Boeing to upgrade USAF B-52, B-1 strategic bombers

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Boeing to upgrade USAF B-52 and B-1 strategic bombers

Work, which is expected to be completed by Apr. 11, 2029, will be performed at Boeing’s plant in Oklahoma City.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) awarded Boeing with a $14.2 billion contract to modify, modernize and test weapons systems on B-1 and B-52 strategic bombers.

The contract is aimed to increase lethality, enhance survivability, improve supportability and increase responsiveness of the aircraft.

According to UPI, work, which is expected to be completed by Apr. 11, 2029, will be performed at Boeing’s plant in Oklahoma City.

The B-1A was initially developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52. Four prototypes of this long-range, high speed strategic bomber were developed and tested in the mid-1970s, but the program was canceled in 1977 before going into production. Flight testing continued through 1981.

The B-1B is an improved variant initiated by the Reagan administration in 1981. The first production B-1 flew in October 1984, and the first B-1B was delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1985. Initial operational capability was achieved on Oct. 1, 1986. The final B-1B was delivered May 2, 1988.

Boeing to upgrade USAF B-52 and B-1 strategic bombers
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The U.S. eliminated the nuclear mission for the B-1 in 1994. Even though the Air Force expended no further funding to maintain nuclear capabilities, the B-1 was still considered a heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armament until 2007.

USAF B-1Bs have flown a total of 12,000-plus sorties, including in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Boeing. Each plane holds 24 cruise missiles and 75,000 pounds of ordnance.

In 2014, the service received the first B-1 bomber upgraded with the integrated battle station, “which essentially turns the B-1 into a new aircraft with the addition of full color displays, moving maps and a new diagnostics system,” according to Boeing.

The B-52 Stratofortress, which has served the USAF since 1955, is still the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. The B-52 has nuclear and conventional global strike and is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.

In 2015, the Defense Department awarded Boeing a contract to upgrade the entire fleet with upgraded Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT). “The B-52 bomber was built during the Cold War, but CONECT provides 21st century digital capabilities that give the bomber the agility and flexibility needed for the modern battlefield,” Boeing said in a news release at the time.

Boeing to upgrade USAF B-52 and B-1 strategic bombers
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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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