Weapons

B-52 HAS ALREADY USED ITS NEW CONVENTIONAL ROTARY LAUNCHER IN COMBAT

The conventional rotary launcher increases the B-52’s smart weapon carrying capabilities by 67 percent

Military.com reported that a B-52 used its new conventional rotary launcher (CRL) in combat for first time on Nov. 18, 2017. This mission was in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), Iraq.

The first munitions released in combat from the [conventional rotary launcher] occurred on Nov. 18 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (Iraq),” confirmed Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) spokeswoman Capt. AnnMarie Annicelli.

During another mission over Afghanistan, a B-52 stationed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, set the record for the largest number of precision munitions employed, explained Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, director of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, future operations.

The aircraft was equipped with the new CRL for that mission too, he revealed.

“So, we’ve used — so far, we’ve used B-52s with their new conventional rotary launcher,” Bunch said Tuesday during a video briefing from Kabul to reporters at the Pentagon. “Of note, it was the single most — largest number of precision munitions ever dropped from a B-52.”

As explained by Annicelli B-52s dropped 19 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), against multiple targets over the course of the first night of an expanded strike mission – called the new offensive campaign.

“The JDAMs were variants of the GBU-38, to include the Low Collateral Damage Bomb version,” Annicelli said in an email.

The operation was conducted in Helmand Province against narcotics facilities and an IED storage facility, she pointed out.

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Noteworthy as we already explained the CRL allows the B-52 to carry a selection of different conventional smart weapons or GPS guided weapons inside its bomb bay, increasing the number of weapons carried in combat by eight.

“It’s a big game changer for current and future warfare,” said Master Sgt. Adam Levandowski, Air Forces Strategic (AFSTRAT) Armament Systems manager who has been involved in multiple portions of the CRL program. “When you take a B-52 and load it with mixed smart weapons you now open up many more options with one aircraft instead of having to call in other aircraft for other types of munitions. Now, combatant commanders are presented with a much more flexible weapons selection without the need to request additional air support. Before these launchers, the B-52 was not capable of carrying smart weapons internally.”

The CRL increases the B-52’s smart weapon carrying capabilities by 67 percent.

“This has modernized the B-52 to be more up to speed with other air frames,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Hall, 2nd Munitions Squadron (MUNS) Armament Systems flight section chief who oversaw CRL whole project.

The idea of a CRL has existed since 1990, but recently the program actually started developing.

According to AFCENT officials since January 2017 approximately 1,500 weapons (with about 50 percent unguided) have been delivered in Afghanistan by U.S. Air Force (USAF) B-52s.

A U.S. B-52 Bomber sits on a flightline with munitions loaded on a newly installed conventional rotary launcher in its bomb bay, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Nov. 17, 2017. The CRL will allow the B-52 to carry more smart bombs . The CRL upgrade was used in support of a new offensive campaign in Afghanistan Nov. 19, 2017.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson / U.S. Air National Guard

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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