The most significant B-1 bomber upgrades in U.S. Air Force history are underway to increase the bombers' capabilities and make them more user-friendly.
Dyess Air Force Base is home to 33 of 60 B-1 bombers and the base will be the first to conduct operational testing on the upgraded B-1's. The others are stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
In April, the first upgraded B-1’s will undergo developmental, or safety, testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The 337th Test Evaluation Squadron at Dyess expects to conduct operational testing on the first upgraded B-1 in September.
Major Michael Jungquist of the 337th TES said he is looking forward to testing the upgrades.
“They involve new cockpit displays that are color graphics, flat screen modern video displays,” Junquist said. “We can see a lot more information and interact with the information we’re getting a lot easier.”
He said the upgrades will better facilitate flying and trouble shooting and will also provide a clear picture of what is going on in the air and on the ground during combat.
Commander of the 337th TES George Holland said the upgrades will significantly extend the life of the B-1.
“The B1 was built as a 1980s aircraft and it was built as a nuclear bomber and the idea there was we'd go off and fly missions and not necessarily communicate with people because we had a one way mission,” said. “But in today's advanced battle space, a lot of our communication is working with the guys on the ground and guys on ships and then other airplanes so we're increasing the ways we communicate with those guys.”
The new capabilities will require substantial training for pilots.
“It's essentially a new airplane for all our operators,” Jungquist said.
Air Force officials expect installation of the upgrades on all B-1’s to last through 2019.