|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Jun 09, 2014 10:05 PM EDT|
(Photo : USAF) A U.S. B-52 strategic heavy bomber displays its awesome weapons load while another B-52 flies overhead.
Ongoing improvements to the B-52 bomber fleet of the U.S. Air Force are boosting the intercontinental offensive capabilities of venerable "Stratofortress."
The USAF is outfitting its operational fleet of 76 B-52H models with an advanced Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) system made by the Boeing Company, the second-largest aerospace and defense contractor in the world.
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CONECT will enable B-52s to easily re-target their formidable weapons systems and change mission parameters while airborne. It will allow the bomber's communications, targeting and navigation systems to receive data electronically and to display this data on high-definition LCD screens rather than having it broadcast by radio and entered into computers by hand.
CONECT is especially valuable since it gives more teeth to Washington's pivot to Asia. The B-52s in service with the USAF can carry a massive bomb load from the U.S. to a distance of 8,800 miles, which brings flashpoints in Asia within its range. A B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of bombs and missiles.
President Barack Obama is shifting much of the U.S.' military strength away from the Middle East and to the Pacific Rim. B-52s will now be expected to fly more missions over the enormous spaces of the Pacific Ocean.
"CONECT helps the B-52 remain a viable, flexible weapon system supporting the needs of COCOMs (combatant commands) and our nation as we react to a rapidly changing world," said Michael Schenck, B-52 CONECT program manager for the USAF.
CONECT makes it far easier to change objectives while airborne, a big advantage in this bomber that normally spends 14 hours airborne. LCD screens make complicated information easier to understand.
The first CONECT-equipped B-52 entered service this April. It is expected to take four years to outfit all the 76 operational B-52H bombers. The USAF expects to spend a total of $40.6 million on CONECT between 2014 and 2019.
It expects the B-52 to remain in service for at least another 35 years.
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