Military

Aging B-52 bomber gets new Sniper pod upgrade

Aging B-52 bomber gets new Sni...
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (Image: USAF)
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (Image: USAF)
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Sniper pod under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress (Image: USAF/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)
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Sniper pod under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress (Image: USAF/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (Image: USAF)
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Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (Image: USAF)
Sniper pod on a B-1B Lancer bomber (Image: USAF)
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Sniper pod on a B-1B Lancer bomber (Image: USAF)
Lockheed martin Sniper pod (Image: Lockheed Martin)
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Lockheed martin Sniper pod (Image: Lockheed Martin)
A Sniper pod fitted to a Royal Canadian Air Force Hornet (Image: Lockheed Martin)
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A Sniper pod fitted to a Royal Canadian Air Force Hornet (Image: Lockheed Martin)
Sniper pod fitted to a B-1B Lancer bomber (Image: Lockheed Martin)
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Sniper pod fitted to a B-1B Lancer bomber (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Last week, the United States Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing made its first live run with a new Lockheed Martin Sniper pod installed on the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress. Taking off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, the practice run introduces new combat abilities that will give the aging bomber better integration with ground forces and laser-guided bombs for precision strikes.

The sniper pod has already seen service with a number of fighter and bomber aircraft in both the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and allied forces. It has high resolution FLIR thermal imagers and HDTV, a dual mode laser designator, a laser spot tracker and a laser marker with the capability of sharing real time images and data with ground forces.

"With the pod we can integrate with the guys on the ground and let them see what we see. This way we are on the same page," said Capt. Ryan Allen, 20th Bomb Squadron radar navigation instructor. "It also gives us a greater visibility range over that of the previous one."

Sniper pod under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress (Image: USAF/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)
Sniper pod under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress (Image: USAF/Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland)

The pod is designed to recognize the aircraft to which it is being fitted, with the software configuring itself automatically, so installation is usually relatively simple. Though it did illustrate how the strategic bomber requires constant, system-wide upgrades to remain in service. "The way the pod can interact with our avionics system is state of the art," said Allen. "Most of the (bomber’s) systems had to be radically improved to give us total interaction between the new and old."

According to the Air Force, the new pods provide the aging airframe with a boost in capabilities. "This flight was the first time that the 2nd BW has used the sniper pod with live ordnance like the [Laser guided bomb]," said Allen. "This pod gives a faster response time to our targets. What would normally take me 30 to 40 button presses in five minutes now only takes me a few seconds to actually target and drop munitions."

Source: USAF

6 comments
mystixa
As bad as the JSF seems to be.. that is somewhat balanced by how good the B-52 has been. Its done its job, and well for what 50 years now? More? ..and they didn't have to redo the whole thing every time a new system came out.
Slowburn
The new fire control / intelligence pod is great. While the B-52 bombers were rebuilt to the H configuration in the late 1960s and the plane show the lack of speed and efficiency of more recent subsonic jet designs the planes themselves are fairly young by the important way that you tell the age of a plane; Airframe Flight Hours.
Manuel Cruz
Congrats to Boeing & USAF, when you have equipment that has returned their investment many times over, makes you wonder how the Military Industrial complex were able to let this happen, where they normally screw things up, ex. B1, F35, cost over runs
Slowburn
re; Manuel Cruz Boeing has turned down profitable contracts by telling the US Air Force "Sure we could do that but why do you want us to?" Also the B-52 was originally designed and built when both sides of the isle knew who the enemy was.
steveraxx
A first for Gizmag comments section. All provided enlightened information! Thanks guys.
Kpar
All we need now is for the USAF to make up its mind on re-engining the BUFFs. Eight modern small diameter turbofans will just about double the range, and significantly reduce the cost of operation. The Air Force took a pass a few years ago, saying there wasn't enough savings to justify the cost, but it turned out the Air Force only figured the cost based on ground refueling. Air-to-air, it turns out, is SEVENTEEN times as costly, and somewhat changed the equation...