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B-1 IBS modification reaches milestone

Ernesto Pena, an aircraft ordnance mechanic, works on the offensive system operator section of a B-1B Lancer.

Ernesto Pena, an aircraft ordnance mechanic, works on the offensive system operator section of a B-1B Lancer.

Lt. Col. James Couch, 10th Flight Test Squadron, performs pre-flight checks on the final B-1B Lancer in the Ellsworth Air Force Base fleet to receive the Integrated Battle Station modification. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

Lt. Col. James Couch, 10th Flight Test Squadron, performs pre-flight checks on the final B-1B Lancer in the Ellsworth Air Force Base fleet to receive the Integrated Battle Station modification. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

Rod Weeks, an aircraft ordnance mechanic, inspects panel 4 of the defensive system operator section of a B-1B Lancer.

Rod Weeks, an aircraft ordnance mechanic, inspects panel 4 of the defensive system operator section of a B-1B Lancer.

James Goers, aircraft ordnance mechanic, works on a B-1 ejection system.

James Goers, aircraft ordnance mechanic, works on a B-1 ejection system.

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

A ceremony Sept. 5 in the maintenance repair overhaul technology center building celebrated a milestone reached by the 567th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, installing the Integrated Battle Station modification into the final B-1 aircraft to be delivered to Ellsworth Air Force Base.

While the modification has only been performed on about half the overall fleet, Ellsworth AFB will be the first base to have a full fleet of the updated aircraft.

During the ceremony, Rodney Shepard, director of the 567th AMXS, Col. Chad Heyen, commander of the 28th Maintenance Group at Ellsworth AFB and Maj. Jeffrey Spinney, wing weapons office for the 28th MXG spoke.

The modification, developed by Boeing and coordinated and installed by members of the 567th AMXS, updates the technology with the B-1 and improves mission capabilities and communications, said Bill Baumann, deputy director of the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group.

“It brings the cockpit of the B-1 up to 21st century technology, it gives the pilots more situational awareness for the battlefield and the pilots love it,” Shepard said. “They would much rather have a B-1 with an IBS mod installed than the old one.”

The IBS is a significant upgrade to three systems: the central integrated test system, fully integrated data link and visual situation display unit.

Shepard said CITS is similar to a check-engine light in a car, monitoring the condition of the aircraft.

“It generates codes to pilots and maintenance that says it sees something you might want to look at,” Shepard said. “It’s a computerized system that kind of tells the mechanics and pilots what the aircraft is feeling and how it’s actually functioning at any given time.”

The FIDL improves communication across the battlefield, and the VSDU enhances the visual display to improve the ability to take advantage of other upgrades.

Lt. Col. James Couch, director of operations for the 10th Flight Test Squadron, acts as an Evaluator Weapon System Officer during functional check flights for the B-1.

He said flying on planes with the modification is challenging at first because it “is a quantum leap into the future,” but that situational awareness of the crew is “drastically improved.”

“Whenever I first started flying the airplane, our radarscope was a standard radarscope, with one monochrome color,” Couch said. “But now with IBS, especially with all the moving map capabilities we have, it’s actually putting color into all stations of the cockpit and significant radar improvements - pilot and WSO stations as well.”

The 567 AMXS team working on the upgrades were recognized in December with the Robert T. Mason Award for Depot Maintenance Excellence.

The award recognized their efforts for decreasing programmed depot maintenance flow days by 21 percent, doubling its production of the B-1 IBS jets between fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

“Through continuous process improvements, this modification effort has become a model for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” Baumann said.

At the ceremony, Heyen said while the warfighters flying the B-1 may not know the names of those in the 567 AMXS, the work the squadron is doing to provide and maintain airframes is important.

 “It’s an honor to stand here today...You guys are your own team, but I’m very impressed with the B-1 community. I have been for years,” Heyen said. “The relationship between the System Program Office, the Air Logistics Complex (and) the operational units. It’s a team effort.”