Officially, it’s the B-52H Stratofortress. Unofficially, it’s the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat F–cker). Either way, this subsonic heavy bomber remains the mainstay of the U.S. strategic fleet after more than 50 years of service. A total of 102 B-52H bombers were delivered from FY 1961-1963, and 94 were still on the books as of May 2009, flying mostly from Barksdale AFB, LA and Minot AFB, ND. Of these, 18 are slated for retirement, leaving a planned fleet of 76. By the time that fleet retires in the 2030s, many will be around 70 years old.
The B-52H can’t be flown against heavy enemy air defenses, but a steady array of upgrades have kept the aircraft relevant to follow-on strikes and current wars, where its long time on station and precision weapons have made the BUFF beautiful. Those changes have included advanced communications, GPS guided weapons, advanced targeting pods, and more. The USAF isn’t done yet adding new features, and maintenance remains a challenge for an aircraft fleet that’s always older than its pilots. All of these things require contracts, and the B-52H fleet has several of them underway. So, how does 2010’s 8-year, $11.9 billion umbrella contract fit in…?
At the moment, there are at least 3 major contracts underway for the B-52H fleet.
The CONECT (Combat NEtwork Communications Technology) contract was issued in April 2005, and could be worth up to $500 million. CONECT offers a series of upgrades that tie the B-52s into the USAF’s current communications networks. Its most significant combat improvement is the ability to receive new missions in flight, and re-target weapons in the middle of a mission. Ultimately, however, CONECT is an interim contract en route to deeper modernizations. First flight of a refurbished B-52 took place in May 2009. The program accomplished its first test flight on Jan 17/10, and plans further tests in 2011.
Execution of CONECT’s development would remain under the current contract until it’s done, but full production, or any future communications upgrades would apparently fall under the $11.9 billion September 2010 IDIQ.
The 12-year, $150 million SWING (Smart Weapons Integration Next Generation) contract came into force in June 2006. Under this contract, Boeing performs work to integrate new ordnance on the B-52 fleet, from MALD unmanned decoys, to Sniper ATP surveillance and targeting pods, to AGM-158 JASSM missiles and beyond. Most of this work is software related, and the most important aspect of SWING was adding the Universal Armament Interface as a sort of weapons Application Programming Interface, in order to make integration of future weapons much easier.
Work under the SWING contract will continue in parallel with the new September 2010 contract.
In June 2009, the US Air Force issued the latest B-52 Engineering Sustainment Program (ESP) contract for the fleet, with a 10-year, $750 million ceiling.
There are some important things missing from ESP, however, such as spare parts, modernizations or fleet-wide changes outside of CONECT or SWING, etc. All of those things will fall under the September 2010 contract instead, and so will some previous ESP efforts.
The Sept 2010 contract’s initial spending surprisingly modest – the $600,000 minimum order, as the 1st payment for a $2.3 million order of 16 Evolutionary Data Link (EDL) Phase III kits, plus some basic engineering support through the end of February 2012. As noted above, the $11.9 billion is really a ceiling amount for a lot of other efforts, which may or may not go forward. If they do go forward, however, there’s an umbrella contract ready with all the terms worked out.
Several well-known upgrades are under consideration for the B-52 fleet, but haven’t been approved and funded yet. USAF spokesman Lt. Col. Jack Miller has told DoD Buzz that it could cover things like:
“Combat Networks Communication Technology (CONECT) production, Extremely High Frequency (EHF) engineering development and production, Strategic Radar Replacement development and production, Tactical Data Link engineering studies, MIL-STD-1760 Internal Weapons Bay production, trade studies, and other programs critical to maintaining B-52 mission capability out to the year 2040.”
The Strategic Radar Replacement Program he mentions would install advanced new radars that could greatly improve the B-52’s ground and aerial surveillance capabilities, identifying targets at long ranges. New radar technologies could also assist with low-level flight, and reduce long-term maintenance costs.
Another oft-discussed upgrade is the on-again, off-again Stand Off Jammer program, which would turn some B-52s into very powerful, very long range, very long endurance electronic warfare aircraft that could blind even sophisticated enemy air defenses; locate, classify, analyze, or jam radar or radio signals; or even prevent remote detonation of IED land mines in a given area. B-52 SOJ has been started twice, and suspended twice for lack of funding.
While the USAF has done some necessary re-wiring work, a deep re-wiring akin to the C-5 AMP program is logical at some point, especially in conjunction with upgraded power generation on board to handle all of the new electronics. Any B-52 SOJ program would almost have to do this, and a radar improvement contract may require it as well, but it’s certain that the whole fleet will need this sooner or later. It’s very time-consuming work, but the good news is that some modern ultra-high capacity wiring has also become self-diagnosing, removing one of the biggest maintenance headaches in any airplane.
In a similar vein, but with even more immediate benefits, there has long been talk of re-engining the B-52H fleet, swapping out the ancient and hard to maintain JT3D/TF33 engines with modern turbofans that would dramatically improve performance, fuel efficiency, strike range, and maintainability. The USAF has experience with the benefits and pitfalls of these conversions, having made these kinds of upgrades to its KC-135 tanker fleet to produce the KC-135R, moved forward with re-engining the related E-8C JSTARS fleet of land battle surveillance and control aircraft, and endured the challenges of the C-5M RERP Super Galaxy program for some of its huge aerial transports.
Of course, before major steps like these can be taken, the USAF will need engineering studies. ESP doesn’t cover that, but as Lt. Col. Miller noted, the September 2010 contract does. It would also cover integration and installation of these upgrades into the B-52 fleet, as decisions are made to go forward with specific items.
January 3/23: Engineering Services Boeing won a $38.7 million modification for B-1 and B-52 bomber engineering services. This modification is for recurring and non-recurring engineering services to B-1 and B-52 aircraft. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Edwards AFB, California; Barksdale AFB, Louisiana; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is expected to be completed December 31, 2023.
December 7/22: ARRW Loading procedures of the AGM-183 ARRW (Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon) on the B-52 bomber have been validated by airmen from the Barksdale Air Force Base. The ARRW is a hypersonic missile being developed by the United States Air Force. It is designed to be launched from a fighter aircraft and travel at speeds of up to Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) to engage and destroy high-value targets in enemy territory. The weapon is now scheduled to be operational as early as fall 2023. Ways to load and unload the missile on the external pylon of the B-52H bomber were found using trial and error by airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Group, 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and civilians from the ARRW and B-52H Stratofortress Systems Programs Office.
October 28/22: APU The B-52H bomber will no longer require an external cart nor gunpowder cartridges for starting up its engines in future. Boeing is said to have selected Honeywell’s 36-150 auxiliary power unit (APU) as part of the Commercial Engine Replacement Program. “The B-52 is one of the most enduring USAF aircraft ensuring force readiness against emerging threats,” said Dave Marinick, president, Engines and Power Systems, Honeywell Aerospace,” said Dave Marinick, president, Engines and Power Systems.
September 20/22: GBU-38 The US Air Force is testing out loading GBU-38 smart bombs with other types of munitions while being carried externally on the B-52 bomber. Tasked by the US Air Force SEEK EAGLE Office, engineers from Arnold Engineering Development Complex uses a 16-foot transonic wind tunnel at Arnold Air Force Base to gather separation data when the GBU-38 is carried with different types of weapons such as the GBU-31 and CBU-87 on neighboring stations.
September 13/22: 4 Instead of 5 New students who graduated to fly the B-52 bomber this fall will be operating the eight-engine aircraft with four crew members instead of the usual five. The bomber has two pilots, one navigator, a weapon systems officer operating the radar, and an electronic warfare officer. When downsized to four people, the navigator, weapon systems and electronic warfare seats can be filled by any of the two non-pilot air crew. The switch to a four-person crew now is necessary as the bomber will be structurally modified to fly with only four people in the future. These current batch of graduates will be ready to assume the role of instructors when the modifications are rolled out later this decade.
January 10/22: Tests Peraton Inc., a company that provides satellite and terrestrial communication, network optimization, and managed security services, was awarded a $18 million contract by the US Air Force to sustain engineering services support for the B-1B Reprogrammable Electronic Warfare Systems test and B-52 Bomber Electronic Attack Systems test facilities and special test equipment. The B-1B Lancer is the US Air Force long-range strategic bomber developed by Rockwell International, now Boeing Defense And Space Group. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress. Work will take place in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida Estimated completion date is January 10, 2027.
December 17/21: Control Assembly Boeing won an $11.4 million contract modification for the repair of B-52 Control Assembly contract line item numbers 0003 and 0004. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress or the Buff (short for big ugly fat fellow). Work will take place in Missouri. Estimated completion date is February 28, 2024.
September 28/21: Engines The US Air Force has awarded Rolls-Royce a $2.6 billion contract to replace the engines on its B-52H Stratofortress bomber fleet. The F130 engine for the B-52, which produces 17,000 pounds of thrust, is a variant of the Rolls-Royce BR725 commercial engine.
September 22/21: Counter Measure Receiver Lockheed Martin won a $49.3 million deal. The contract provides for overhaul of the B-52 Counter Measure Receiver. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s long-range, large-payload multirole bomber. The B-52H Stratofortress is equipped with a range of electronic warfare equipment. The ITT AN/ALQ-172(V)2 electronic countermeasures system features multi-band threat recognition and multiple threat jamming. Work will take place ein New York. Estimated completion date is September 19, 2026.
June 21/21: Expensive Re-Engine The US Air Force has revised upwards the money required to re-engine the B-52H bomber. The program will now cost $11 billion. Acting Air Force Secretary John P. Roth told lawmakers that this represents a 9 percent jump, he also refuted recent press reports of a 50 percent increase as incorrect. Gen. Timothy M. Ray of Air Force Global Strike Command revealed that depending on the scenario, the new engines would reduce the requirement for aerial refueling by up to 50 percent.
April 9/21: ARRW Failed The US Air Force (USAF)/Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) conventional hypersonic glide weapon prototype failed its first booster vehicle flight test on April 5, according to a statement. The ARRW failed to complete its launch sequence and did not deploy from its Boeing B-52H Stratofortress heavy bomber carriage aircraft. The B-52H flew over the Point Mugu Sea Range near California, intending to fire the ARRW booster test vehicle. Instead, the weapon returned with the B-52H to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.
March 10/21: Show Of Force A US Air Force B-52 bomber joined escort aircraft of Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in a flight over the Persian Gulf, in a show of force aimed at Iran. The B-52, a heavy bomber, from Minot Air Force Base, “flew through the CENTOM AOR [Central Command area of responsibility] March 7. Multiple partner nations joined the bomber at different point of the mission,” a brief statement from US Air Forces Central said. “These missions reiterate the US Air Force global reach capability & commitment to regional security,” the statement concluded. F-15 fighter planes of Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia served as escorts in their respective airspaces until the B-52 returned to the United States.
January 12/21: Show of Force According to US Central Command, the flight of two B-52 bombers from the US to the Middle East is the fourth such show of force in the past 60 days. “The aircrews flew a 36-hour, non-stop mission from the 5th Bomb Wing’s home at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to the Arabian Gulf and back to send a clear deterrent message by displaying the ability to deploy overwhelming combat power on short notice,” it said. The planes were escorted, part of the way, by F-15 fighter planes of the Royal Saudi Air Force. The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that can at altitudes of 50,000 feet, has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles and carries precision guided ordnance with worldwide precision navigation.
October 12/20: AESA A new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar from Raytheon that will be installed on the B-52H bomber might allow the US Air Force to reduce the number of people operating the bomber from five to four. Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara, director of strategic plans, programs, and requirements for Air Force Global Strike Command, said the decision in not “imminent.” Replacing the AN/APQ-166 radar will also lead to a new radome. And the new one might forgo the AN/ASQ-151 Electro-Optical Viewing System (EVS), which consisted of a low light level television (LLLTV) and a forward looking infrared (FLIR) system mounted in blisters under the nose. Its capability is currently surpass by Litening and Sniper pods carried on the bomber.
September 10/20: Training Missions In Africa US Strategic Command started B-52 interoperability training missions in support of US Africa Command in North Africa on Monday. According to AFRICOM, the B-52s have participated in an initial mission with four Moroccan F-16s. AFRICOM’s B-52s will also intercept the USS Roosevelt as it simulates a hostile vessel in the southern Mediterranean. On Aug. 28, B-52 Stratofortress bombers flew over 30 NATO countries with allied aircraft, in a ceremonial statement of solidarity, and the next day two Russian Su-27 Flanker pilots intercepted a US Air Force B-52 bomber over international waters in the Black Sea, according to the Air Force.
September 1/20: Unsafe Interception Two Russian Su-27 Flanker pilots intercepted a US Air Force B-52 bomber over international waters in the Black Sea Friday, according to the Air Force. In a press release, the US said Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while crossing within 100 feet of the nose of the B-52 multiple times, causing turbulence and restricting the B-52?s ability to maneuver. American B-52 Stratofortress bombers flew over all 30 NATO countries on Friday in an exercise the US military said was meant to demonstrate the alliance’s solidarity, amid growing signs of cracks. The single-day mission is part of regular flight missions that have been taking place in Europe since 2018, but is meant specifically to “demonstrate NATO solidarity, enhance readiness and provide training opportunities” by involving the airspace of every member nation, the US European Command said.
August 24/20: Europe Deployment Six US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, arrived on August 22, 2020, at RAF Fairford, England for a long planned training mission, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs has announced. “B-52s are back at RAF Fairford, and will be operating across the theater in what will be a very active deployment. Our ability to quickly respond and assure allies and partners rests upon the fact that we are able to deploy our B-52s at a moment’s notice,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “Their presence here helps build trust with our NATO allies and partner nations and affords us new opportunities to train together through a variety of scenarios.” According to local spotters, the bombers landed at around 7:30 a.m. local time.
August 14/20: M943 Capco won a $13.3 million contract for the manufacture of M943 impulse cartridges used on B-1B and B-52H aircraft during the ejection sequence. The deal includes a five-year ordering period with no options. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress or the Buff. It is the USAF’s principal strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform that supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions. Work will take place in Colorado. Estimated completion will be by August 2025.
July 17/20: Engine Nose Cowls Northrop Grumman won a $35.9 million deal for repair of 174 B-52 Engine Nose Cowls for the B-52 Stratofortress Bomber jet. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s (USAF) long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress or the Buff (big ugly fat fellow). It is the USAF’s principal strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform that supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions. Work will take place in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Expected completion date will be in July 2021.
July 16/20: VR The Air Force hopes to adopt a virtual reality trainer to help B-52 Stratofortress student-pilots train for combat. The Virtual Reality Procedures Trainer, developed by Maj. Mark Budgeon of Air Force Global Strike Command, Maj. Brandon Wolf, 307th Operations Support Squadron, and Maj. Justin Stephenson, 11th Bomb Squadron chief pilot and chief of innovations, along with King Crow Studios was released earlier in July at StrikeWerx in Bossier City, La. A prototype is expected later this year. The VPRT is intended to reduce human bias in instruction, provide better access to training for student pilots and give students immediate feedback — reducing their chances of developing poor habits early in training.
April 27/20: Contractor Logistics Support Aviation Training Consulting won a $7.3 million contract modification for B-52 training system contractor logistics support and training system support center sustainment. The contract modification is for the third increment of the seven year basic contract. The B-52 Stratofortress is capable of dropping or launching a significant array of weapons including gravity bombs, cluster bombs and precision guided missiles. It is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber. It has been operated by the US Air Force since the 50s. Work under the contract modification will take place at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota. Estimated completion date is October 31, 2020.
December 26/19: Egnineering Services Boeing won a $4 million contract modification for B-1 and B-52 bomber engineering services. The modification is for recurring and non-recurring engineering services to B-1 and B-52 aircraft. The B-1 Lancer is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber. It is also called „Bone“. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress or the Buff (big ugly fat fellow). It is the USAF’s principal strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform, and supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions. Work will take place in California, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Estimated completion date is December 31, 2020
July 15/19: B-52 Radar Upgrade Boeing selected Raytheon as radar supplier for the B-52 bomber radar modernization program. According to a press release by Raytheon, the company will design, develop, produce and sustain active electronically scanned array radar systems for the entire US Air Force B-52 fleet. The B-52 Stratofortress is the Air Force’s principal strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform, and supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions. The aircraft has a length of 159ft 4in (48.5m) and a take-off weight of 488,000lb (220,000kg). The advanced radar upgrade will ensure the aircraft remains mission ready through 2050 and beyond. Low rate initial production is scheduled to begin in 2024. With an AESA radar on board, the B-52 will gain improved navigation reliability to support nuclear and conventional missions, Raytheon says.
March 15/19: LRSO Cruise Missile The US Air Force contracted Boeing $250 million to integrate the Long Range Stand-Off (LRSO) Cruise Missile on the B-52H bomber platform. This contract provides for aircraft and missile carriage equipment development and modification, engineering, testing, software development, training, facilities, and support necessary to fully integrate the LRSO Cruise Missile on the B-52H bomber. The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, large-payload multirole bomber. It is the Air Force’s strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform and supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions. The US Air Force awarded a $750 million, ten-year engineering sustainment program contract to Boeing in June 2009 to provide engineering and technical support services for the B-52H and its components, as well as support and test equipment, and system integration laboratory. The LRSO is a nuclear-tipped air-launched cruise missile that is currently being developed to replace the subsonic air-launched cruise missile AGM-86 ALCM. It is being developed to penetrate and survive integrated air defense systems and strike its targets. Work under the contract will take place in Oklahoma City and is schedules to be completed by the end of December 31, 2024.
February 28/19: AN/APG-83 Northrop Grumman offers to replace the obsolete radar on the US Air Force (USAF) Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers with its AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) system. The USAF wants to upgrade the entire B-52 fleet with a new radar system. It is looking at several options to satisfy its Radar Modernization Program to replace the B-52’s now obsolete Northrop Grumman AN/APQ-166 mechanically-scanned radar. The AN/APG-83 system is also known as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). A version of SABR has been developed for the B-1B fleet. According to Northrop Grumman, SABR provides a reliable, cost-effective, off-the-shelf, low-risk radar upgrade solution for multiple platforms. The Air Force launched the Radar Modernization Program for its 76 aircraft bomber fleet in February 2016. A competition is set to be launched this year.
June 25/18: Deadly payload The current modernization program of the Air Force’s B-52H aims to make the platform even more lethal. According to a recently published RFI the Air Force plans to equip the B-52H wing pylon to carry a single weapon weighing up to the 20,000lb class, which potentially includes the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB). The new pylon will essentially quadruple the weight of bombs that the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress is able to carry externally. The B-52H subsonic heavy bomber remains the mainstay of the US strategic fleet after more than 50 years of service. The Air Force originally envisioned replacing B-52s with a fleet of supersonic bombers, but the subsonic, long-range H-model has persisted since it entered the fleet in 1961. Instead of transitioning to retirement, the USAF now plans continue operating the fleet until they reach nearly the century-mark in 2060. The RFI provided no details as to planned costs and timelines for the pylon upgrade, except to say that the total effort from development to fielding should be accomplished between 36 and 72 months.
March 19/18: Re-engine documents released A request for proposals to re-engine the US Air Force’s B-52 strategic bomber is expected for the first quarter of 2019, documents released by the service last week state. According to the document, the contract for re-engining the USAF’s 76 Boeing B-52H bombers would likely be granted some four to six months after final proposals are submitted, with the service looking to acquire at least 608 new, commercially available turbofan engines to replace the eight Pratt & Whitney TF33s each bomber carries. First produced 60 years ago, the TF33 engine was deemed unsustainable after 2030 due to to age, parts obsolescence and a shrinking supplier base. Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation are possible bidders for the engine replacement program.
December 19/17: Milestone-Record The USAF’s B-52 Stratofortress stealth bomber has used its conventional rotary launcher in combat operations for the first time. The conventional rotary launcher, designed to allow the B-52 to carry more smart bombs, was first used during an operation on November 18 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve—the USA’s campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants operating in Iraq and Syria. Following this, its first use in a deliberately planned combat mission saw a B-52 target Taliban narcotics and IED facilities in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, as part of a new offensive to target the group’s revenue streams. During the sortie, the aircraft released 19 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS)—a new record for the most amount of smart bombs dropped by the platform. The offensive also saw the F-22 Raptor employed against Taliban targets for the first time.
December 5/17: Future Upgrades The US Air Force (USAF) will not have funding to re-engine its fleet of B-52 aircraft until 2020, Gen. Robin Rand, head of USAF Global Strike Command, told reporters at the Association of Old Crows conference in Washington. But the multi-year, multi-billion project to supply and integrate new engines to the service’s 76 1952-vintage B-52H bombers has already got industry interested, with Boeing and Rolls Royce already openly campaigning for the contract. However, some analysts are skeptical that the re-engine effort will ever happen, saying that while the “re-engining would save money from the O&M account (fuel and parts)” it “would cost money from the procurement account.”
November 29/17: Milestone Conventional Rotary Launchers (CRL) for B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft have been flown out of Barksdale Air Force Base, LA., by a C-5M Super Galaxy on November 6, to be used for combat overseas. The CRLs allow the long-range strategic bombers to carry GPS guided conventional smart weapons inside its bomb bay, thus increasing the number of weapons it can carry in combat by eight. Speaking on the Milestone, Master Sgt. Adam Levandowski, Air Forces Strategic (AFSTRAT) Armament Systems manager, called the inclusion of the CRLs as “a big game changer for current and future warfare.”
July 28/17: Testers from the USAF’s 419th Flight Test Squadron have validated that the B-52 Stratofortress bomber is capable of dropping the PDU-5/B leaflet bomb. The squadron recently ran two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area at Edwards Air Base. During the sorties, the bombs were released from the aircraft’s external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam and the 419th now plan to drop the bomb from the internal weapons bay on future flights. Developed from the CBU-100 “Rockeye” Cluster Bomb, the PDU-5B was developed to drop leaflets in combat zones, either as psychological warfare or to inform the public.
September 16/16: B-52s are set to be fitted with new ejector seats following a USAF contract award to AMI Industries. The $14 million deal will see the company install the Advanced Conception Ejection Seat (ACES) II ejection seat. Due for completion in December 2018, the ejection seat will be composed of a detachable seatback and bucket structure that does not require removal of the B-2 escape hatches for any maintenance task.
August 15/16: A B-52H bomber equipped with the new Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL) has successfully dropped three AGM-158 Joint Attack Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) from its internal weapons bay for the first time. While the bomber is capable of carrying 12 of the cruise missiles on its wing pylons, the inclusion of the Conventional Rotary Launcher now enables it to hold a further eight internally, a payload increase of 60%. Next in store for the launcher is more of the same testing but with the inclusion of live weapons followed by final validation of the CLR system’s full capability.
July 22/16: A B-52 has dropped the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) precision-guided bomb from its internal bomb bay for the first time. The test was carried out to certify the new Conventional Rotary Launcher being developed for the legacy bomber. Following the successful drop, testers will now continue with dropping the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Miniature Air Launched Decoy, and the MALD Jammer from the launcher.
April 20/16: Pratt & Whitney has maintained that they can develop a TF33 upgrade package that will keep Boeing’s B-52 bomber flying until the 2040s. The eight engine bomber has kept the same TF33 engine since its induction in 1952, but high fuel consumption had the USAF looking at potential re-engine options. With oil prices dropping dramatically, the program was dropped; but P&W are still looking at improvements for the TF33 that will keep it on-wing, and allow the air force to reduce their maintenance costs.
February 22/16: The USAF has earmarked $491 million over five years for the upgrade of B-52H radars. The modernization plan will replace the outdated Northrop Grumman AN/APQ-166 mechanically scanned array radar with further funds to be made available post-2021. The USAF strategy for the program has yet to be released, but it is likely that the plan will be to modify existing radar technologies and components to suit the B-52H, instead of developing something new, to increase reliability and durability of the radar.
January 15/16: Six B-52s have now been equipped with JDAM capabilities after a series of modifications by Boeing for the USAF. Installation of upgraded internal weapons bay launchers will allow for the bomber to launch eight Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) at one time from the internal bay. Furthermore, the launchers can be easily transferred between aircraft, and will allow the planes to also carry Joint Air-to-Surface Stand Off Missiles (JASSMs) and Miniature Air Launched Decoys (MALDs), increasing their operational capabilities.
September 22/15: The US Air Force has begun removing nuclear weapons capability from 42 B-52H Stratofortresses, in line with regulations set out under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed in April 2010. Thirty operational and a dozen mothballed Stratofortresses will be converted to solely conventional bombers, with work having already begun to this effect and due for completion by 2017. Both Russia and the US have until February 2018 to comply with the treaty’s terms. Despite the conversion, planned work to upgrade the fleet of B-52H bombers will form part of a modernization effort to keep nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52s flying into the 2030s and 2040s respectively, with this forecast by the GAO [p. 11] back in July to value $24.4 billion over the FY2015-2024 period.
Sept 29/10: Boeing in Wichita, KS receives a sole-source indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to support the USAF’s B-52H fleet, including modernization work. It could be worth up to $11.9 billion over an 8-year period, but no funds have been committed yet by the ASC/WWVK at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH. “Individual delivery orders will be issued through three contracting activities” (FA8628-10-D-1000). See also: Boeing.
* USAF Factsheets – B-52H Stratofortress
* Air Force Technology – B-52H Stratofortress Long-Range Multirole Bomber, USA
* DoD Buzz (Oct 7/10) – Why the B-52 Got $11.9 Billion
* ARINC (March 31/10) – ARINC Will Deploy Its Airborne SMARRT System for Battlefield Awareness at JEFX 2010 Exercises . Good example of the types of ongoing improvements under consideration.
* DID (Jan 13/10) – Boeing Wins $750M to Support the B-52H Fleet. This is ESP.
* DID (July 10/06) – MUSTANG Aims to Check-Out B-52s Faster
* DID (June 29/06) – $150M to Integrate New Weapons on the USA’s B-52 Bombers (updated). This is SWING.
* Mechanical Engineering – CIME (Jan 1/90) – The B-52 – engineered to endure