LT General Jim Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command discussed upgrades to the B-52H during a recent visit to Edwards Air Force Base in California. The general said that modernizing and sustaining the nation’s long-range strike aviation capability is a top priority for the command. He also credited the reliability and combat capability of the aircraft to its talented maintenance crews, excellent depot support and the Air Force’s continued investment in the airframe.
The B-52H has been projected for several upgrades, which have already been made to the two test aircraft at Edwards AFB. These upgrades are integral to ensuring the B-52H (pictured) is both effective and able to fully integrate with other services as envisioned in the Air-Sea Battle concept, according to command officials. Among the upgrades is a guided "smart weapon" capability in the B-52H's internal weapons bay that provides a 66 percent increase in guided weapons payloads. Another current program is an upgrade to the latest advanced targeting pod, which will increase the B-52H effectiveness when performing close air support and other missions.
One of the Edwards test aircraft features an improved onboard communications upgrade called CONECT (combat network communications technology) which brings the aircraft into the digital age providing a data link to pass mission and threat data. A new U.S. defense strategy placing a greater emphasis on the Pacific underscores the importance of networking bombers, and their integration with the joint force. These digital enhancements are designed to ensure the viability of the B-52H well into the 21st century.