Raytheon won a $442.3 million deal for the force element terminal (FET) development effort. The contract
provides for the design, development, testing, integration, and logistical support of a FET system that will transition the B-52 and RC-135
hardened communication terminals from the Military Strategic Tactical Relay satellite communications satellite constellation to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite constellation. According to the US Air Force’s latest strategic bomber guidance document, the B-52H Stratofortress are no longer approved to carry nuclear gravity bombs. There have long been concerns that the B-52 lacks the capability to penetrate modern air defenses to deliver a nuclear strike with gravity bombs. The B-52 Stratofortress entered into service in the 1950s. With the Cold War in full swing, the bomber became an integral part of the US’ nuclear deterrent as a part of the Nuclear Triad, alongside intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-armed submarines. Decades later the aircraft is still integral in this role. Boeing RC-135 is a four engine, medium weight reconnaissance aircraft designed and manufactured by Boeing Defence and Integrated Systems for the USAF. Work will take place at Raytheon's facilities in Marlborough, Massachusetts; and Largo, Florida, and is expected to be completed by August 2023.
Land and sea surveillance, and electronic surveillance, are missions no government can ignore. To keep its capabilities, Great Britain launched a parallel set of efforts to update its Nimrod fleet. One multi-billion pound program sought to upgrade 12 of its unique Nimrod Mk2 maritime patrol aircraft to Nimrod MRA4 status. The other effort, named Project HELIX, sought to keep its related Nimrod R1 electronic and signals intelligence/ relay aircraft fleet flying until 2025.
Both failed. The Nimrod MR2 fleet was retired in 2010, with several almost-complete MRA4s scrapped, leaving Britain with no long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. The first sign of trouble for the Nimrod R1s was an October 2008 DSCA request, conveying Britain’s official $1+ billion request to field 3 RC-135V/W Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT aircraft. That, too, became final, and the R1s will now leave service in 2011 – to be replaced by a joint RAF/USAF “Airseeker” program centered on the RC-135W Rivet Joint.