The US Air Force (USAF) engineers are assisting Boeing in the execution of a new contract that is designed to increase the B-52 Stratofortress bomber’s smart-weapons capacity by 50%.
Boeing is developing a modification to existing weapon launchers to enable the aircraft to carry smart weapons in the bomb bay, thereby allowing aircrews to use the bomber’s entire weapons capacity, as part of a $24.6m contract awarded by USAF in November 2013.
Specifically, the company will develop three prototype launchers for test and evaluation under the first phase of bomb bay upgrade, which on completion, will allow the aircraft to carry 24,500lb of joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) or 20 2,000lb JDAMs.
In addition to this, the upgrade, which forms part of the combat network communications technology (CONECT) programme, will enable B-52 to carry all of its weapons internally, thereby increasing fuel efficiency in flight.
Boeing Communications source Jennifer Hogan said, "With this modification, we’re converting the bomb bay from dropping just gravity-type bombs to releasing precision-guided weapons."
The 76th Software Maintenance Group, 557th Software Maintenance Squadron and B-52 Software Avionics Flight engineers are modifying the 1760 integrated weapon bay upgrade (IWBU) ground maintenance computer program (GMCP) to validate the additional integrated weapon interface unit being installed in the bomber’s bay location to facilitate launch of additional weapons.
Specifically, the GMCP will evaluate the B-52 offensive avionics system prime mission equipment, detect faults and help in fault isolation of prime mission equipment line replaceable units on the aircraft.
The engineers are also transitioning mission-planning software from a unix-based mission planning system to a Windows-based Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS).
The B-52 JMPS unique program component v1.0 software release will include conventional mission planning support for B-52 Software Blocks 04 and 05, and also adds capability for all variants of JDAM, JASSM and MALD at the bay location to support capability added by the 1760 IWBU programme.
The initial capability is expected in March 2016, and potential follow-on efforts are anticipated to add more weapons and facilitate a mixed load of different types of weapons.
Image: A USAF B-52 bomber in flight. Photo: courtesy of USAF Senior Airman Carlin Leslie.