Apr 26, 2014 14:30 UTC
B-52H CONECT 1st flight
The B-52 Stratofortress remains the mainstay of the U.S. strategic bomber force, and in-theater combat communications improvements may allow it to make better use of advanced weapons like the JDAM. The B-52H, which went into service in 1961, is the only remaining B-52 model in use by the USAF. It flies slightly faster than a 767, operating at high subsonic speeds and altitudes up to 50,000 feet, and carrying either nuclear or precision-guided conventional weapons. On-going modifications have added global positioning system compatibility for the aircraft and weapons, targeting pods like the LITENING, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound munitions, and an array of advanced weapons.
Under the B-52 combat network communications technology (CONECT) program, the B-52H fleet will receive new computers and color displays, key datalinks, an advanced wideband satellite terminal, and a series of tie-ins to existing USAF systems that will allow them to receive new missions, or even re-target weapons during flight. The total development contract originally projected $500 million worth of spending, but the Air Force announced an abrupt restructuring in its FY13 budget request. However that lasted all of 3 months, as a Milestone C decision came in May 2012, followed by the first production orders and a FY14 request putting these upgrades back on track, though with less money. A first delivery in April 2014 indicated the program seemed to settle down.
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