An internet bandwidth upgrade being rolled out on the E-6B Mercury aircraft, the nation’s airborne strategic command platform, is expanding the jet’s capability to support the nation’s leaders in a crisis.
The Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) upgrade was recently installed during a service life extension program (SLEP) overhaul on aircraft 410, which was delivered to the Navy on March 14.
Aircraft 410, part of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 4 at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is the third fleet E-6B airborne command post aircraft to receive this upgrade.
The upgrade brings a more robust network capability while saving space and weight, said Curt Rosenbery, IPBE team lead for the E-6 Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271).
“The IPBE upgrade is an expanded secure local area computer network for the aircraft currently consisting of two live feeds — an ultra-high frequency line of sight digital data feed used while operating over the U.S. and a commercial Inmarsat satellite feed for use when operating outside the U.S.,” Rosenbery said.
To date, four aircraft have been outfitted with IPBE, one test aircraft located at Pax River and three fleet aircraft belonging to VQ-4. Twelve more E-6Bs are scheduled to get the IPBE upgrade with the last installation scheduled for completion in mid-fiscal 2019, Rosenbery added.
“The biggest benefit IPBE brings to the fleet is providing faster, more reliable internet access to information, both classified and unclassified, to the battle staff onboard the aircraft,” said Capt. Dana Dewey, PMA-271’s program manager. “Now, the general officers and the battle staff have almost the same level of operational capability as if they were working in their regular offices.”
Another benefit of the upgrade was the removal of more than 5,000 pounds of backup equipment from the aircraft. “We replaced that equipment with multiple racks of the IPBE servers and routers like those that run military computer networks,” Dewey said.
“A fully integrated system with no requirement for carry-on equipment is our ultimate goal for the operational crews,” he said.
The E-6B is a dual-mission aircraft that provides survivable, reliable and endurable airborne command, control and communications between the National Command Authority and U.S. strategic and nonstrategic forces and airborne strategic command post mission. The aircraft is equipped with an airborne launch control system.