I saw this picture today in a news article about the current conflict in Iraq/Syria.

Plane Silhouette

The caption claims it is a US warplane, but I don't recognise the silhouette. Can someone identify this plane?

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    $\begingroup$ That there? Oh, that's 240 tons of supersonic, nuclear capable FREEDOM. $\endgroup$
    – Keegan
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 4:53

2 Answers 2


This is a B-1B Lancer.

It is a 4 engine (afterburning engines mind you, very rare for a bomber) variable sweep wing bomber, designed during the Cold War to use its terrain-following radar to stay low and fast, weaving between the mountains of Russia to stay below radar to deliver nuclear warheads.

It carries more bombs than the B-52 as well.

Essentially, it is a bomber built like a fighter. It is actually the only swing-wing aircraft in the entire US military right now.

Fun fact: The canards near the nose aren't for control. Because the aircraft is flown by autopilot using terrain-following radar (TFR), weaving into and out of mountains, autopilot makes many quick pitch adjustments. The canards are to cancel out sine waves in the structure of the fuselage.

It can carry a whole lotta' bombs:

24 nuclear bombs, 48 JDAMs, 84 Mk82 bombs, or 48 AGM missiles.

100 were built, 66 remain.

I leave with my current desktop background:

enter image description here

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ 24 nuclear bombs. That is pretty crazy powerful. $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 4:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @HCBPshenanigans had to steal that sweet-looking background :-) $\endgroup$
    – raffian
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ Mother of God @ payload capacity O.O $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 12:01
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    $\begingroup$ @PlasmaHH 1.2MT may be small, but it's still way more than I'd ever want to be around when they go off. $\endgroup$
    – Jules
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisM. yes and no. Over time crew survivability became ever more important as nuclear war was becoming something that was meant to be limited in scope, so bombers returning to bases for reloading with either nuclear or conventional weapons for a second wave of strikes became important. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 5:01

Yep. That's a B-1B Lancer: B-1 on the Wikipedia

I'm surprised to see it over Iraq, I thought they were using smaller attack aircraft, F-15E's for example. The B-1 is a substantial (and, I can report, extremely loud) bomber with a big load.

They US have been flying them since the mid-80's.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You aren't lying about loud. Spent the night in a tent on MacDill AFB once and couldn't hear for an hour. $\endgroup$
    – Bassinator
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ it seems to be rather high up. Loud doesn't matter there... And a single B-1 needs both less people in danger, and is less loud as well, as say half a dozen Strike Eagles. Loudest I've ever experienced was a full squadron of F-4s taking off in formation, 3 abreast, on full burner. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ Hey, why use a mallet when you can use a sledgehammer? $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean precision strike is ever more important. It both limits collateral damage, allows you to strike closer to your own or friendly forces, and is cheaper. In case of the use of heavy bombers at the moment, the heavy bombers employ precision weapons, their size allowing them more time over target and the ability to strike more targets in a single mission. Plus their range means the dependency on forward operating bases in potentially unreliable countries is greatly reduced. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 5:06

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