A senior U.S. Air Force official said that a large-scale project to overhaul the service's entire fleet of B-52 heavy bombers and to enhance their weapons-carrying capabilities has begun, DOD Buzz reported last week.
The service's B-52 modernization efforts are planned to provide the long-range, nuclear-capable aircraft with more computing and communications equipment that the flight crew can access from the cockpit, according to Eric Single, who heads the Air Force acquisition office's global strike division. The project will also enable the planes to carry a greater number of precision-targeted weapons.
The Air Force sees a continued role for the B-52 long into the future.
"Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040," Single said. "They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics."
The electronic improvements will provide "a digital architecture in the airplane," Single said. "Instead of using data that was captured during the mission-planning phase prior to your takeoff 15 to 20 hours ago, you are getting near-real-time intelligence updates in flight."
The retrofit comes with an anticipated $1.1 billion total price tag and is expected to take several years to complete. Monies to upgrade 30 bombers have already been allocated. Going forward, the Air Force intends to budget for 10 B-52 retrofits each year until the project is complete, according to the service official.