The US Air Force has introduced its first B-52 bomber to be equipped with Boeing's Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) system. Boeing says that the system provides increased situational awareness for B-52 crews. It is hoped that it will contribute towards the B-52's continued use for many years.
The intention to modify B-52s with the CONECT system was announced along with a number of other improvements in 2011. It was then announced last year that the B-52's weapons systems would also be updated and would work with the CONECT system to improve the plane's flexibility.
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Although Boeing has produced test aircraft with the CONECT system installed, this is the first production model, a Boeing representative explained to Gizmag. It was delivered out of Tinker Air Force Base, where US Air Force employees performed the install with help from Boeing engineers.
The US Air Force operates a total of 76 B-52s. They are run primarily out of Barksdale Air Force Base and Andersen Air Force Base. The entire fleet is expected to be upgraded with the CONECT system.
The system adds a number of data links, color LCD displays with real-time intelligence feeds overlaid on moving maps, a "state-of-the-art" computing network and, "the ability to retarget a weapon, or mission parameters, in flight." It also provides an increased capacity for expanded voice and data communications.