Tag Archives: B-1 Lancer

Dyess B-1 That Made Emergency Landing in Midland Flown To Tinker By Reserve Aircrew On 3 of 4 engines

The “Bone” at the Midland International Air & Space Port since May 1 was flown from Midland to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma today. On Three Engines.

The B-1B Lancer that performed an emergency landing last May, was tranferred to Tinker AFB on Oct. 26, 2018.

The heavy bomber was on a training mission on May 1, 2018 when a serious engine fire erupted near the right wing root. There were fire warnings in three areas of the aircraft. All but one was extinguished by taking appropriate flight procedures, prompting the aircraft commander to heed technical orders and command a controlled manual ejection from their burning bomber over the Texas desert. When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.

Composite image made from FB/Time Fischer/Midland Reporter photographs that show the missing hatch on the aircraft that made the emergency landing on May 1, 2018.

For their heroism, the crew members were each presented the Distinguished Flying Cross in a ceremony July 13 at Dyess AFB.

“After undergoing a safety investigation board and maintenance to get the aircraft into a safely operable condition, an Air Force Reserve crew from the 10th Flight Test Squadron flew the aircraft to Tinker AFB. While at Tinker AFB, the B-1B will undergo depot maintenance and upgrades at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, be quality tested by the 10th FLTS, and be returned to the Dyess AFB B-1B Lancer fleet upon completion,” an official AFRC release said.

The 10th FLTS is a geographically separated unit of the 413th Flight Test Group that conducts functional check flights and acceptance check flights in B-1, B-52, E-3 and KC-135 aircraft.

Some more details about the unusual procedure to move the bomber to Tinker were provided by the always very well informed Air Force amn/nco/snco FB page that revealed that the aircraft was to be flown on 3 of 4 engines:

“OK flying on 3 of 4 engines, limited radar, and the landing gear must stay down for the entirety of flight due to possible hydro issues and the wings will not be able to sweep. One engine caught fire and spread to another engine, so they were removed. They replaced with one engine that cost between $2-3 million, hence flying back on 3 of 4 engines. The hatch that had blown off has been replaced and ejection seats work. They are currently doing Dash 1 checks.”



The following images show the 3-engine B-1 on the ground after its arrival in Tinker AFB.

Boeing B-1B Lancer, 86-0109, ‘Spectre’ taxis to park at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Oct. 26, 2018, after completing a ferry flight with the 10th Flight Test Squadron, Air Force Reserve Command. The jet was ferried from Midland International Air & Space Port to Tinker where it will undergo depot-level maintenance and upgrades with the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex today. During a routine training flight May 1, the Dyess AFB based B-1B had an in-flight emergency resulting in an attempted ejection. The first crewmembers seat failed to deploy and the aircraft commander halted the ejection sequence and heroically saved the aircraft and crew by landing at Midland International Air & Space Port. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

10th Flight Test Squadron flight crew for B-1B Lancer, 86-0109, pose for a group photo where the #3 engine has been removed after ferrying the aircraft from Midland International Air & Space Port to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, on Oct. 26, 2018. Shown are: Maj. Ivan Vian; pilot and aircraft commander, Maj. Michael Griffin; copilot, Lt. Col. James Couch; Offensive Weapons System Officer and Lt. Col. Matthew Grimes; Defensive Weapons System Officer. The damaged B-1B will undergo depot-level maintenance and upgrades with the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Oct. 26, 2018. During a routine training flight May 1, the Dyess AFB based B-1B had an in-flight emergency resulting in an attempted ejection. The first crewmembers seat failed to deploy and the aircraft commander halted the ejection sequence and heroically saved the aircraft and crew by landing at Midland International Air & Space Port. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

It looks like it’s not the first time a B-1 takes-off on three engines after an emergency landing. In the end, the General Electric F101 afterburning turbofan jet engine that powers the bomber dates back to the 1980s (first run the decade before) and you can’t easily find a replacement. According to some reports, in August 2007 a “Bone” (as the B-1 is nicknamed in the pilot community) made an emergency landing in Kandahar following an engine fire over Afghanistan. Since it was considered more practical to remove the engine and fly the bomber to another base where the complex engine change could be done, the Lancer was flown on three engines to the UK (most probably RAF Fairford) by a special crew who had rehearsed the mission in a simulator for one month.

Update on Oct. 29, 08.00 GMT.
We have received an interesting description by one of our readers who has had the opportunity to get a quick look at the aircraft. The following are his observations:

The #3 Engine is removed, along with the upper and lower cowlings, and a bracing bar is installed. (I’m assuming the same configuration used for previous engine out flights).
Heat damage is evident to the surrounding paint, and structure of the nacelle itself and minor areas on the bottom of the fuselage inboard of #3.
Structurally, there is no evidence of burn through, leading me to believe the fire itself remained contained within the #3 engine and bay.

Most of the fire retardant material in the engine bay is missing, and I am assuming it burned off as intended.

However, I only had a brief look and did not climb into the OWF so I can’t comment to any damages that may or may not be present there.

There were several components which were obviously new, and placed on the aircraft to facilitate the OTF to Tinker.

This is rumor, but a maintenance team will be formed to pull a nacelle off of an AMARG jet and used to replace the current right nacelle on 109.

 

H/T to our reader and friend Steve Fortson for the heads-up.

Top: A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off from Midland International Air & Space Port, Texas en route to Tinker AFB, Okla., Oct. 26, 2018. The B-1B has spent six months at Midland since the crew made an emergency landing there May 1, 2018. The aircraft will undergo complete depot maintenance, which includes a complete review, repair, restore and replacement of aircraft components, by experts at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex before returning to Dyess. In addition, the aircraft will undergo Block 16 upgrade modifications. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

Take A Look At This Amazing Video Of a B-1B Lancer Night Afterburner Takeoff and Spiral Climb

A “Bone” taking off at night it’s always an impressive sight.

The US Air Force B-1B Lancer (Bone from B-One within the pilot community) was once again one of the highlights of EAA AirVenture 2018 airshow in Oshkosh, Winsconsin. This year, during the Wednesday night airshow, the heavy bomber performed its usually noisy takeoff, kept the burners lit and performed an impressive spiral climb into the clouds before heading home!

Besides attending summer airshows, the B-1B Lancer, from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, are supporting the air war on ISIS from the U.S. Air Force Central Command’s area of operations. The Bones have replaced the B-52s of the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, that returned home last April, after a two-year assignment. The first combat mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve was launched from Al Udeid, Qatar, on Apr. 8, 2018.

In the last couple of years, the B-1s have been upgraded: cockpit modifications provide enhanced situational awareness to the aircrew and enable incorporation into the Link 16 network. This allows them to digitally communicate with the Combined Air Operations Center and other airborne and ground based weapons systems, the U.S. Air Force says.

“This B-1 that we’re bringing back to the fight is different than any other B-1 that has deployed here before,” Lt. Col. Timothy Griffith, 34th EBS commander, said whent he aircraft returned to the theater. “It’s the first time this upgraded aircraft is going to be employed in combat and we’re honored and humbled to lead the B-1 community back into the AOR. We have had an extremely focused and disciplined training program designed to ensure all our Airmen are trained and ready to employ the upgraded B-1 in combat.”

Top image: screenshot from AirshowStuff video. H/T to our friend Ashley Wallace for sharing this cool video on FB.

Russia Claims 71 Out Of 105 Cruise Missiles Downed In Yesteday’s Air Strikes. None Were Shot Down According to The US.

Pentagon Publishes Effective Strike Data. Russia Claims 71 Cruise Missiles Downed.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom launched strikes against targets in Syria on Friday night U.S. time, early morning in Syria. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. General Joseph Dunford, told news media that the strikes hit three targets inside Syria.

The targets included a research facility in the Syrian capital of Damascus alleged to be used in chemical weapons production, a storage facility thought to house chemical weapon stockpiles west of Homs, Syria and a command and control facility outside Homs claimed to also be used for weapons storage.

A chart released by the Pentagon showing the three sites targeted by the air strike on Apr. 14.

The last cruise missiles may have landed in Syria for now but the propaganda war is in full swing between the U.S. and its allies as Russia and Syria claim vastly different results from overnight strikes.

Soon after the strikes in Syria ended today Russian news media claimed that 71 cruise missiles were intercepted during the strikes on Syria Friday night/Saturday morning. In a press conference today, Russian Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Colonel Sergei Rudskoy, said Syrian military facilities had suffered only minor damage from the strikes.

By contrast, in a press conference on Saturday morning, April 14, U.S. Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told journalists the U.S. and its allies, “successfully hit every target” during the strikes from the U.S., Britain and France. U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., The Director of the Joint Staff (DJS) displayed photos of targets that were hit in Syria during the press conference. “We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets,” Lt. Gen. McKenzie told reporters, in direct contrast to Russian claims that cruise missiles were shot down by Syrian defenses.

The U.S. released the following details on weapons employed in the overnight strike:

From the Red Sea:

USS Monterey (Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser) – 30 Tomahawk missiles

USS Laboon (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) – 7 Tomahawk missiles

From the North Arabian Gulf:

USS Higgins (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) – 23 Tomahawk missiles

From the eastern Mediterranean:

USS John Warner (Virginia class submarine) – 6 Tomahawk missiles

A French frigate ship (could not understand name) – 3 missiles (naval version of SCALP missiles)

From the air:

2 B-1 Lancer bombers – 19 joint air to surface standoff missiles

British flew a combination of Tornado and Typhoon jets – 8 Storm Shadow missiles

French flew a combination of Rafales and Mirages – 9 SCALP missiles

The above order of battle does not include the F-16s and F-15s aircraft providing DCA (Defensive Counter Air) nor the U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler that provided EW escort to the B-1s.

[Read also: Everything We Know (And No One Has Said So Far) About The First Waves Of Air Strikes On Syria]

One fact that both sides seem to agree on is that all U.S., French and UK aircraft involved in the strike returned to their bases successfully. Ships that participated in the strike remained at sea without armed confrontation from Syria or Russia. This alone marks a victory for the allied forces striking Syria following a week of rhetoric by Russia about defending Syrian interests. Based on this outcome it would appear the U.S. and its allies can strike targets in the heavily defended region with impunity. U.S President Donald Trump tweeted “Mission accomplished!” on Saturday morning.

While claims of success or failure by either side in a conflict are usually manipulated to control public perceptions Russia does have a long reputation for effective and highly adaptive air defense systems, as the U.S. does for precision strike success using cruise missiles. Russia also has a reputation for using media as a tool to craft perception of outcomes, historically to a greater degree than the U.S. But despite Russia’s admittedly dangerous air defense technology in Syria, it would appear the three nations delivering the overnight strikes in Syria achieved their objectives without loss.

One potential factor that may have influenced the effectiveness of some U.S. weapons systems was that the U.S. Administration was very vocal about the upcoming strikes, giving significant advanced warning to Russian-supplied Syrian air defense units. It is reasonable to suggest that Syrian air defense units spent this entire previous week preparing for a predicted U.S. and allied strike on Syria. Based on intelligence gathered by Syrian and Russian air defense crews from the U.S. strike exactly a year and a week ago on Shayrat Airbase in Syria, air defense crews were likely well-drilled and prepared to meet a U.S.-led attack on their claimed chemical weapons facilities. By contrast, this also gave the U.S led trio of nations participating in the strike time to gather intelligence about Syrian air defense capabilities so attack plans could be optimized to avoid losses. This approach appears to have prevailed in this strike.

If Syrian air defense units were ineffective in stopping U.S. cruise missiles, and most information now points to that outcome (actually, it looks like the Syrians fired their missiles after the last missile had hit), this represents a significant blow to the Assad regime and to Russia’s ability to assist in an effective air defense in the region.

The Tomahawk missile, one of several stand-off weapons used in the overnight strikes in Syria, is an older and still effective weapons platform especially in its most updated versions. Tomahawks were first employed in the 1991 strikes against Iraq when 288 of them were fired in the opening days of the war. While first adopted over 35 years ago, the Tomahawk has been repeatedly upgraded but remains somewhat limited by its overall dimensions that prevent it from having a larger engine installed that would deliver greater speed. The missile currently flies to its target at low altitude and subsonic speeds of about 550 miles per hour. This low speed may make it vulnerable to sophisticated air defense systems Russia is known for such as its advanced S-400 system, called the SA-21 Growler in the west. However, the low altitude flight profile of an attacking Tomahawk, its ability to use terrain masking for cover and concealment and its relatively small size, significantly smaller than a manned combat aircraft, make it a difficult target for even the most advanced air defense systems.

The Russian supplied air defense systems in use in Syria that include the S-400 missile and its 92N6E “Gravestone” fire control radar along with other systems are highly mobile and highly adaptive. That means that, while intelligence sources can pinpoint the locations of Syrian air defense systems prior to a strike, those systems can be moved in the hours before a strike to present a different threat posture to attacking missiles and aircraft. Most of the launch platforms for the BGM-109 Tomahawk are large, non-stealthy surface ships, although submerged submarines also launch Tomahawks. The newest version Block IV Tomahawk missile employs several upgrades to its guidance and targeting systems that improve accuracy and flexibility, but may increase time over a target area, making the missile potentially more vulnerable to sophisticated air defense systems.

It is likely more modern stand-off weapons like the UK’s MBDA Storm Shadow and French SCALP-EG cruise missile along with the new AGM-158 JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range) were highly effective in Friday night’s strike on Syria by UK, France and the U.S. If this were the case the Tomahawks may have served a purpose by engaging relatively lightly defended targets while attacks by the more recent version of SCALP and JASSM-ER missiles could have struck more heavily defended targets.

As with most conflicts the ancient cliché about the truth being one of the first casualties seems to be true in this latest exchange in Syria, but the emerging strike intelligence from the U.S., England and France suggest this round goes to them and a significant blow was dealt to the Russian-backed Assad.

One the B-1s involved in the air strikes takes off from Al Udeid, Qatar. Image credit: US DoD via Oriana Pawlyk

 

Six B-52 Strategic Bombers Deploying To Guam To Replace Six B-1s And Join Three B-2Mes Already There

The U.S. Air Force bomber trio (B-52, B-2 and B-1) currently deployed to Guam: it’s the second time since August 2016.

Six B-52H bombers and approximately 300 Airmen from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are deploying to Andersen AFB, Guam, in support of U.S. Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission. Two Stratofortresses have arrived in Guam on Jan. 15; the rest are expected to deploy in the next hours. They join six B-1s and three B-2s already in Guam.

The iconic B-52 bombers will relieve the B-1B Lancers that deployed from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, on Aug. 6, 2016, as part of their first CBP deployment in support of the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) deterrence efforts in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in 10 years.

During their deployment, the 37th EBS conducted a variety of joint and bilateral training missions with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean air force and Royal Australian Air Force, including some symbolic shows of force against North Korea alongside the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B forward based in Japan.

The bomber trio at Guam in August 2016.

Noteworthy, at the beginning of their tour of duty in the Pacific in 2016, the B-1s replaced another B-52 detachment: the 69th EBS from Minot AFB, ND. Before the Stratofortress bombers started returning home, three B-2s arrived in Guam for a “short-term deployment”: exploiting the presence of the three bomber types on the very same forward operating base, on Aug. 17, 2016, the U.S. Air Force conducted the first coordinated operation in the U.S Pacific Command AOR (Area Of Operations) launching three aircraft (1x B-2, 1x B-52 and 1x B-1) in sequence from Andersen Air Force Base to conduct simultaneous operations in the South China Sea and Northeast Asia.

Considered the presence of B-52s, B-2s and B-1s once again together at the same time in Guam will give the U.S. Air Force the opportunity to launch again the trio in an integrated bomber operation in the Pacific similar to the one carried out in the Summer of 2016.

“The B-52H’s return to the Pacific will provide USPACOM and its regional allies and partners with a credible, strategic power projection platform, while bringing years of repeated operational experience. The B-52 is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters) and can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability. This forward-deployed presence demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S.to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” says the U.S. Air Force official release.

The B-52 deployment in support of the CBP missions brings again a constant (at least until the next rotation) nuclear bomber capability within striking distance of North Korea.

Meanwhile, four B-52H Stratofortress aircraft have arrived in the UK for theatre integration and training at RAF Fairford. The aircraft are from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and will conduct theatre integration and training in Europe.

Many “Buffs” deployed across the globe!

This Image Shows The Complexity Of The XB-70 Valkyrie mid-1960s Research Aircraft Cockpit Compared To That Of An Upgraded B-1 Bomber

The composite photo gives a pretty good idea of how the cockpit of supersonic heavy bombers has evolved in about 50 years.

With a planned cruise speed of Mach 3 and operating altitude of 70,000 feet, the B-70 Valyrie was to be the ultimate high-altitude, high-speed, deep-penetration manned strategic bomber designed in the 1950s. The 6-engine aircraft was expected to be immune to Soviet interceptor aircraft thanks to its stunning performance.

According to NASA:

“To achieve Mach 3 performance, the B-70 was designed to “ride” its own shock wave, much as a surfer rides an ocean wave. The resulting shape used a delta wing on a slab-sided fuselage that contained the six jet engines that powered the aircraft. The outer wing panels were hinged. During take off, landing, and subsonic flight, they remained in the horizontal position. This feature increased the amount of lift produced, improving the lift-to-drag ratio. Once the aircraft was supersonic, the wing panels would be hinged downward. Changing the position of the wing panels reduced the drag caused by the wingtips interacted with the inlet shock wave. The repositioned wingtips also reduced the area behind the airplane’s center of gravity, which reduced trim drag. The downturned outer panels also provided more vertical surface to improve directional stability at high Mach numbers. Attached to the delta was a long, thin forward fuselage. Behind the cockpit were two large canards, which acted as control surfaces.”

The aircraft was still under development awhen the future of the manned bomber became uncertain. Indeed, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, many believed that manned bombers had become obsolete, and the future wars would be fought by missiles. As a result, the Kennedy Administration ended plans to deploy the B-70 and the two XB-70 prototypes were under construction when the program was cancelled.

However, two experimental XB-70A prototypes were eventually built at North American Aviation and used by NASA test beds for an American supersonic transport (SST). NASA records show that XB-70A number 1 (62-001) made its first flight from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, CA, on Sept. 21, 1964. Tests of the XB-70’s airworthiness occurred throughout 1964 and 1965 by North American and Air Force test pilots. The Flight Research Center prepared its instrument package.

“Although intended to cruise at Mach 3, the first XB-70 was found to have poor directional stability above Mach 2.5, and only made a single flight above Mach 3. Despite the problems, the early flights provided data on a number of issues facing SST designers. These included aircraft noise, operational problems, control system design, comparison of wind tunnel predictions with actual flight data, and high-altitude, clear-air turbulence.”

The second XB-70A (62-207) was built with an added 5 degrees of dihedral on the wings as suggested by the NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, wind-tunnel studies. This aircraft made its first flight on Jul. 17, 1965. “The changes resulted in much better handling, and the second XB-70 achieved Mach 3 for the first time on Jan. 3, 1966. The aircraft made a total of nine Mach 3 flights by June.

This photo shows the XB-70A parked on a ramp at Edwards Air Force Base in 1967. Originally designed as a Mach 3 bomber, the XB-70A never went into production and instead was used for flight research involving the Air Force and NASA’s Flight Research Center (FRC), which was a predecessor of today’s NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The aircraft’s shadow indicates its unusual planform. This featured two canards behind the cockpit, followed by a large, triangular delta wing. The outboard portions of the wing were hinged so they could be folded down for improved high-speed stability. The XB-70 was the world’s largest experimental aircraft. It was capable of flight at speeds of three times the speed of sound (roughly 2,000 miles per hour) at altitudes of 70,000 feet. It was used to collect in-flight information for use in the design of future supersonic aircraft, military and civilian. Designed by North American Aviation (later North American Rockwell and still later, a division of Boeing) the XB-70 had a long fuselage with a canard or horizontal stabilizer mounted just behind the crew compartment. It had a sharply swept 65.6-percent delta wing. The outer portion of the wing could be folded down in flight to provide greater lateral-directional stability. The airplane had two windshields. A moveable outer windshield was raised for high-speed flight to reduce drag and lowered for greater visibility during takeoff and landing. The forward fuselage was constructed of riveted titanium frames and skin. The remainder of the airplane was constructed almost entirely of stainless steel. The skin was a brazed stainless-steel honeycomb material. Six General Electric YJ93-3 turbojet engines, each in the 30,000-pound-thrust class, powered the XB-70. Internal geometry of the inlets was controllable to maintain the most efficient airflow to the engines.

A joint agreement signed between NASA and the Air Force planned to use the second XB-70A prototype for high-speed research flights in support of the SST program. However, the plans went awry on June 8, 1966, when the second XB-70 collided with a civilian registered F-104N while flying in formation as part of a General Electric company publicity photo shoot outside the Edwards Air Force Base test range in the Mojave Desert, California, that involved an XB-70, a T-38 Talon, an F-4B Phantom II, an F-104N Starfighter and a YF-5A Freedom Fighter.

Toward the end of the photo shooting NASA registered F-104N Starfighter, piloted by famous test pilot Joe Walker, got too close to the right wing of the XB-70, collided, sheared off the twin vertical stabilizers of the big XB-70 and exploded as it cartwheeled behind the Valkyrie.

North American test pilot Al White ejected from the XB-70 in his escape capsule, but received serious injuries in the process. Co-pilot Maj. Carl Cross, who was making his first flight in the XB-70, was unable to eject and died in the crash.

Research activities continued with the first XB-70.

The first NASA XB-70 flight occurred on April 25, 1967, the last one was on Feb. 4, 1969 when the aircraft made a subsonic structural dynamics test and ferry flight from Edwards AFB to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, where the aircraft was put on display at the Air Force Museum after 83 test flights and 160 hours and 16 minutes, flight time. Indeed, despite research activity helped measuring its “structural response to turbulence; determine the aircraft’s handling qualities during landings; and investigate boundary layer noise, inlet performance, and structural dynamics, including fuselage bending and canard flight loads”, time had run out for the research program. NASA had reached an agreement with the Air Force to fly research missions with a pair of YF-12As and a “YF-12C,” which was actually an SR-71, that represented a far more advanced technology than that of the XB-70. Indeed, in all, the two XB-70Bs logged 1 hour and 48 minutes of Mach 3 flight time during their career, whilst a YF-12 could log this much Mach 3 time in a single flight.

Although the XB-70 program was cancelled, data collected during the Valkyrie test flights were used in other programs, including the B-1 bomber and the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 SST program (via espionage).

This is a close-up photo of an XB-70A taken from a chase plane. The XB-70 had a movable windshield and ramp. These were raised during supersonic flight to reduce drag. When the pilot was ready to land, he lowered the assembly to give both him and his copilot a clear view of the runway. The XB-70 was the world’s largest experimental aircraft. It was capable of flight at speeds of three times the speed of sound (roughly 2,000 miles per hour) at altitudes of 70,000 feet. It was used to collect in-flight information for use in the design of future supersonic aircraft, military and civilian.

We have recently found an interesting photo of the XB-70 #1 cockpit. The photo (courtesy of NASA) shows the complexity of the mid-1960s research aircraft especially if compared to a modern B-1 Lancer with the Integrated Battle Station upgrade.

ED97-44244-1 Photo of the XB-70 #1 cockpit, which shows the complexity of this mid-1960s research aircraft. 1965 NASA

Here’s the official description of the cockpit:

On the left and right sides of the picture are the pilot’s and co-pilot’s control yokes. Forward of these, on the cockpit floor, are the rudder pedals with the NAA North American Aviation trademark. Between them is the center console. Visible are the six throttles for the XB-70’s jet engines. Above this is the center instrument panel. The bottom panel has the wing tip fold, landing gear, and flap controls, as well as the hydraulic pressure gages. In the center are three rows of engine gages. The top row are tachometers, the second are exhaust temperature gages, and the bottom row are exhaust nozzle position indicators. Above these are the engine fire and engine brake switches.

The instrument panels for the pilot left and co-pilot right differ somewhat. Both crewmen have an airspeed/Mach indicator, and altitude/vertical velocity indicator, an artificial horizon, and a heading indicator/compass directly in front of them.

The pilot’s flight instruments, from top to bottom, are total heat gage and crew warning lights; stand-by flight instruments side-slip, artificial horizon, and altitude; the engine vibration indicators; cabin altitude, ammonia, and water quantity gages, the electronic compartment air temperature gage, and the liquid oxygen quantity gage. At the bottom are the switches for the flight displays and environmental controls.

On the co-pilot’s panel, the top three rows are for the engine inlet controls. Below this is the fuel tank sequence indicator, which shows the amount of fuel in each tank. The bottom row consists of the fuel pump switches, which were used to shift fuel to maintain the proper center of gravity. Just to the right are the indicators for the total fuel top and the individual tanks bottom. Visible on the right edge of the photo are the refueling valves, while above these are switches for the flight data recording instruments.

Here below you can find a photo of the B-1 cockpit with the Integrated Battle Station upgrade which, beginning in 2014, gave the “Bone” new screens and updated avionics in both the cockpit and battle stations.

The IBS upgrade increased the situational awareness of the pilots by means of a Fully Integrated Data Link (FIDL), a Vertical Situation Display Upgrade (VSDU), and a Central Integrated System  (CITS) upgrade.

Within the VSDU two unsupportable, monochrome pilot and co-pilot displays were replaced by four multifunctional color displays, that provide the pilots more situational awareness data, in a user-friendly format. The FIDL is a modern data link that allows the B-1 to interconnect and communicate in real-time, with other planes, ground stations, allied units. The CITS is an upgrade of the old LED display computers used by ground maintainers to identify and troubleshoot system failures.

If you click on the image you will find a cockpit with two control sticks, dominated by a mix of displays and moving maps (typical of glass cockpits) as well as analogue instruments: a hybrid cockpit, with common instruments such altimeter, ADI (Attitude Indicator) and Airspeed Indicator/Machmeter on the left hand side; flaps, slats and spoiler controls as well as TFR (Terrain Following Radar), fuel and engine instruments in the central part of the flight deck; and two large VSDUs that can be arranged at will to display the required information/digitized instrument, such as a moving map or a HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), on both sides.

Old-style monochrome displays that didn’t provide much processing nor display capabilities, were replaced by much larger color displays that can show significantly more information thus improving the situational awareness. With the IBS upgrade, data can be shown on any display of the aircraft with collaboration tools that enable the aircraft’s crew “to look at each other’s displays with a ghost cursor, so if one weapons system officer wants to see what someone else is looking at, he can see a ghost cursor over on his own display – this allows the crew to collaborate and ensures they’re all looking at the same thing,” said Dan Ruder, B-1 strategic development and advanced programs manager for Boeing, in a story published on Military Embedded Systems.

The cockpit of the B-1 with IBS upgrade. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

So, the instrument panel layout has remained more or less the same. The way information is displayed has significantly changed.