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Air Platforms

B-52 bomb-bay upgrade declared ready for combat

23 November 2017

An upgrade that enables the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber to carry smart weapons internally has been declared ready for combat by the US Air Force (USAF).

A JASSM cruise missile is released from the bomb bay of a B-52 during tests in August 2016. The Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL) upgrade has now been declared to be combat ready. (US Air Force)A JASSM cruise missile is released from the bomb bay of a B-52 during tests in August 2016. The Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL) upgrade has now been declared to be combat ready. (US Air Force)

The USAF announced on 20 November that the first upgraded Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL) has now been transported from Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) in Louisiana to an undisclosed “combat area of responsibility”, reported to be Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

As noted by the USAF, the enhancement, which forms part of the wider 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade (IWBU) for the B-52H, affords combat commanders a much more flexible weapons selection without the need to request additional air support.

The nearly 60-year old bomber was already able to carry up to 12 Joint Attack Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs) and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) on external pylons but until now had only been able to carry ‘dumb’ bombs internally. With this upgrade, the aircraft total smart-weapons carriage capacity has been increased by nearly 70% with a further eight internal munitions. As previously noted by the USAF, the primary advantage of carrying these stores internally is that it greatly reduces drag, which extends the aircraft’s range and/or mission time.

Boeing was awarded the engineering, manufacturing, and development contract to develop and produce six CRLs by April 2016, with a new contract awarded following for the procurement of an additional 38 units.

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