A total of sixty aircraft in the B-1B Lancer fleet have been upgraded with the Integrated Battle Station, or IBS, control deck at Tinker Air Force Base, in Oklahoma. The modification process, underway since 2012, is now being completed ahead of schedule.
The IBS was the largest and most complicated modification ever performed on the B-1. Originally three separate modifications were developed for the IBS: a Fully Integrated Data Link, a Vertical Situational Display Unit and a Central Integrated Test System.
The modification gave the flight deck a completely new look.
“During development, it became obvious that modifying the same aircraft three times would be detrimental to aircraft availability and would create numerous aircraft configurations. Thus Integrated Battle Station was born,“ said William Barnes, B-1B Systems program manager, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
It took thousands of man-hours of work to complete a modification of this size.
“With 120 maintainers assigned to the modification line working two shifts, completing all 60 aircraft over the past eight years came to 1,050,000 hours of planned work,” said Rodney Shepard, 567th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Director.
As with any undertaking this large, there are bound to be some challenges to overcome.
“With all new workload, the start of the modification line was slow, however, with enterprise buy-in and support, the modification line eventually reduced flow days and met “Art of the Possible” goals,” Shepard said.
Upon completion of the modification, 987 aircraft availability days were returned to the warfighter. The dedication of the 567th AMXS’s to continuous process improvement on the IBS modification line was a significant element in the unit winning the Robert T. Mason Award for Best Depot Level Maintenance Facility in 2017.
Col. Greg Lowe, 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group commander, said IBS provides upgraded capability for communications and situational display. This is a tremendous advantage to the warfighters in the Air Force Global Strike Command.
“Using the Air Force Sustainment Center’s constraints-based management system, known as ‘Art of the Possible,’ the artisans of the 567th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron developed a repeatable process to efficiently install the modification on the aircraft. The project employed 120 mechanics and support personnel at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex for the past eight years. And while this mission is coming to an end, all of our employees will be diverted to other growing workload at Tinker (AFB),” said Lowe.
This completed modification enhances B-1B flight operations, giving the crews more flexibility to perform their various missions.
“All aircraft outfitted with the Integrated Battle Station modification enhancements provide the four members of the aircraft with much greater ’battlefield‘ awareness of surrounding threats whether those threats are air-to-air or ground-to-air, and provides a much faster capability to execute both defensive and offensive maneuvers needed in any conflict,” Shepard said.
Numerous flight checks were performed on these modified aircraft by the pilots and weapon systems officers assigned to the 10th Flight Test Squadron.
“This upgrade drastically improves aircrew situational awareness with color displays, and enhanced navigation and communication systems are projected to significantly enhance B-1B mission readiness,” Couch said. “Although this closes a chapter, this continues the unprecedented advances of B-1B lethality and aircrew situational awareness for decades to come. All of these benefits are made possible by the IBS upgrade,” Lt. Col. James Couch, 10th Flight Test Squadron Commander.
The timeline of the modification was not impacted by the Corona Virus as they were only working on the one aircraft.
“For the IBS workforce, COVID(-19) restrictions were very limited. At the time of the outbreak, the IBS modification line only had one aircraft in-dock at the Maintenance Repair Overhaul Technology Center, with three aircraft already transitioned to post-dock flight operations,” said Shepard.
The Air Force Global Strike Command shared high praise for the men and women at Tinker AFB who worked on the modification.
“Big thanks to the team at Tinker (AFB) for doing a remarkable job retooling the B-1 and getting it back in the fight. The work the B-1 and our Airmen are doing is a great example of how we’re making a huge impact on Dynamic Force Employment to support the National Defense Strategy. These modifications have revitalized the B-1 for the high-end fight, allowing our precision strike force to remain strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable,” said Gen. Tim Ray, AFGSC Commander.