1st SB-16 Flight By Operational Squadron

Aircrew from 7th Bomb Wing flying squadrons took part in the first flight of a B-1B Lancer upgraded with the Sustainment-Block 16 upgrade outside of operational testing, here Oct. 2.

A pilot and weapons system officer from the 9th Bomb Squadron were joined by aircrew members from the 337th Test and Evaluations Squadron, who provided oversight and information on the new system during the milestone flight.

Eight initial cadre from the 7th BW operational flying squadrons will spend the next three months learning the new systems. When the 9th BS returns from its current deployment, 7th BW cadre will train those pilots and weapons system officers.

In January, the 337th TES received the Air Force's first SB-16 upgraded aircraft. For nearly the past year, they worked to validate technical orders, references, procedures and tactics for operating the aircraft.

"We wanted to make sure we are maximizing the way we employ the aircraft," said Lt. Col. William Alcorn, 7th Operations Support Squadron Mission Training Center director.  "We also want to be sure we are properly applying all the capabilities that SB-16 has to offer and the new ways the displays present information to us, helping us to make sound tactical decisions."

The way pilots fly and weapons system officer's access on-board systems has changed because of physical improvements to the aircraft.

"Information is presented to aircrews in a different manner than it was in the past," Alcorn said. "However, situational awareness provided by the new system is substantially enhanced. Now the entire crew can work more effectively together."

SB-16 is the largest B-1 modification in the aircraft's history. It has increased the jet's warfighting capabilities and improved it's functionality with other aircraft.

"This upgrade impacts our mission significantly," said Maj. Brian Ranaudo, 9th Bomb Squadron director of operations. "It improves our ability to integrate and communicate more effectively with other aircraft in a strike package; by doing so it increases the lethality of the aircraft."

The SB-16 upgrade has increased the survivability of the B-1 Bomber by eliminating many of the aircrew's out dated systems and procedures. Additionally, it has provided a gateway for future upgrades to the aircraft.

"There are only so many options we have with the systems we are replacing," Alcorn said. "This upgrade was critical. Now that we have this new system we can do almost anything."

The 7th BW will continually train pilots and weapons system officers with the new systems while rotating its B-1 fleet to be upgraded. The 7th BW aims to be ready to deploy with a completely modified group of aircraft and aircrew capable of employing by the fall of 2016, if called upon to do so. If so, the 7th BW would be the first unit to operate an SB-16 upgraded B-1 in support of combat operations.

by Senior Airman Peter Thompson
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Date: Oct 9, 2014