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First upgraded B-1 departs Tinker

AIRBORNE -- The B-1B Lancer cruises above the clouds. A B-1B test program that combined testing of software upgrades, along with integrating the 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition wrapped up here Feb. 24. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Members of the B-1 community here celebrated the completion of the first B-1B Lancer Integrated Battle Station modifications. The IBS has three modifications, including a fully integrated Link 16 data link, several upgrades in the aft cockpit, including new digital avionics and color graphics, and improvement of the central integrated test system. These upgrades will provide situational awareness and communications for the aircraft’s crew. (U.S. Air Force file photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- A B-1 Lancer that received the first Integrated Battle Station modification that features full color displays, moving maps and a new diagnostics system, departed Tinker Air Force Base on Tuesday en route to Dyess AFB, Texas, for testing and training.

The IBS -- the most extensive modification program in B-1 history -- updates three of the aircraft's capabilities. The project involves installation of a fully integrated data link, a vertical situation display upgrade, and improvement of the central integrated test system.
The FIDL provides the air crew with faster and more secure communication capability with troops in a joint theater, regardless of whether they are on land or at sea.

FIDL will provide the aft cockpit with 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 data onto new, full-color displays with intuitive symbols and moving maps. It also enables the aircraft to receive target coordinates automatically, rather than the crew having to retrieve them over a radio and type them into a computer.

The VSDU is a safety-critical program that replaces obsolete flight instruments. It upgrades the cockpit by replacing two unsupportable monochrome pilot and co-pilot displays with four multi-functional color displays that provide the aviators with more situational awareness data in a more user-friendly format.

The data link and situational displays vastly increase awareness of battle space around the aircraft in real time and compress the kill chain, said Rick Cantwell of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Fighters and Bombers Directorate, B-1 Production Support Branch.

Overhaul of the CITS adds a new color display in the aft cockpit and replaces an obsolete computer that continuously monitors the aircraft's performance. It also is used by ground support personnel to identify and troubleshoot B-1 system anomalies.

Personnel from the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group installed the production-level kits, while AFLCMC staff from Tinker and from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, provided support and oversight and addressed engineering and programming issues. The Boeing Co. produced the kits and provided technical support for the installation
Col. Jed McCray, commander of the 76th AMXG, said approximately 17,725 man-hours were invested in the IBS upgrade.

Collectively, the modifications make the "Bone" even "badder" than it already was.
"This modification makes the B-1 a more effective weapon," said Col. Mike Senseney, the B-1 System Program Manager in the AFLCMC Fighters and Bombers Directorate. And Charles Alley, director of the 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said, "The installation of IBS by our mechanics, with the support of the B-1 System Program Office and Boeing, ensures that the B-1 will be the premier bomber for years to come."

Boeing designed the IBS upgrade, installed it and previously tested it on two B-1 test aircraft.

The first U.S. Air Force B-1 to receive the IBS alterations arrived here in mid-September 2012 from Edwards AFB, Calif. The upgrade began two months later, after the aircraft was prepped and special equipment used for a previous mission was removed.

The IBS modification was completed at the Oklahoma Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Technology Center on Sept. 26, 2013, and afterward the aircraft was towed across Douglas Boulevard and back to Tinker for the Post Dock phase of maintenance, which included the performance of flight readiness checks.

The modification program will cost an estimated $975 million, and the entire fleet of 62 aircraft will receive the alterations by the end of 2020, officials estimated.

The Lancer which left Tinker on Tuesday -- tail number 122 -- flew to Dyess AFB, where the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron will test software associated with the upgrade in an operational environment. Two more bombers are at Tinker, receiving the mods, and a fourth is expected to arrive by the end of January.

On any given day, Tinker has up to half a dozen B-1s on base for programmed depot maintenance. With the IBS upgrade, up to eight additional aircraft will be undergoing maintenance here.