Boeing has begun flight testing for the US Air Force’s B-1 Lancer bomber, following an upgrade using new digital avionics for the aft cockpit and a line-of-sight Link 16 data link.

The USAF carried out the first four-hour flight of the B-1 fully integrated data link (FIDL) on 4 June at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The Link 16 data link was tested by sending and receiving text messages, and receiving virtual mission assignment data such as target coordinates for a weapon.

Link 16 will add line-of-sight capability to the B-1’s existing beyond line-of-sight joint range extension applications protocol (JREAP) data link.

It will also integrate the JREAP data onto new, full-colour displays with intuitive symbols and moving maps.

Boeing B-1 programme manager Mark Angelo said Link 16 would allow the B-1 to be an active participant in a network that is commonly used by fighter, reconnaissance, and command and control aircraft.

As part of the programme, three flight tests will be carried out this month and additional flight tests are scheduled until January 2011.

The USAF intends to upgrade its entire fleet of 66 B-1s with FIDL.