Air-Launched Weapons

USAF looks to quadruple B-52 external weapons load

24 June 2018
One of the B-52's two external pylons seen loaded with MALD-J decoys. The USAF is now looking for a new pylon that will take the current weight limit of 5,000 lb up to 20,000 lb. Source: Raytheon

The US Air Force (USAF) is looking to quadruple the weight of bombs that the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress is able to carry externally.

According to a request for information (RFI) issued on 21 June, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) is seeking a new external weapons pylon that will take the B-52’s current 10,000 lb (4,536 kg) maximum external load (across two underwing pylons) to 40,000 lb (18,144 kg).

“The current Improved Common Pylon (ICP) … was designed in 1959 and has been in service since the 1960s. When it was introduced, there wasn't a requirement nor did anyone foresee a need to carry weapons heavier than 5,000 lb. It was modified in the late 1990s … and has performed exceptionally well … [but] it has limitations when it comes to heavy weight capacity. With current heavy weapons exceeding 5,000 lb there is a new requirement for a replacement external carriage pylon assembly,” the RFI said, adding that the new replacement pylon will not exceed 5,000 lb in weight while being capable of carrying multiple weapons in the 5,000 lb to 20,000 lb weight class.

The RFI provided no details as to planned costs and timelines for the pylon upgrade, except to say that the total effort from development to fielding should be accomplished between 36 and 72 months. Responses to the RFI are due by 15:00 hrs Central Standard Time on 20 July.

The new pylon would enable the B-52 to carry any of the air-launched munitions in the USAF inventory up to the 22,000 lb Massive Ordnance Air Burst (MOAB) bomb.

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