The US Air Force’s (USAF) B-1B Lancer bomber has conducted an external captive carry flight over the Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.

The demonstration saw the bomber equipped with an inert joint air-to-surface standoff missile (JASSM) under an external pylon for the first time.

The aircraft belonged to the 412th Test Wing’s 419th Flight Test Squadron, Global Power Combined Test Force.

Air Force Global Strike Command commander-general Tim Ray said: “Adapting a small number of our healthiest B-1s to carry hypersonic weapons is vital to bridge between the bomber force we have today, to the force of tomorrow.

“This is a major step forward in our global precision fires capability and it is important we pursue these technologies to remain ahead of our competitors.

“My goal is to have a limited number of B-1s modified to become the roving linebacker of the western Pacific and the North Atlantic.”

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By GlobalData

This flight was conducted after many ground tests that commenced last year with the expanded carriage demonstration.

It included a modified internal bomb bay equipped with a moveable bulkhead.

With this, B-1 has shown its capability to carry larger weapons internally and externally.

The integration of both the weapon and pylon with the B-1B will be evaluated by engineers within the Air Force Test Center (AFTC) enterprise, B-1 system program office and Boeing.

AFTC commander major general Christopher Azzano said: “The Air Force Test Center is enthusiastically teaming with Global Strike to enable greater flexibility in B-1B operational payloads.

“The external carriage and long-bay mods reflect our ability to keep weapon systems relevant with mid-life upgrades.”

The USAF noted that the service’s request to retire 17 B-1B bombers in 2021 remains unchanged.