LONG BEACH, Calif., Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force's fleet of B-1 bombers is set to undergo extensive new software upgrades to increase automation and striking power of the warplane in battle-ready scenarios.
Jennifer Hogan, a Boeing Co. spokeswoman, told United Press International the customized upgrade under an $84 million contract would be carried in line with requirements received from USAF.
She said the avionics upgrade would cover a whole range of operations from controls and weapons delivery to radar, electrical multiplexing, communications, navigation and the color displays.
The B-1 entered service in 1989 and has been carrying the largest strike payload in the Air Force inventory throughout its 20-year history. It has survived numerous phases of criticism, when it fell out of favor as new weapons appeared on the scene.
The warplane's low radar cross-section, variable-geometry wings, advanced avionics and afterburning engines combine to provide long range, maneuverability, high speed and survivability in wartime situations. In that sense the B-1 remains unbeaten by competing weapons systems.
The new contract for Boeing is part of a software-sustainment program that has continually updated and improved the B-1's operational capabilities since the 1980s.
Mahesh Reddy, B-1 program director for Boeing, said the company was "excited about all the B-1 potential that will be provided" with the software upgrade.
He said the upgrade will enhance the aircraft's color cockpit displays, data link, radar and navigation in ways that will significantly improve the crew's ability to execute their missions.
In July Boeing conducted the first flight of a B-1 upgraded with the Fully Integrated Data Link that introduces new automation features and reduces the crew's workload.
The B-1 was first used in combat in Iraq during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. It was again used in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and also deployed in Kosovo and more recently in Afghanistan.
The B-1 occupies an important niche in the Air Force inventory and is unmatched in missions requiring a high-speed, time-sensitive strike with a large bomb payload.
A unit of The Boeing Co., Boeing Integrated Defense Systems has headquarters in St. Louis and is one of the world's largest space and defense businesses, employing 70,000 people.