B-1B Lancers are currently undergoing their most advanced hardware and software upgrades to date as part of the Sustainment-Block 16 program.
Sustainment-Block 16 upgrades include a fully integrated data link in the aft station and vertical situation display upgrade in the front station as well as updates to navigation, radar and diagnostic systems.
"The B-1 has never seen this many upgrades in one block," said Maj. Thomas Bryant, the 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 systems 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 integrated battle station 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, fully integrated data link 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 fully integrated data link upgrades primarily support the weapon systems officers in the aft station, Sustainment-Block 16 also includes vertical situation display upgrades 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.
Fully integrated data link and vertical situation display upgrades have now completed developmental testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and soon three 337th TES aircraft will be modified with the new upgrades.
Developmental testing for the entire Sustainment-Block 16 package is scheduled to begin March 2013. Under the current program schedule, the 337th TES will begin operational testing September 2013.