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New modification will enhance B-1’s capabilities

Published: Fri September 21st, 2012 via:

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Tinker recently received a new workload; one that promises to make the B-1 Lancer a more effective warfighter. In other words, the already "bad to the bone" B-1, will be "badder."

The Integrated Battle Station, or IBS, modification will modernize three of the aircraft's capabilities. Personnel from the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group will perform the physical labor while Air Force Lifecycle Management Center staff from Tinker and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, will support, oversee and address engineering and programming issues. The first aircraft arrived here Sept. 13 from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Work is scheduled to begin in November. Before maintenance crews begin the modification, they must prep the aircraft and remove special equipment used for a previous mission.

"The arrival of the first aircraft is an important milestone for the B-1 program; it puts us one step closer to starting the biggest modification effort in the history of the fleet," said Col. Mike Senseney, AFLCMC Fighters and Bombers Directorate B-1 Division System Program manager. "Bringing the entire fleet through the modification line will limit the number of aircraft available to Air Combat Command, so it's important that we all execute well and deliver these aircraft back to the user on or ahead of schedule."

The modification will install the fully-integrated data link, or FIDL, and vertical situation displays upgrade, or VSDU; as well as improve the central integrated test system, or CITS. The data link will allow the air crew to speak and communicate with troops in a joint theater, regardless if they are on the ground or at sea.

The vertical situation display is a safety-critical program, which will resolve obsolete flight instrument issues and integrate multifunction displays in the crew area creating a virtual "glass cockpit," said Dianna Hutzel, AFLCMC Fighters and Bombers Directorate B-1 Division lead program manager.

The data link and situational displays will vastly increase awareness of battle space around the aircraft in real time and compress the kill chain, said Rick Cantwell, AFLCMC Fighters and Bombers Directorate B-1 Division Logistics lead.

"It's much like going from a cassette-player Walkman to an iPod," Mr. Cantwell said. "We're inserting new technology into the aircraft and when you do that, you can't help but raise the overall reliability of the aircraft."

The upgrade of the CITS will replace obsolete components and provide the B-1 flight crews and maintenance personnel with sustainable, highly reliable fault diagnostic and fault isolation system.

Mr. Cantwell said the Air Force has spent more than seven years planning this project. Through the planning and prototyping phase, the effort has been led by the B-1 Development Systems Manager office at Wright-Patterson AFB. Development began when commercial and military engineers discussed ACC requirements and constraints. They worked out a technical plan. Once the requirement was defined, officials discussed funding and scheduling. The B-1 Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB contracted with Boeing to prototype and tests each modification separately, and to deliver production kits. After completion of the first IBS install, management of the program will transition fully to the B-1 division here at Tinker.

It is estimated the modification will cost approximately $975 million and will take roughly eight years to complete the transformation of 64 aircraft. The fleet has 66 aircraft, but two have already received the alterations.

The IBS team has set aside 300 days to complete the "kit-proof" modification. As the kit-proof modification progresses, the team will review the lessons learned and adjust procedures as required to ensure future installations are streamlined and overall required modification time is reduced.

"Because this is the first time that some of the areas on the aircraft have been disturbed since production, our goal is to minimize the impact of the modification by consolidating CITS, FIDL and VSDU installation activities," Ms. Hutzel said. "This is the first aircraft where all three modifications will be installed at the same time."

At any given time, Tinker has five to six B-1s already on base for programmed depot maintenance. Through this program, up to eight additional aircraft will be here.

"The Integrated Battle Station modification is the future of the B-1 and allows the B-1 to be viable as the Air Force's premier long-range strike platform," said Bill Barnes, AFLCMC Fighters and Bombers Directorate B-1 Division deputy chief. "We're looking forward to continuing our current relationship with the 76th AMXG."

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