US grounds strategic B-1B bombers for 2nd time after problems with pilot-saving system
The bombers were suspended from flight as a “precautionary measure” after a routine inspection discovered “potentially fleet-wide issues” with the system, the Air Force Global Strike Command reported on Thursday.
The problem was found in the rigging of the “drogue chute,” a parachute connected with the pilot’s ejection seat. Flight technicians will now check each of the 62 active B-1Bs. The command’s spokesperson declined to comment on how long the whole check-up may take.
This is the second time in less than a year when the military was forced to ground all of its B-1Bs. The planes were previously put on stand-down for around three weeks after a jet from the Dyess Air Force Base in Texas suffered an engine malfunction mid-air.
The pilot tried to eject but had to conduct a risky emergency landing instead because his seat failed to deploy. The Air Force has since said that the problem was fixed and the current grounding is unrelated to the last year’s incident.
The B-1B Lancer is one of Pentagon’s three active long-distance strategic bombers. Developed in the Cold War era, it was conceived as an aircraft that would carry out nuclear airstrikes against the Soviet Union in the event of a global conflict, and has remained a vital part in US contingency plans.
According to some reports, the aircraft will be phased out by the mid-2030s in favor of the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber.
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