Former combat aviator revisits the B-1

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Hannah Malone
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

In May 1987, the first B-1B Lancer, dubbed “Wings of Freedom”, called Ellsworth Air Force Base home; it was around the same time that Captain Daniel Novick also arrived at Ellsworth and joined the Initial B-1B Lancer cadre. Within five months of Novick’s arrival, he and his team had broken 18 aircraft speed, distance, and payload records.

Novick was a B-1B Defensive Systems Operator assigned to the 77th Bomb Squadron. Just 27 years old, He was the youngest member of the Initial B-1B cadre and at that time, and there was a lot to navigate inside the cockpit of a B-1B.

The B-1B Lancer has seen multiple upgrades over the years and now houses some of the Air Force’s most advanced weapon systems sensor packages, but Novick and his crew had to navigate the skies without a Military Standard 1553 data bus, which carries data from one point to another inside the B-1B. They didn’t have smart munitions, a sniper pod, or even GPS.

“We used paper maps to navigate on low-level routes that we glued together ourselves and bound into books,” said Novick. “We went through a mountain of paper maps and glue!”

The Initial B-1B cadre used radar to update their internal inertial navigation systems, that they used to increase accuracy when dropping unguided gravity bombs.

“The incredible thing was that we were really good at it,” said Novick.” We could drop some very basic munitions, ‘dumb bombs,’ with incredible accuracy. Our most valuable asset was our integral crew concept – when you have an integral crew of 4 people working together, you can become like a well-oiled machine.”

While four Aircrew still man the B-1B, there have been many adjustments in technology and operations since Novick departed Ellsworth.

In July of 2023, Novick and his family had an opportunity to tour Ellsworth, chat with current and former Aircrew members, and fly in a state-of-the-art B-1B simulator.

“My kids get the same twinkle in their eyes that I had when flying the B-1B,” said Novick. “In turn, my kids can start to empathize with both the joy and the sacrifice of my fellow combat aviators. That gives me a sense of fulfillment, and it helps me and my children to understand each other just a little better.”

Captain David Kirn, a 37th Bomb Squadron pilot, showed Novick and his family some of the updates and took the opportunity to swap stories about their time in the B-1B.

“It’s always inspiring meeting the aviators who came before us and humbling hearing their stories,” said Kirn. “Being a new member of the community, it was invaluable to learn about the B-1’s legacy from those who created it.”

Novick was one of the first to make history inside the cockpit of a B-1B Lancer. During his time at the 77th Bomb Squadron, he and the rest of the Initial B-1B cadre showed the world the capabilities of an aircraft known as the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force.

“I look back on my Air Force career with great fondness,” said Novick. “I feel my best years were those I spent flying the B-1 with my friends in the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Without a doubt, it was the highlight of my career in the Air Force.”