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An Old U.S. Bomber Just Got Some Modern Communications Gear

Visitors check out the bomb-bay of a US Air Force B-52 bomber during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne in March 2013. The aging bombers are being upgraded with new communications equipment. Visitors check out the bomb-bay of a US Air Force B-52 bomber during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne in March 2013. The aging bombers are being upgraded with new communications equipment. (Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)

Some aging B-52 nuclear-capable bombers just returned to Air Force units, sporting upgraded and modern communications technology, Foreign Policy reports.

The aircraft are part of the service's $1.1 billion CONECT program, which stands for Combat Network Communications Technology. Equipping the bombers with new systems means crew members need no longer take down targeting data on paper during radio transmissions, as they have done for decades, according to the magazine.

"As the adversary moves and adjusts and different sensors move and adjust, the B-52 will say, 'Yep, this target shifted. It moved over here and I know where it is," the article quoted Brig. Gen. Fred Stoss, who oversees the upgrade program, as saying. "So it can do what it needs to do with a very agile enemy and it can stay plugged in with all the other platforms."

Today's B-52s were first introduced into the service in the 1960s.

Air Force officials hope upgrading the B-52 through its planned retirement in 2040 will help bridge the time until a new long-range strike bomber becomes available. A contract competition for that program is set to begin this fall, Foreign Policy reports.

Global Strike Command chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson told the magazine he envisions a new conventionally outfitted bomber aircraft becoming operational by 2025. It should be capable of carrying nuclear weapons by 2027, he said.