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All B-1B Lancer bombers grounded for potential fuel filter leak

The U.S. Air Force grounded its entire fleet of B-1B Lancer bombers this week to investigate a potential fuel filter problem. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force
The U.S. Air Force grounded its entire fleet of B-1B Lancer bombers this week to investigate a potential fuel filter problem. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force

April 23 (UPI) -- All 57 active U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers were indefinitely grounded this week after a fuel filter problem was discovered.

Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command chief, ordered the stand down after one B-1 experienced an emergency relating to its augmenter fuel pump filter housing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., earlier in April.

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A large hole was discovered in the plane's filter housing after it landed, which could cause a pressurized fuel leak and a pilot's inability to utilize the plane's afterburners, known as augmented thrust, Air Force Times reported.

The issue and stand down was first reported Thursday by The War Zone.

Afterburners, which can double the plane's available thrust, are used in takeoffs, emergencies and certain aerial maneuvers.

"As a precautionary measure, the commander directed one-time inspections on all B-1B aircraft to resolve this issue," a command statement on Friday said in part.

Each plane will be examined for potential problems, and will be returned to service individually. No schedule or time line for the inspections was offered by the Air Force.

A failure of the augmenter pump filter housing occurred on a different B1-B in 2018, one of a series of emergencies causing interruptions and maintenance overhauls.

In 2018, the Air Force ordered its B-1 fleet to stand down over concerns of ejection seat safety.

The Air Force plans to phase out the B-1s, in use since the 1980s, in favor of the the new B-21 stealth bomber, currently under development by Northrop Grumman.

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