The U.S. Air Force (USAF) could undertake a major upgrade of the iconic BUFF. As reported by Aviation Week in fact the service may formalize plans for a B-52J upgrade variant of its venerable bomber, and briefed industry on the potential effort during a platform update at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma.
The B-52J is a “potential future effort,” Col. Lance Reynolds, B-1 and B-52 systems program manager, told attendees during an industry update in August. Noteworthy the “J” designation had already been suggested for a modified B-52, specifically for an “arsenal plane” variant concept floated in 2016. But the update documents presented at Tinker are thought to be the first time that the proposed B-52J title has been used publicly by the Air Force.
The upgrades would include a defensive systems and avionics modernization, a crash-survivable flight data recorder, a weapons system trainer, advanced targeting pod relocation and an ejection seat.
However the USAF remains mum on the new project. The service spokeswoman Carla Pampe said in a statement to Aviation Week that she does not have any information at this time on the B-52J designation.
It is unclear if the B-52 re-engining initiative will form part of the potential B-52J upgrade effort or will stay solely under the B-52H umbrella.
For more than 50 years, B-52 Stratofortresses have been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S.. The BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fucker as the B-52 is dubbed by its aircrews) 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 (JDAMs).
Current engineering analyses show the B-52’s life span to extend beyond the year 2040.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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