Camouflaged B-1 Bomber

B-1A Bomber camouflage

Left side view of a B-1 bomber aircraft in-flight during testing and evaluation.

From the date, this is apparently one of the B-1A prototype aircraft. The B-1 program was canceled in 1977, but test flights (and air show appearances) continued for several years. The program was restarted as the B-1B program in 1981.

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Project Valour-IT fund raising drive. MO is a member of Team USAF:


  1. Only one B-1 was ever painted like that and I had the pleasure of going inside it back in the mid 80’s, thanks to a buddy who was (at the time) a WSO in the B-1 flight-test cell.

  2. Remarkable. That’s the same exact paint scheme applied for the Imperial Iranian Air Force (renamed the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force after 1979) F-14A Tomcat fleet. The Iranian jets were actually delivered from Grumman with that particular camo scheme.

  3. Don’t you mean the B version was a dog? The A was pretty damn hot. Mach 2, carried over 100,000 lbs of bombs, most of them internally. Swing wing allowed it to be forward deployed. I wish we had a bunch of those. The B was the turkey. Kinda sorta stealthy if you kept it down low. They screwed up the intakes to keep the fans hidden from radar but that knocked its top speed down to Mach 0.8. Nothing on the airplane made sense from that point. It was designed for Mach 2 and relegated to the speed range of a B-52 by the engine modifications. That’s crazy.

  4. The B-1 could never really do what it was designed to do, and never lived up to its billing. It wasn’t really a strategic bomber, as it was billed, and when carrying a full combat load it had trouble getting to altitude, a real plus when you encounter mountain ranges. I don’t think either model ever overcame these deficiencies. It’s a glorified cruise missile launcher, and there a lot of platforms that could perform that function just as well at a lot cheaper price. John Boyd, whose work on what was called the Energy-Maneuverability theory led directly to the design of the F-16 and F-15, also considered swing wing aircraft of any type a total waste. Here is a passage from his bio, talking about the F-X, which would eventually become the F-15. As everybody knows, the F-15 is a fixed wing design, but a bunch of folks tried to assign the aircraft a swing wing, knowing that congress would never have signed off on it because a swing wing fighter already existed in the Navy’s F-14. Boyd was afraid the Navy was going to pawn the F-14 off on the AF, just like they did the F-4. ‘History has proven Boyd correct in picking the fixed-wing design. the variable-sweep wing was one of the major aviation engineering blunders of the century. Hollywood and the movie Top Gun notwithstanding, the F-14 Tomcat is a lumbering, poor-performing, aerial truck. It weighs about fifty-four thousand pounds. Add on external fuel tanks and missiles and the weight is about seventy thousand pounds. It is what fighter pilots call a ‘grape’: squeeze it in a couple of hard turns and all the energy oozes out. That energy cannot be quickly regained, and the aircraft becomes an easy target.’ It’s off the subject of bombers, but the point is these complex swing wing airplanes were more trouble than they were worth, both as bombers and fighters. The only reason the B-1 bomber was brought back from the dead was because it was built by Rockwell, which was located in…California. Reagan’s adopted home state.

  5. History has proven…’ If I had a dime for every time I’d heard that. Variable sweep was a good way to get an airplane into a field considerably shorter than the one it would have landed at with a fixed supersonic wing. You try putting an F-15 down on a patch of real estate the size of a carrier and see what happens. The B-1A was fine for what it was designed to do, move fast and drop bombs. The flying low was a mission that was added on later and the combination of ‘sorta stealth’ was added on after that. Had they either left the original design alone or redesigned for the new mission they could have had a good airplane, but taking a design solution for one problem and making it fit a completely different one was the flaw.

  6. Boyd’s E-M theory basically revolutioned not only air combat, but also the design of fighter aircraft. The F-15 wasn’t designed for carrier aviation, but that misses the point. Swing wing designs were a waste, and the guy responsible for the design of the two best jet fighters of their time was adamant on that point. Read his bio. As for this point, you’re simply trying to prove a negative: ‘The flying low was a mission that was added on later and the combination of ‘sorta stealth’ was added on after that.’ The ‘flying low mission’ was added on because the B-1 couldn’t climb high enough to perform its original mission. And the planes low radar signature was advertised by both the manufacturer and the AF from the beginning, when in fact the thing stood out on radar like…a bomber. If the B-1 had been built in Podunk, Iowa, it would have never made it into the inventory. It’s acceptance meant jobs, and jobs meant votes. Plain and simple. And yea, Dfens, this time I am injecting politics into the discussion because the decision to go ahead with the B-1 was purely political, as was the V-22 currently coming into service. BTW, as a bonus, Boyd and his merry band of Pentagon mavericks were also able to sneak the A-10 in to the program mix. That alone should make every ground pounder out there thankful. The Air Force did everything in their power to kill the A-10. In their opinion, if it wasn’t fast and sleek it was useless. The A-10 is anything but, and it has proven time and again to be equal to the task for which it was designed, and at a cost and efficiency unheard of in modern military procurement.

  7. The B-1 performs its originally intended mission every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only unfortunate thing is that it can’t get on station faster because it has had it’s intakes dicked up. The F-14’s swing wing allows it to land and 2/3rds the speed of the F-15. That’s why you can’t put an F-15 on a carrier. There’s no point beefing up the structure for a tail hook when aerodynamically you can’t get into the performance box. Now granted, a swing wing is not the only way to enable an airplane to fly slow, but it is a way that works, and has worked on 3 different and very successful US military airplanes.

  8. The B-1 is not performing the mission that it was originally intended for. It was billed as a strategic bomber, and it is now performing tactical missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, missions that could be carried out much more efficiently by other aircraft and UAVs. That’s about as far from its intended mission as possible. The B-1 is in both those theatres because the Air Force is a service in search of a mission that justifies its gold plated hardware. Everybody has to get a piece of the action, and if that means utilizing the B-1, so be it, regardless of whether or not it’s the best aircraft for the mission. As for the F-14, it is grossly overweight and not very maneuverable. Once it bleeds all of that energy with one hard turn, it takes a lot get it back. It was little more than a platform for the Phoenix missile system. It’s replacement, the F-18, is really nothing more than the design of Northrop’s YF-17, which of course lost its competition to the YF-16 back in 1977. The Navy could have accepted F-16s for service as carrier aircraft, and F-16s were certainly capable of being outfitted for such service, but decided to develop the F-18, based on the less capable aircraft that lost the competition. Simply as a matter of service pride.

  9. My 2cents The B-1a was dropped for one reason: Its design as a strategic bomber role as a high altitude supersonic bomber was about 20 years to late. By the late 70’s it was clear that it could never penetrate Soviet airspace with acceptable losses. Its reincarnated into the B-1b as cruise missile truck and ‘low’ level high speed penetrator. In this new role, you could make a real argument that the swing wing design was more trouble then it was worth. IMO the Air Force needs 2 heavy bombers. A strong stealth bomber and a very large high efficiency long endurance arsenal type non-stealth bomber (manned or unmaned I care not). On the F-14.Jerry I think you are barking up the wrong tree. The F-14 (original) was a dog due to it being underpowered. True the swing wing design added weight, limited fuel and reduced weapon loads, but on balance it gave more to the F-14 then it detracted. On the F-18. Yes the bird ‘sucks’, but the Navy took it because of their 2 engine fetish (a fetish with reason though – but lets not talk about F-35’s)