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June 27, 2022

USAF completes first IRIS aerial demonstration on B-52 aircraft

The IRIS system will replace the Global Iridium Bomber Set (GLIBS), which has been in service since 2017.

The US Air Force (USAF) has completed the first aerial demonstration of the beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communication system, IRIS.

The test was executed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) on a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) on 22 June.

It was supported by the 608th Air Operations Centre’s (AOC) combat operations team, which provided command-and-control (C2) functions.

The team also analysed the voice and data transfer capabilities, observed from the B-52 aircraft for the transmission of real-time images and videos.

IRIS system provides complete global coverage by leveraging the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Iridium NEXT satellite constellation.

Instead of using Iridium’s existing 2.4kbps bandwidth capacity, the IRIS system used the much-improved L-Band speeds of the Iridium Certus terminal, which is a broadband service with a bandwidth capacity of up to 704kbps.

49th TES conventional test flight commander captain Richard Brown said: “The IRIS system is one of the many datalink solutions that we need in order to equip the warfighter for today’s fight.”

The IRIS is an Air Force Global Strike Command’s (AFGSC) solution for integrating the B-52 fleet into the greater Joint All-Domain Command and Control problem set.

Leveraging an AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract, AFGSC tested the possibility of using a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) outer link global solution for the B-52 satellite to enable uninterrupted coverage.

After this successful demonstration, the AFGSC will continue to attain an SBIR Strategic Finance contract to support IRIS, allowing permanent bomber integration and coordination across geographic air operation centres.

The new IRIS system will replace the existing Global Iridium Bomber Set (GLIBS), which has been in use since 2017.

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