Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  After recent reports expressing concern about the readiness of the B-1 bomber, South Dakota’s Congressional Delegation today met with Air Force officials and requested assurances that the fleet maintain a high mission capable rate.

U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) met with Lt. Gen. Raymond Johns, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs at U.S. Air Force (USAF) Headquarters and Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, Director of Maintenance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, USAF Headquarters in Senator Johnson’s office this afternoon.

This meeting is in response to a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, last month, which was prompted by two recent B-1 accidents. In April, a B-1 from Ellsworth caught fire after landing at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. In March, a B-1 was in transit from Singapore to Ellsworth when it diverted to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for an in-flight emergency. No one was injured in either incident.

The South Dakota delegation specifically wanted additional information on the B-1 spare parts program, the B-1 fleet's mission capable rate, and the U.S Air Force plans to improve B-1 maintenance in the near-term and in the FY 2010 Program Objective Memorandum (POM).

“The B-1 is the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force and has played a key role in the Global War on Terror. It’s imperative that the B-1 get the maintenance it deserves to continue playing a role in our national defense and that our airmen flying the B-1 are as safe as they can be. As the Chairman of the Senate Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, I will fight to ensure the Air Force has the resources they need for the coming funding cycle,” Johnson said.

Thune added, “In my role as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness, I will continue working with the Air Force to improve the readiness of the B-1 and champion future improvements that enhance the B-1’s role in combat operations, such as the recent addition of advanced targeting pods. As the backbone of America’s bomber fleet, the B-1 is a vital piece of our national security and I am confident in the Air Force’s plans to improve the status of this premier aircraft.”

“Undisputedly, the B-1 and the crews who man the aircraft have provided essential, unmatched support to troops on the ground, but recent reports have indicated a shortage of spare parts and qualified maintenance technicians. As a result, the mission capable rate has dropped and the number of accidents has risen. To ensure the safety of our servicemembers and to strengthen the tools we rely on to defend our country, it was important that we discuss what the Air Force plans to do to address these shortages and improve the overall mission capable rate of the fleet as well as the long-term outlook for the B-1.” Rep. Herseth Sandlin said. “As the Air Force proceeds in determining its strategy, I’m confident that just like we did in 2005, members of the South Dakota delegation in Congress along with leaders in South Dakota will work hard and work together to advocate for a well-maintained and well-funded B-1 fleet, and for Ellsworth as a facility that holds irreplaceable value to the future of the Air Force and to our overall national defense.”

According to a recent article in the Air Force Times, the B-1’s mission capable rate was only 61.2 percent in 2007, down from 70.7 percent in 2003