The U.S. Air Force says it will resume B-1 bomber flights “this week,” following a fleet-wide grounding of the supersonic bomber earlier this month due to an issue with the ejection seat system.
Air Force Global Strike Command, based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, announced the resumption of operations in a statement, but said the issue with the “egress system” remains under investigation and made no mention of the problem being fixed although it said the threat to the crew was now reduced.
“We have high confidence that the fleet’s egress systems are capable and the fleet is ready to return to normal flight operations,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, 8th Air Force Commander, who heads the Air Force bomber force.
The grounding of the B-1 fleet occurred weeks after a B-1B Lancer made an emergency landing at a civilian airport in Midland, Texas. The four crew members onboard the aircraft were not injured.
"During the safety investigation process following an emergency landing of a B-1B in Midland, an issue with ejection seat components was discovered that necessitated the stand-down," Air Force Global Strike officials said at the time.
Images surfaced at the time on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident, according to Military.com. The photos showed the B-1B was missing a ceiling hatch, which led to speculation of an in-flight ejection, according to the website.
The back ceiling hatch, which hovers over either the offensive or defensive weapons systems officer was open, but all four crew members were shown sitting on the Midland flightline in photos, according to Military.com.
Unidentified individuals told the popular Facebook group Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco that the offensive weapons system officer attempted a manual ejection, but the ACES II seat did not blow.
The grounding of the bomber fleet affected deployed forces as well.
In April, a pair of B-1 bombers deployed to Qatar were used to fire 19 missiles into Syria to destroy a research center used for President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program.
B-1s were also used last year to fly “show of force” missions near the Korean Peninsula as tensions ramped up with North Korea.