process following a B-1B ground emergency on April 8 at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, a discrepancy with an Augmenter Fuel Pump Filter Housing was discovered. As a precautionary measure, the commander directed one-time inspections on all B-1B aircraft to resolve this issue. After further analysis, the commander stood down the fleet because it was determined a more invasive inspection was needed to ensure the safety of aircrews. Individual aircraft will return to flight when they are deemed safe to fly by Air Force officials. The Air Force takes all incidents seriously and works diligently to identify and correct potential causes. More details may be released when available. Air Force Global Strike bombers will continue supporting combatant commands across the globe.
Sat, 04/24/2021 – 10:35