The Bone is Back

Too trouble-prone for nuclear alert and sidelined in the first Gulf War, the B-1 is today the busiest bomber in the fleet.

In a typical two-ship formation, B-1Bs fly a 1998 training mission near Meteor Crater in Arizona, one of the few holes in the ground bigger than a B-1 could make. (Ted Carlson/
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The jet banked sharply toward Baghdad and accelerated to Mach 0.9. Twelve minutes later, four 2,000-pound JDAMs slammed into the restaurant Saddam had been observed entering 47 minutes earlier. But the dictator had apparently decided to eat and run; by the time the bombs hit, he was gone.

Although the mission failed, it was a dramatic demonstration of the B-1's speed, range, flexibility, and targeting precision. And the Bone had not even flexed its muscles: A full-afterburner Mach 1.2 dash to the target would have gotten the bombs there six minutes sooner. Would those six minutes have made the difference? We'll never know.

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