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Report: BI Bomber Beset By Design Flaws

July 10, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ New tests show that the B1 bomber’s electronic warfare system has design flaws that could prevent it from reaching the Air Force’s planned capabilities for the warplane, according to a published report.

The Washington Post, in its Sunday editions, said the flaws detected in the tests could force the Pentagon to reroute possible bombing runs through the Soviet Union in the event of nuclear war.

The newspaper cited an internal congressional document written by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin, D-Wis., who received a classified Air Force briefing late last week on the problems, and Pentagon sources.

″The plane was designed to be capable of a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union,″ Aspin said. ″It is now called into question whether it will ever be able to do that mission in the way it was advertised.″

The Air Force said ″the existing system was discovered to be incapable of meeting the ... specification requirements.″

Aspin was in Wisconsin for the weekend and could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press. Pentagon spokeswoman Capt. Nancy Laluntas had no comment on the report.

Air Force officials said the tests found that parts of the plane’s electronic countermeasures system - designed to help protect the low-flying, penetrating aircraft on its most critical bombing missions - does not work and cannot be corrected without major changes, the newspaper said.

Aspin, who has been a critic of the Air Force’s management of the B1 program, said the test results were a major setback for the $28 billion bomber program.

The B1 bomber’s history has been beset with controversy. The Pentagon began production of the B1, but former President Carter killed the program, saying it was too costly and was made unnecessary by development of ″Stealth″ bombers designed to make detection difficult.

President Reagan revived the B1, calling it a critical leg of his strategic plan, and won congressional funding for 100 planes by vowing to keep a ceiling on the price.

Since the first bombers became operational in the fall of 1986, the plane has been plagued by problems ranging from its flight controls to its terrain- hugging radar.

Aspin sent committee members a memorandum stating that the recently completed tests, carried out by the Air Force and Eaton, the electronic countermeasures system’s builder, revealed ″limitations within the current system architecture″ that will ″prevent the B1 ECM from ever achieving full operational capability,″ the newspaper said.

The architecture ″isn’t any good and ... it’s back to the drawing board,″ he said.

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