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While the B-52 has been raining the advanced GPS-guided bombs that grew out of the Gulf War for more than 15 years, the upgrade will enable them to carry more “smart” bombs than ever in the internal space usually reserved for conventional “dumb” munitions.The internal weapons bay upgrade focuses on the J-series munitions that are a staple of Air Force ordnance, and consists of eight Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and assorted variants, including the laser-guided variety, on a rotary launcher; eight Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM), including variants designed for extended range; and eight Miniature Air Launched Decoys used to confuse and disrupt enemy radar.“The B-52 used to carry JDAM on the wing pylons, but now we can carry far more internally and get GPS data directly from the bomber itself,” Single says. Right now, the B-52 carries the largest range of munitions of any platform out there.“Even the flight controls—the yokes in the cockpit, the seats, the control surfaces on the wings and tail assembly, the cable linkages between them—are largely the same as they were when they were built in 19,” It’s hard to overstate how significant this upgrade is.“I was an operational bomber pilot for my whole career,” Single said.Kenny, a 96th Bomb Squadron instructor weapon systems officer whose last name was withheld for security reasons."This new capability also extends our range by reducing the amount of drag that external weapons produce," he said in a 2016 Air Force release. Vander Hamm, assistant deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations. do realize that the engines we have on the B-52 are not going to last through the life of the program.“Global Strike Command intends to keep [the B-52] flyable and viable through that date, even as we deliver on the new B-2s in the mid-[20]20s,” Single said.

And with good reason: According to Single, the B-52 was intended from the outset for both high and low altitude bombing operations, the airframe, power plants and engines designed for maximum durability.

The B-52 may be a big, ugly fat fucker, but it’s the most versatile airframe in the Air Force fleet, well suited for successive upgrades throughout its life. “There have been other attempts to replace it with other bombers, and through the years a lot of those bomber programs got canceled.

It has a very long range, and it can be used for all kinds of missions, and it’s just been a very rugged, adaptable design for a long time.”Despite frequent updates — 17 B-52s go through a tip-to-tail refurbishment and maintenance annually, and 30 aircraft have had their nuclear weapons systems removed in recent years, as part of the New START treaty — the Pentagon’s fleet is certainly showing some wear and tear after more than 60 years of service.

But in 2010, the Air Force While the Air Force Global Strike Command directorate of logistics has been engaged in modernization efforts for the legendary bomber since the command initiated its B-52 Avionics Midlife Improvement Program in 2004, the Boeing package is both comprehensive and impressive.

the Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) program, a million fleet-wide modernization of the B-52’s tactical datalink and voice communications capabilities, along with improved threat and situational awareness — the bomber’s first avionics upgrade since the 1960s.


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