B-1B Lancer
© Samir Jordamovic / Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesFILE PHOTO: B-1B Lancer conducts a low altitude flight over Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 30, 2023
A long-range US B-1B Lancer bomber has crashed outside Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, military officials have said, noting the accident took place as the aircraft wrapped up a training mission.

Air base staff confirmed the incident in a statement on Thursday night, saying the bomber went down at around 6pm local time while attempting to land at the facility.

"At the time of the accident, it was on a training mission. There were four aircrew on board. All four ejected safely," the statement said, adding that an investigation had been launched.

Unconfirmed images making the rounds on social media were alleged to show a fire outside the military base, though officials offered few details about the aftermath of the crash.

One of three main strategic bombers in the US arsenal, the B-1B Lancer was once among Washington's top nuclear-capable warplanes, able to carry the largest load of munitions and reach the fastest speeds. However, the B-1B has since been stripped of its nuclear status, as was agreed under the Cold War-era START Treaty with the Soviet Union, with the planes finally undergoing physical conversions in 2011.

"The exterior attachment points, or the hard points, on the aircraft, were modified to prevent nuclear pylons from ever being attached to the jet," Master Sgt. Brian Hudson, a B-1 avionics manager at Air Force Global Strike Command, explained in an interview with Military.com.

Despite losing its nuclear mission, however, the Lancer remains a primary heavy bomber alongside the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit, having entered service in 1986. The aircraft are stationed at Ellsworth AFB and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, and several have been deployed for 'deterrence' missions in Guam in recent years.

In late 2023, two Lancers were intercepted while approaching Russian airspace over the Baltic Sea by a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet, according to Moscow's defense ministry. After they were spotted, the two US planes changed course and headed away from the border without incident.