The US Air Force (USAF) has received the first upgraded B-52 Stratofortress bomber from the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), Louisiana, US.
The aircraft arrived at Tinker AFB in July 2013. It has been fitted with advanced displays, servers and communications uplinks by the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group (76 AMXG) as part of the combat network communications technology (CONECT) programme.
Carried out in collaboration with Boeing, the CONECT upgrade is expected to allow the aircraft to remain viable in the air force inventory until at least 2040.
Air Force Global Strike Command deputy programme element monitor Alan Williams told at the programme launch that the upgrade would make the bomber more effective and safe for the crew by enabling it to receive threat and target updates.
"They will be able to get targeting updates, they will be able to get intelligence updates, all while they are en route so that they can get the most current data," Williams said.
The CONECT upgrades introduce the beyond line of sight (BLOS) communications ability, to enable transmission of updated threat and targeting data from a central air operations centre to the aircraft for rapid machine-to-machine retargeting.
The upgrade also eliminating the requirement for the crew and mission to solely depend upon information available at takeoff.
All USAF B-52 bombers are scheduled to arrive at maintenance line at the OC-ALC to receive the new upgrade, which will provide the fleet with a ‘digital backbone’ compatible with additional networking and system upgrades.
Powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3 turbofan engines, the B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, strategic bomber designed to carry and fire both nuclear and conventional munitions for deterrence missions.
The aircraft first entered service with USAF in 1955, and is also operated by the US Navy for anti-surface and submarine warfare operations.
Image: The first CONECT-upgraded B-52 Stratofortress departs Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, US. Photo: Air Force photo by Micah Garbarino.