The US Air Force (USAF) is nearing completion of the maintenance and repair work being carried out on the B-1 Lancer heavy bomber to increase the life of the aircraft.

The USAF intends to keep the B-1 Lancer bomber fleet in operational service for the next 20 years through the structural repair work being performed at the Tinker Air Force Base (AFB).

The 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group (AMXG) at Tinker AFB worked in partnership with B-1 Systems Program Office to prepare for the maintenance programme.

B-1 Systems Program Office director Bill Barnes said: “It’s been flown past its certified service life and as such, it’s developed numerous structural issues and we’ve been working on repairs for over the last four or five years.

“We have those repairs developed, we know what aircraft tail numbers those repairs apply to. In our quest to get those repairs made to the fleet and to make the fleet healthy so it can continue to serve the airforce until 2040, we’ve teamed up with AMXG to stand up a dedicated repair line just to repair B-1 structural issues.”

The first B-1 aircraft arrived in October to undergo maintenance at the dedicated repair line.

The USAF has identified ten aircraft with high flying-hour requirements with priority to go through the structure line in the initial phase.

The maintenance team will work on urgent tasks and other structural issues with 5,000 hours of repairs being carried out on aircraft. Work is expected to be completed in around 30 days under a fly-in, fly-out programme.

Barnes added: “The B-1’s been a great plane over in the desert. We’ve flown it hard, worked it hard and now it’s time for a little downtime to get some repairs made so we can have the aircraft ready to deploy when necessary to support the needs of the nation.”

After the completion of the first phase of structure repairs, the programme will move to phase two, which will start in April 2020.

The second phase will see the bombers coming through each year for the maintenance work. Under this phase, the team will perform 14,000 hours of repair on each B-1.