First Operational Crew Flies Upgraded B-1B

Two crewmen from the 7th Bomb Wing took part in the first post-operational testing flight of a B-1B Lancer enhanced with the Sustainment Block 16 upgrade earlier this month. A pilot and weapons system officer from the 9th Bomb Squadron flew in the Oct. 2 mission from Dyess AFB, Texas, supported by aircrew members from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron. All previous flights with the SB-16 upgrade were made by test crews. The SB-16 changes the way tactical and flight information is presented to the Lancer flight crew, providing significant improvements in situational awareness, combat effectiveness, and survivability, according to an Air Force release. “This upgrade impacts our mission significantly,” said Maj. Brian Ranaudo, 9th BS 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.” Aircrews from the 7th BW will spend the next three months learning the new system and will train 9th BS crews when they return from their current deployment. The 7th BW will continually train aircrews with the new systems while more of its B-1s are upgraded, aiming for operational capability by 2016.