Strategic Bombers:

Issues Related to the B-1B Aircraft Program

T-NSIAD-91-11: Published: Mar 6, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 1991.

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GAO discussed the B-1B bomber, focusing on the lack of: (1) an effective defensive avionics system; (2) a long-term solution to minimize engine blade failures; and (3) an effective anti-icing capability. GAO found that: (1) although the Air Force spent approximately $3.2 billion on the B-1B program, it failed to demonstrate that the system met its reduced specifications; (2) laboratory test results indicated that the defense avionics system would meet current contract specifications with a few exceptions, but flight test data were still being analyzed; (3) new intelligence data identified the capability of a threat radar system the defense avionics system was not designed to counter; (4) the addition of a radar warning receiver would increase the number of threat radar systems the aircraft could detect and an improved antenna would provide increased frequency coverage; (5) between October 1988 and December 1990, five B-1B aircraft experienced engine failures as a result of broken engine blades; (6) the contractor developed and installed thicker and stronger retainer rings to replace the deficient ones found during engine blade tests; (7) the Air Force established an independent review team to assess potential solutions to the engine blade problem; (8) as of November 1989, 109 B-1B engines were damaged by ice, costing $1.6 million and requiring 4,327 hours to repair; (9) an estimated 15 percent of planned training flights were cancelled due to icing and weather problems; and (10) unofficial cost estimates indicated that resolution of in-flight and on-ground icing problems would cost about $200 million.

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