Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The first of 17 B-1B bombers to be retired this year took its final flight, to Davis-Monahan Air Force Base, Ariz., this week, the Air Force announced.
It was given to the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group at a section of the base known as "the boneyard," intact but covered in protective coatings pending further disposition, which means it likely will be cannibalized and used for spare parts.
The plane, identified by serial number 85-0066, left its home base of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S. D., on Wednesday. The drawdown, to make way for the newer B-21 bomber, will leave 45 B-1 variants flying.
"Beginning to retire legacy bombers, to make way for the B-21 Raider, is something we have been working toward for some time," said Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command commander in a statement.
"Due to the wear and tear placed on the B-1 fleet over the past two decades, maintaining these bombers would cost tens of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to status quo.
"And that's just to fix the problems we know about. We're just accelerating planned retirements."
The first B-1 sent to the boneyard was nearly scrapped in 2005, when it sustained fire damage as it landed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The fire was traced to hydraulic fluid coming in contact with hot wheel breaks, but $32 million in maintenance replaced one wing, an engine housing and landing gear.
The B-1, known as the Lancer, is a supersonic heavy bomber in use only by the U.S. Air Force, and is one of three strategic bombers in the USAF fleet, accompanying B-2 Spirit, introduced in 1997, and the B-52 Stratofortress, which dates to 1955.