The first US Air Force B-1B bomber updated to "Block D" standard under the conventional mission upgrade programme (CMUP) made its first operational sortie on 3 December.

The aircraft is the first of seven to be upgraded to the new standard as part of an accelerated element of the CMUP. All seven are due to be operational at the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, early next year, about two years ahead of the rest of the fleet.

Block D includes the capability to carry joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs ), a low-cost 908kg (2,000lb) bomb guided by inertial navigation and global positioning system targeting signals.

The first operational sortie involved dropping JDAMs on targets in the Utah test range.

Up to 24 JDAMs can be carried in the B-1B's weapons bays. Block D includes a new defensive countermeasures system, featuring a towed decoy, and a new communications/navigation system.

The upgrade builds on Block C, which allowed the aircraft to deliver cluster bombs. Future improvements planned for CMUP Block E include the capabilities to handle the wind-corrected munition dispenser, joint standoff weapon (JSOW), and joint air-to-surface standoff missile (JASSM).

Block E is due to begin operational service in 2002, while Block F, which includes further defensive system upgrades, is scheduled for operational service in 2003.

Modification of all 93 B-1Bs, to include JDAM and improved communication/navigation systems, is due for completion in 2001.

Source: Flight International