B-1 bomber to get redesigned radar instrumentation system

Procurement Operations for Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Ogden, Utah, awarded a $2.6 million engineering services order to Northrop Grumman Mission Systems Feb. 11. This service order expands NGMS support to the Air Force’s B-1 System Program Office located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

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B 1 bomber to get new radar instrumentation system A US Air Force B-1B Lancer, deployed to Andersen Air Base, Guam, is flanked by two F-15K Slam Eagles, assigned to Daegu Air Base, South Korea, during a flight over South Korea Sept. 21, 2016. The B-1 is the backbone of the US long-range bomber mission and is capable of carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory (Picture source: South Korean air force)

The B-1 bomber, also known by Air Force personnel as “the bone,” was initially developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52 Stratofortress that is still in use today. The B-1 became operational in 1986 and quickly became the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force. However, as with many legacy aircraft, it is becoming harder to find manufacturers to provide timely support for the bomber.

Specifically, in 2018, the B-1 SPO reached out to DLA Aviation with concerns about diminishing manufacturing sources for components within the aircraft’s radar instrumentation system. The B-1’s instrumented radar provides engineering data to contracted hardware/software developers, improving first time quality of software development schedules. Without this data, the process to sustain the B-1’s radar legacy hardware and software is lengthened and becomes more costly due to increased aircraft test requirements.

“The radar system is 30 plus years old, and the current radar instrumentation system is over 10 years old. We are updating the instrumentation system to overcome [diminishing manufacturing sources] challenges as well as provide a path for data collection on future radar efforts,” said Phil Ngo, an engineer within the B-1 SPO. Ngo went on to say that there are continuing DMS issues that if not resolved will make it difficult to maintain the radar system. “The B-1’s radar is critical to its mission within the Air Force. Maintaining this system is one of our top priorities,” he said.

“DLA Aviation awarded the cost-plus, fixed-fee contract to NGMS in Baltimore, Maryland, because Northrop Grumman is the original design authority for the B-1 radar system,” said Brad Baggiano, a contracting officer with DLA Aviation at Ogden. “The order is a continuation of a previous contract awarded by DLA Aviation in Richmond, Virginia, that addressed additional radar initiatives.”

The instrumentation service order will bring much needed updates to the current system, including new single board computers, ethernet-based protocol, high-speed data lines, and solid-state drive data collection units. Improvements in data collection reliability, supportability and efficiency are anticipated with the updated instrumentation system, Ngo said.

The redesigned radar instrumentation system kits will arrive at Edwards Air Force Base, California, home of the two heavily instrumented developmental B-1 aircraft, in late 2021.

Ngo said, this delivery timeframe should provide adequate time within the period of performance of the contract that ends in May 2022 to perform the necessary installation and check-out of the updated RIS on test aircraft to support B-1 flight testing.