The US Air Force (USAF) has tested an upgrade to the B-52 Stratofortress and the Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL) to improve the lethality of B-52 in a combat environment.

The upgrade was carried out to enhance mission flexibility by addressing limitations of the CRL, a weapons system designed for the bomber with an ability to carry a variety of munitions.

Despite providing greater mission flexibility, the CRL can supply power to only four munitions at a time.

As a result of the revamp, the number of weapons that can be powered at a time has been doubled.

The move is expected to result in reduced risk in combat environments and an increase in the number of weapons in the theatre of operations. The upgrade will also lower the number of aircraft needed for missions.

“Now, a B-52 going into a war zone has the ability to put 20 munitions on a target area very quickly.”

49th Test and Evaluation Squadron unit project officer major Jason McCargar said: “The Conventional Rotary Launcher has a high power draw, so an aircrew could only power up four munitions at a time without risking blowing circuit breakers in mid-flight. With this upgrade, it can now have eight ready at once.”

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According to 307th Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament superintendent senior master sergeant Michael Pierce, the ability to carry a full power load to all munitions on the CRL is likely to make the jet more lethal in combat.

Pierce said: “Now, a B-52 going into a war zone has the ability to put 20 munitions on a target area very quickly. Before, they would have to drop some of their munitions, power up the CRL again and then make another pass.”

Furthermore, the modified CRL has the ability to carry greater payloads of specific kinds of munitions. During testing, eight AGM-158 joint air-to-surface standoff missiles were loaded on the CRL.

The USAF plans to upgrade the remaining CRLs in its inventory to the specifications of the test launcher.