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Upgrade Lets U.S. Air Force B-52H Bombers Carry More Precision Bombs

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – An upgrade to the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress long-range strategic bombers operated by the U.S. Air Force now allows this more than half-century old bomber to launch more guided smart bombs at Russian and Chinese targets.

The “1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade” (IWBU) enables the B-52H to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to six on pylons under each wing. IWBU increases the weapons delivery capacity of the B-52H and also enables it to accommodate a wider range of modern air launched bombs. IWBU increases the carriage capacity of the B-52H by some 66 percent, an advantage that allows more targets to be attacked in one sortie.

“The B-52 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade provides internal J-series (smart) weapons capability through modification of Common Strategic Rotary Launchers and upgrade of aircraft software,” said the Air Force.

The first IWBU increment integrates an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern weapons. The modernization of the remaining 76 Boeing B-52H Stratofortresses means this bomber can carry the AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile), a semi-stealthy, long-range cruise missile; the AGM-158C JASSM Extended Range (JASSM-ER) cruise missile; the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), a medium range precision-guided weapon and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which are dumb bombs that become accurate smart bombs with the addition of a tail guidance kit.

Another weapon of note that can now be housed inside the bomb bay is the ADM-160B MALD (Miniature Air-Launched Decoy), a decoy missile used to jam and confuse enemy air defense radars. The project outfitting the B-52H with J-series precision guided weapons should be completed by 2022.

In addition to these weapons upgrades, the B-52H fleet is being equipped with digital data-links; moving-map displays; next-generation avionics; new radios and an ability to integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge.

The bombers will also receive Combat Network Communication Technology (CONECT), a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade that allows B-52 crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight.

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