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Flightline Friday – even more self-serving than usual! August 21, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
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But it’s  my blog and I can do what I want to.

The 2 people who have read these Flightline Friday posts for a while may remember that I have a “thing” for cockpit instrumentation.  Especially night shots of same showing all the cool lights and displays.  I don’t, say, get excited about a P-51 Mustang cockpit, because there’s not much to see.  But anything from the mid-60s on, when cockpits started to get “modern”……….oh yeah.

Yes, I do need a better hobby.

Anyway there has been an upgrade program ongoing for the backbone of the US bomber fleet, the B-1B “Lancer” or Bone.  Designed in the late 70s and produced in the mid-80s, its once advanced cockpit instrumentation has become decidedly antiquated.  Actually, in many ways its still very functional, but the problem is, nobody builds small monochrome cathode ray tube screens anymore, and it has become impossible to maintain those currently in service as a result  So all the old monochrome CRT displays are being replaced with flat-panel active-matrix liquid crystal displays under a program called the Integrated Battle Station (IBS).  The first birds arrived at Dyess near Abilene in early 2014 and I believe most of the fleet has now been upgraded.

So, cockpit pics below.  The first two are the B-1 as it was, and the remainder are the new displays (all pics can be clicked for higher res):

Night photo also taken at Dyess unupgraded B-1B. Note single multi-function CRT display for each pilot. All other instruments are analog, mostly very effective vertical tape indicators

Night photo also taken at Dyess unupgraded B-1B. Note single multi-function CRT display for each pilot. All other instruments are analog, mostly very effective vertical tape indicators

Back end of B-1B; crew stations for Offensive and Defensive Systems Operators.  All monochrome CRT displays.  Large box in middle is the Integrated test system, an automatic fault-reporting device

Back end of B-1B; crew stations for Offensive and Defensive Systems Operators. All monochrome CRT displays. Large box in middle is the Integrated test system, an automatic fault-reporting device

Now for the upgrades:

B-1B at Dyess early 2014.  Single CRT and several vertical tape instruments replaced with dual color LCD displays for each pilot

B-1B at Dyess early 2014. Single CRT and several vertical tape instruments replaced with dual color LCD displays for each pilot

Same bird, another angle

Same bird, another angle

Daytime. One knock on LCDs is that they are not as easy to see in daytime with the sun at certain angles

Daytime. One knock on LCDs is that they are not as easy to see in daytime with the sun at certain angles

Back-end. Forward facing DSO sits on left, OSO on right. All new displays including a large screen replacing the old fault detection system.  I don't believe I've ever seen such detailed photos of the DSOs station before. Usually that stuff is hidden.  If you look closely at the large "white" display on the left, you will see that it shows certain military transit routes, I would assume for a particular flight, overlaid on a map of Texas and Oklahoma

Back-end. Forward facing DSO sits on left, OSO on right. All new displays including a large screen replacing the old fault detection system. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such detailed photos of the DSOs station before. Usually that stuff is hidden. If you look closely at the large “white” display on the left, you will see that it shows certain military transit routes, I would assume for a particular flight, overlaid on a map of Texas and Oklahoma

More detail of DSO station

More detail of DSO station

And still more detail. So if you look at the top two large displays, the way it works is the one on the right shows a series of concentric rings indicating distance from the aircraft at center. Various threats are displayed at varying distances from the aircraft.  On the left - turned off for now, because it's highly classified - is a screen with just some lines on it?  The way that works, when turned on, is that it will display various radar bands and the types of threats operating in those bands. So you might see long range search radar, AAA fire control radar, various SAM radars, etc.  And from that list jammers and other countermeasures within the aircraft can be assigned to help beat back the threat

And still more detail. So if you look at the top two large displays, the way it works is the one on the right shows a series of concentric rings indicating distance from the aircraft at center. Various threats are displayed at varying distances from the aircraft. On the left – turned off for now, because it’s highly classified – is a screen with just some lines on it? The way that works, when turned on, is that it will display various radar bands and the types of threats operating in those bands. So you might see long range search radar, AAA fire control radar, various SAM radars, etc. And from that list jammers and other countermeasures within the aircraft can be assigned to help beat back the threat

Pretty cool stuff.  A couple pics below of how the B-52 looks today for comparison.  When the 193 B-52Gs were retired, all the avionics were pulled out of them, including the then-20 year old CRT displays.  I guess that’s why the B-52 has not been similarly upgraded, at least at the pilot’s stations, they still have a lot of those old leftover G model displays left.

b-52-stratofortress-cockpit-920-43

Downstairs in the "mole hole" where bombardier and navigator sit

Downstairs in the “mole hole” where bombardier and navigator sit

Comments

1. Brian E. Breslin - August 21, 2015

Excellent, as usual, Tantum. But who flew the P51? And what flies the F35? Give me the Mustangers anyday for guts.

2. Blaine - August 21, 2015

I’ve flown both the MH-53E and MH-60S operationally – give me the tape and dial gauges in the Sea Dragon any day. I couldn’t stand flying with computer screens and a trackball. Too complicated and distracting.

Tantumblogo - August 24, 2015

Now that’s a very interesting comment. Thanks for sharing! Do many feel similarly? I’ve wondered about the small buttons around the periphery of the screens, do you have to use those in flight, much? It would seem real easy to hit the wrong one in even mild turbulence.

I’ve always thought vertical tape were brilliant, so easy to scan across a line of gauges and get a quick read on many things

Blaine - August 24, 2015

Yes, the buttons on the knighthawk screens were used often to select the different “pages” of information. When it’s bumpy or maneuvering, they are hard to push. There isn’t a moving map in it (chart overlay).but there is a situational display that shows your position relative to navaids, waypoints, etc.

I didn’t like the precision of the instrument numbers. So much easier just scanning position of tapes and gauges to know you were in limits. The colors are annoying (red could be bad, or really really bad, who knows). The “caution light” position is totally obnoxious and you had to switch pages to see all of them if multiple failures are present.

GLARE! Especially on goggles, certain positions of the helo relative to cultural lighting lit up the cockpit and either bloomed out the goggles or made displays unreadable. Also, to compensate, the glare shield is huge and blocks half the windshield.

We are much better off in the -53 with old instruments and an iPad for fancy navigation. That crap looks cool but is a waste of money in my opinion. Rip it out and put on the advanced -60M rotor blades and fuel controls I say. More power is all that matters.

Only time I liked the situational display was flying SAR patterns. I will say that.

I fly helicopters. Looking inside at so much data is distracting and potentially really dangerous. I imagine low flying fastmovers would say the same.

Tantumblogo - September 2, 2015

Thanks for letting me know! Very interesting. Got something coming up for you in a bit. Not a 60S, but an R. Thought it might be your unit but now I think not. Still pretty cool, I didn’t know helos did air-to-air gunnery like that. I mean I knew attack birds might flip a Sidewinder at someone or maybe practice ACM with their cannons, but not door guns!

I’ll put it up in a bit. Sorry I did not see this now.


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