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Modification Kits to Improve B-1 Combat Capability

The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $180-million contract to the Boeing Company to upgrade
the fire-control radar on the service's fleet of 67 B-1B long-range bomber aircraft.

By B-1 Systems Group, Aeronautical Systems Center

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, May 16, 2006 – The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $180-million contract to the Boeing Company to upgrade the fire-control radar on the service's fleet of 67 B-1B long-range bomber aircraft.

The nine-year Reliability and Maintainability Improvement Program, or RMIP, will replace two, high-failure rate line-replaceable units that make up the current AN/APQ-164 radar system in an effort to improve its R&M performance.

According to U.S. Air Force Col. Paul Clark, commander of the B-1 Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, the RMIP System Development and Demonstration is the first significant radar upgrade for the B-1 in more than 20 years.

"The investment we are making with this upgrade will significantly improve the reliability of the B-1's radar system and reduce the time and manpower the Air Force is spending to maintain this critical capability," said Clark. "The upgrade is key to keeping the B-1 combat ready for our warfighters for years to come."

Modification kits to replace the bombers' receiver and processor will be available beginning in 2011.

The RMIP kit, built principally by subcontractor Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, comprises a new radar transmitter/receiver, a radar processor computer and a reimplemented software package.

"The investment we are making with this upgrade will significantly improve the reliability of the B-1's radar system and reduce the time and manpower the Air Force is spending to maintain this critical capability."

U.S. Air Force Col. Paul Clark

"The focus of the software portion of the upgrade is to successfully reimplement 19 legacy B-1 radar modes into a more sustainable software language," said Capt. Anthony Sidoti, deputy program manager for the upgrade program at the B-1 Systems Group.

The reimplementation of six of 19 software modes is already in work under a risk-reduction effort ongoing at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., home to B-1 sustainment activities.

In addition to these initial software modes, the risk-reduction contract also covered the development of the new hardware that will flow into the R&M improvement program.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the risk-reduction effort, which is expected to be completed in the fall. 

"These initial six modes demonstrated under the risk-reduction along with the new hardware will be fully integrated and tested under RMIP," said Sidoti.

"The success the risk-reduction effort has enjoyed is providing the program with a great starting point to begin work on the remaining modes and is key to a smooth integration of all of the new hardware and software on the aircraft," he noted.

See Caption.
Andrew Peters, Flight Test Director at Northrop Grumman, installs the new Common Radar Processor on the BAC 1-1 1, Northrop Grumman's test bed aircraft located in Baltimore, Md. Northrop Grumman is the subcontractor to the Boeing Company for the $180 million B-1 radar upgrade effort. Northrop Grumman photo by Bobby West

According to the program's lead engineer, Jeff Day, the new hardware included with RMIP solves reliability and maintainability problems that would otherwise force B-1 aircraft to become unavailable in the next several years.

The technology the hardware brings will give the bomber flexibility to greatly expand its mission capabilities as new technologies and weapon systems come online in the future.

"The hardware is plug-and-play replaceable with the current radar boxes, but we've chosen a path that forms the foundation for future radar performance upgrades if required," said Day. "These upgrades could include digital video processing, updated color-radar-target indicators and one-foot Synthetic Aperture Radar capability with automatic target cueing and automatic target-recognition algorithms."

Northrop Grumman engineers will begin initial flight testing of the new hardware and completed software modes on its British Aircraft Corporation 1-11 test bed aircraft at the Northrop facility in Baltimore later this year.

The testing will continue as the software modes are developed with flights slated through 2009.

In turn, Boeing will flight-test a fully upgraded RMIP aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in 2010 and will support field installation and checkout of the RMIP kits at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.; and Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Installation is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
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Oct. 25, 2014
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