Boeing awarded USD14.3 billion for bomber support

15 April 2019

The B-52H has been in service for 67 years and is slated to remain so for a further 21 at least. Source: US Air Force

Boeing has been awarded USD14.3 billion to support and upgrade the B-52 Stratofortress and B-1B Lancer bombers over the next decade.

Announced on 12 April, the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract "provides for the upcoming modernisation and sustainment efforts to increase lethality", the Department of Defense (DoD) said.

Work will be performed in Oklahoma and is expected to be complete by 11 April 2029.

The US Air Force (USAF) fields 76 Boeing B-52H Stratofortress and 62 Rockwell B-1B Lancer bombers (Boeing acquired Rockwell International in 1996, becoming the original equipment manufacturer for the platform). All of these aircraft fall under the auspices of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

The B-52 has been in service since 1952 and is scheduled to remain operational into the 2040s. Upgrades planned to take it out to this date include the Radar Modernization Program (RMP) to replace the aircraft's obsolete Northrop Grumman AN/APQ-166 mechanically scanned radar; B-52 Software Block (BSB) upgrades that take place every 18-24 months to enable the integration of new weapon and sensor capabilities; a communications upgrade known as the Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) system, which enables the aircraft to communicate with the air force's digital communications network; the Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) Program; and potentially a re-engining programme that will fit more efficient engines while retaining the aircraft's iconic eight-powerplant configuration.

The B-1B entered USAF service in 1985, with recent enhancements being conducted under the Integrated Battle Station (IBS) effort. These have included the Radar Modernization Improvement Program; the Vertical Situation Display Unit (VSDU) in the forward cockpit; and the Fully Integrated Data Link (FIDL) and the Central Integrated Test System (CITS) in the aft cockpit. Work is being carried out concurrently and is to be completed later this year. The Lightning ATP is also being integrated.

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