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New upgrades revitalize B-1 Bombers

B-1B Lancers from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron soar over the Gulf of Mexico during a test mission near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.  The 337th is a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin.  The 337th is responsible for operational testing of all B-1 defensive/offensive systems and weapons upgrades.  (Courtesy photo/Jake Melampy)

B-1B Lancers from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron soar over the Gulf of Mexico during a test mission near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 337th is a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin. The 337th is responsible for operational testing of all B-1 defensive/offensive systems and weapons upgrades. (Courtesy photo/Jake Melampy)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- B-1 Bombers are undergoing the most advanced hardware and software upgrades to date, as part of the Sustainment-Block 16 program.

Sustainment-Block 16, or SB-16, includes significant upgrades to the B-1, including Fully Integrated Data Link 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 B-1 has never seen this many upgrades in one block," said Maj. Thomas Bryant, 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron assistant director of operations. "These upgrades will give us an entirely new aircraft; this is a game-changer."

The aft crew station will now receive five new color displays, all capable of providing moving maps and data link integration. Weapon system officers will receive full qwerty keyboards and new controllers to interface with the Integrated Battle Station software.

Furthermore, a new MIDS LVT-1 radio, using IBS capabilities brings the B-1 into the Link-16 network, allowing the B-1 to send and receive text messages, imagery and mission assignments.

Unlike current messaging capabilities, FIDL assignments will interface directly with the aircraft, allowing combat commanders the capability to send target sets directly to weapons onboard the B-1.

"The new data link capability is huge for the B-1," Bryant said. "Command and control assets will have the ability to send us targets electronically, automatically linking into our system rather than manually entering the coordinates."

While the FIDL upgrades primarily support the weapon system officers in the aft station, SB-16 includes VSDU for the front station.

Pilots receive a new digital flight instrument display, providing more precise flight parameters. The pilot and co-pilot stations each receive a new 8 inch by 10 inch multi-function display and the same cursor control that is installed in the aft station.
These new situational displays provide independent moving maps and link information to the front station, supplying them identical information available to the aft station.

FIDL and VSDU have now completed developmental testing at Edwards AFB, Calif., and soon three 337th TES aircraft will be modified with the new upgrades.

Developmental testing for the entire SB-16 package is scheduled to begin March 2013. Under the current program schedule, the 337th TES will begin operational testing September 2013.

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