Members of the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron are gearing up for the largest B-1 Lancer modification in program history, as part of the Integrated Battle Station and Sustainment-Block 16 upgrade.
Because of the magnitude of this upgrade, additional work is being done to make sure members of the 337th TES are ready to test and develop tactics needed to take full advantage of the new equipment and software.
Sustainment-Block 16, or SB-16, includes significant upgrades to the B-1, including the Fully Integrated Data Link and Central Integrated Test System in the aft station and the Vertical Situation Display Upgrade in the front station. Included under the umbrella of SB-16, the B-1 will also receive navigation, radar and diagnostic upgrades.
The VSDU upgrades the B-1’s forward cockpit by replacing two unsupportable, monochrome pilot and co-pilot displays with four multifunctional color displays, giving the pilots more situational awareness data in a user-friendly format.
The B-1 FIDL will give the aft cockpit new digital avionics including a Link 16 data link that adds line-of-sight capability to the B-1’s existing beyond line-of-sight Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol data link and integrates the JREAP, data onto new, full-color displays with intuitive symbols and moving maps.
The CITS upgrade adds a new color display in the aft cockpit and replaces an obsolete computer that continuously monitors the aircraft’s performance. It is used by flight and ground support personnel to identify and troubleshoot B-1 system anomalies.
These three modifications fall under the Integrated Battle Station initiative, which is slated to be installed concurrently through 2019.
“The IBS upgrades will provide B-1 aircrews with a higher level of situational awareness and a faster, secure digital communication link,” said Maj. Michael Jungquist, from the 337th TES. “This will enable the aircrews to perform at an even more effective level and will make the B-1 cockpit more reliable and supportable.”
Developmental testing of SB-16 is scheduled to begin in April at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., while the 337th TES is on track to receive its first fully modified B-1 later this year to begin operational testing.
To test the new datalink capabilities, the 337th TES members are constructing a Link-16 network for use in local airspace. The squadron has spent nearly $1.5 million to create a control room capable of sending and receiving Link-16 and JREAP messages in addition to ultra-high frequency voice communications.
“The groundwork we lay here will enable the 7th Bomb Wing to conduct more effective training, in addition to our ability to test new capabilities in the future,” Jungquist said.
Furthermore, 337th TES members have begun writing test plans, creating training plans and even recruited several members of the FIDL and VSDU developmental test teams for expertise and training.
In addition to aircrew training, the maintenance element of the 337th TES has begun preparing for the arrival of the initial IBS configured aircraft. The 337th TES maintainers and maintainers from the 7th Maintenance Group will undergo significant classroom and on-aircraft training at Edwards AFB and Tinker AFB, Okla., prior to the aircraft’s arrival.
“The enhancements are so dramatic that, for all intents and purposes, B-1 aviators will need to treat an IBS modified B-1 like a new aircraft,” said Jungquist, who flew during both FIDL and VSDU testing.
“The IBS/SB-16 upgrade to the B-1 enhances the ability of this amazing aircraft to integrate and operate with the most advanced air, sea, land and cyber platforms of our military forces,” said Lt. Col. George Holland, the 337th TES commander. “Whether providing air support over ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan or shifting focus to support maritime operations in the Pacific, the IBS upgrade to the B-1 provides more capability to the quiver of our combatant commanders. The 337th TES looks forward to leading the B-1 community through the IBS upgrade.”