The US Air Force (USAF) has received six upgraded B-52 Bombers from Boeing after several months of successful ground and flight testing.

The upgrade includes the modification of an existing common strategic rotary launcher in the internal weapons bay into a conventional rotary launcher.

The upgraded, movable weapons bay launchers are expected to increase the bomber’s weapons capacity and flexibility, as well as enabling it to carry GPS-guided weapons for the first time.

The modification project will provide launchers with the ability to carry, target and launch eight joint direct attack weapons.

US Air Force B-52 programme director colonel Tim Dickinson said: "The upgrades to the B-52 bomber’s internal weapons bay have made it possible to have zero gap on the bomber’s long-range bombing capabilities as we transfer from Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles to Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range."

The next phase of the weapons bay launcher upgrade programme will include capacity building to carry Joint Air-to-Surface Stand Off Missiles and Miniature Air Launched Decoys.

"With this added capability, the B-52 bomber will remain relevant for decades to come."

Boeing B-52 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade programme manager Jeff Lupton said: "With this added capability, the B-52 bomber will remain relevant for decades to come.

"Our commitment to providing our USAF customer with uncompromising service enabled us to successfully deliver these launchers on an accelerated schedule."

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 entered service with the USAF in 1955, and is also operated by the US Navy for anti-surface and submarine warfare operations.

Image: A B-52H from Barksdale AFB flying over the desert. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force.