The B-52 has only been able to carry smart weapons on its external pylons, with its internal weapons bay being relegated to nuclear and dumb bombs,
as well as some older cruise missiles. Now, the iconic 60 year old Stratofortress is finally getting a new 'smart' rotary weapons rack and other upgrades
that will more than double its smart weapons punch.
You could say that the B-52's empty weapons bay has been the most under-utilized real estate in the entire USAF. Even as the B-52's utility morphed
over the decades (from a nuclear interdiction option, to a carpet bomber, to a nuclear cruise missile carrier, to a conventional cruise missile carrier,
to a smart bomb lobber, to a precision close air support platform) the big bomber's cavernous belly has become more and more of an empty afterthought.
Although having the B-52 lug its smart bombs on its large inboard weapons pylons has not kept it out of the fight, this configuration has hurt the gas
guzzling behemoth's fuel economy and range and has left great potential on the table, especially in an age of anti-access warfare and advanced standoff weaponry.
For almost a decade and a half, the USAF's B-52Hs have delivered GPS guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and laser guided bombs from their perches
high above the Hindu Kush Mountains and the deserts of Mesopotamia, acting as arsenal ships for ground forces tens of thousands of feet below.
And on almost every one of these missions their bellies were empty.
The B-52's internal weapons bays and weapons racks were never wired for modern munitions. The all-important 1760 Aircraft/Store Electrical
Interconnection System, which allows the crew to program modern weapons in flight, came long after even the B-52s AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missiles
were put into service. This is finally changing, with a program called the "1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade."
This upgrade will see the B-52H's old cruise missile racks rebuilt and rewired to 1760 data-bus electronic interface standards.
These revitalized rotary weapons racks are called Conventional Rotary Launchers (CRL) and they are currently being tested with the
419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB.
Under the first phase of this upgrade, the Conventional Rotary Launcher will be able to hold 24 GBU-30 500lb JDAMs or a
whopping 20 of the GBU-31 2,000lb JDAMs. Laser guided JDAMs and other smart gravity and glide bombs will follow soon after.
Yet short-range weapons will not be the CRL's only claim to combat fame. Soon, the launcher will be able to sling gobs of
stand-off weapons such as the stealthy AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and the very
guileful Minature Air Launched Decoy Jammers (MALD-J).
What this means is that a single B-52H could fly thousands of miles
around the globe, approach the outer edge of an enemy's air defenses and let loose a full on barrage of stealth cruise missiles
and smart cruise decoys, then turn around to cruise back to base for more weapons and a new crew.
Think of it as a very smart kamikaze air force in a box, or, well, a bomb bay.
Such a capability lends credence to the fact that advanced standoff weaponry can take the place of expensive manned platforms
when it comes to the first days of war against a credible enemy. This mindset has been growing since the 1970s and the B-52
is now turning into the flexible arsenal ship that has been proposed in various forms over the years. Yet, even with a manned force
pushing an attack into highly defended enemy airspace, the B-52 could fill its belly and external hardpoints with gobs of MALD-Js,
basically acting as a mothership for a fake aerial invasion force, one that will distract, disrupt and the blind the enemy from
detecting the real strike force.
The USAF and Boeing team behind the BUFF's (Big Ugly Fat Fucker is the B-52's humble nickname) weapons bay upgrade
say that soon a single Conventional Rotary Launcher will be able to hold multiple types of munitions, which will allow mission
planners and weaponeers to pick the perfect cocktail of weaponry for a given mission or target set. For instance, a B-52H
assigned to close air support duties may have its CRL loaded a third full of 500lb laser JDAMs, a third full of large 1,000 JDAMs
and the rest filled with deadly CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapons.
In the future, a B-52 assigned to anti-ship/littoral warfare targets may sport half a rack of stealthy JASSMs, for hitting key port facilities,
while the other half is full of the JASSM's stealthy anti-ship missile cousin, the Long-Rang Anti Ship Missile (LRASM), used for hitting ships
guarding the port itself. Basically, a handful of B-52s loaded out in such a fashion could destroy an enemy's strategic port facilities
and nearby combat ships without ever even traveling within range of the enemy's air defenses.
Alongside the B-52s weapons bay upgrade, the BUFFs will also be getting a new satallite communications and data-link system known
as Combat Network Communications Technology, or CONECT for short. This system will allow B-52 crews to get mission updates
and detailed re-tasking orders while they are already on the way to their targets. This will make the B-52 a reactive, tactical weapon system
instead of more of a strategic one. CONECT will also be paired with a new windows-based mission planning software and interface
for the crew to use so that they can re-plan missions on the fly based on new targeting or threat info sent to them via CONECT
or collected by their own and third party sensors.
(More at above link)
No dupe rule, so continue on.
Very cool thread OP, thanks! This fucking plane is going to fly for us for over 100 years.
Very cool, now if our govt, would show the same respect for the A-10 the world would be a wonderful place.