New BLOS capability on the horizon for B-52s, first IRIS air demo complete Published June 26, 2022 By 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin and Justin Oakes 53rd Wing and 8th Air Force/J-GOSC Public Affairs EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- The Air Force has moved one step closer to equipping B-52s with a new beyond line-of-sight communication capability called IRIS. Shown is, IRIS, a beyond line-of-sight communications system created by Outlerlink, which is used to transfer data, voice and images in near real time. The 608th Air Operations Center organized an aerial demonstration where the system was tested on a Barksdale Air Force Base, La.-based B-52 Stratofortress, June 22, 2022. The system leverages the Low Earth Orbit Iridium NEXT satellite constellation guaranteeing complete global coverage allowing bombers to relay data, voice and imagery information in near real-time speeds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan E. Ramos) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res The 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron executed the first air demonstration utilizing the BLOS communication system paired with an Iridium Certus terminal on a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, June 22. “In a wartime scenario, the single point of failure often lies in our ability to communicate,” said Capt. Richard Brown, 49th TES Conventional test flight commander. “If we can’t send and receive mission critical data from our aircraft reliably and efficiently, then we will lose. The IRIS system is one of the many datalink solutions that we need in order to equip the warfighter for today’s fight.” While the bomber crew took to the skies, a combat operations team from the 608th Air Operations Center provided command and control and assessed the voice and data transfer capabilities that were observed from the IRIS-equipped B-52 to include the transmission of real-time images and videos. Sam Denison, a senior software developer at the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., installs a beyond line-of-sight communications system, called IRIS, into a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale AFB, La., June 22, 2022. The 49th TES conducted the first aerial demonstration of the IRIS system while the 608th Air Operations Center monitored and assessed the data, voice and imagery relays from the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan E. Ramos) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Staff Sgt. Kyle Snedeker, center-right, a tactical data link manager from the 608th Air Operations Center, shows Brig. Gen. Scheid Hodges, center-left, mobilization assistant to the 8th Air Force commander, the B-52 Stratofortress route during an aerial demonstration of the new IRIS communications system. IRIS is a commercial off-the-shelf, beyond line-of-sight tool produced by Outerlink. The system allows for bombers to relay data, voice and imagery information in near real-time speeds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Oakes) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Airman 1st Class Leah Butler, a 608th Air Operations Center offensive duty technician, monitors the B-52 Stratofortress path and audio relay during an IRIS aerial demonstration in Shreveport, La., June 22, 2022. IRIS is a beyond line-of-sight communications system and allowed the bomber to transfer data, voice and imagery in near real time speeds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Oakes) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res The IRIS system, which leverages the Low Earth Orbit Iridium NEXT satellite constellation guarantees complete global coverage. Additionally, IRIS will forgo using the dated 2.4 Kbps bandwidth capacity of Iridium for the much-improved L-Band speeds of Iridium Certus, a broadband service that has a bandwidth capacity of up to 704 Kbps. “Today, we learned that the IRIS System can be immediately employed using current joint tactics for operational and tactical control of long-range strike aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Paul Goossen, 608th AOC Combat Operations Division chief. The AOC team also acknowledged the method of “how” the service acquires a new capability plays a significant role in the timeline of fielding the new capability. “We found that the AFWERX SBIR’s program works to find rapid prototype solutions through commercially available means,” said Chris Morales, 608th AOC Combat Operations Division deputy chief. “Sometimes the solutions to global problems can be found in your local community from small vendors.” Air Force Global Strike Command leveraged an AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research Phase II contract to gauge the feasibility of tying a commercial, off-the-shelf Outerlink Global Solutions system into the B-52 global satellite architecture to enable unimpeded coverage. The SBIR program engages small businesses with federal research and development. Following the success of the test event, AFGSC will continue working through the AFWERX process to attain a SBIR Strategic Finance contract to support IRIS. This will allow for permanent bomber integration and seamless coordination across geographic air operation centers using the system. IRIS is set to replace the Global Iridium Bomber Set (GLIBS) that has been in service since 2017. The BLOS communication system is one of AFGSC’s solutions to integrate the B-52 fleet into the greater Joint All-Domain Command and Control problem set. IRIS is one of many programs on the horizon responsible for the B-52 paradigm shift from a legacy sustainment platform to a lethally modernized multi-domain aircraft.