Raytheon delivered the first B-52 active electronically scanned array radar (AESA) to Boeing for the US Air Force’s B-52 Radar Modernization Program. This first radar will be used for system integration, verification, and testing.
“Outfitting the B-52 with an AESA radar replaces its current 1960s radar technology,” says Michelle Styczynski, vice president of Agile Radar Solutions at Raytheon, in a company news release. “With an AESA radar on board, the B-52 will gain improved navigation and targeting capabilities in higher threat areas.”
The B-52’s new radar will enable improved mapping and detection range and increase the number of targets the platform can engage simultaneously. Along with improved modes and capabilities, the AESA radar will help crews see further, more accurately and have increased situational awareness.
“This new AESA radar will give the B-52 more capability than it has today and allow for the possibility to enhance access to growth capabilities in the future,” said Jennifer Wong, senior director, Boeing Bomber Programs. “A lot of amazing collaboration by our Boeing team, Raytheon and the Air Force made this possible.”
Under the contract, Raytheon is designing, developing, and producing the radar systems for the entire US Air Force B-52 fleet. The advanced radar upgrade will ensure the aircraft remains relevant and mission ready through its lifetime.
Production of the radars is taking place in Forest, Mississippi and El Segundo, California. The remaining test-phase radars are expected to be delivered through the summer of 2024.
The new B-52 radar is based on AESA technologies developed from RTX’s pioneering AN/APG-79 radar.
As the USAF migrates toward the two-bomber fleet of B-21s and B-52s the new AESA radar, in the form of the APG-79B4, is a “game changer” for the BUFF. The APG-79 is effectively the same radar as on the export version of the Navy F/A-18 fighter, with the array turned “upside down” so it looks more down at the ground than up at the sky.
The APG-79 will be a fighter-quality radar and will be used not only to support air-to-ground operations but will also be better able to operate with other coalition partners because the bomber will be able to use the same sensor format. It will be able to scan farther, guide weapons in flight, and improve the bomber’s situational awareness.
Flight testing with the new radar will start in late 2025, and the first production versions should be built around the same time. They’ll be installed in early 2027 and initial operational capability (IOC) with the radar will consist of 12 aircraft as the required assets available for the declaration.
As we have already reported, according to the US Air Force’s fiscal 2024 budget documents, once they receive their new Rolls Royce F130 engines and AESA radars, B-52Hs will become B-52Js.
The USAF expects B-52Js with both new engines and new radars to be available for operational use before the end of the decade.
Photo credit: Boeing
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