Aerial Warfare

L3Harris Awarded US Air Force Contract to Upgrade B-52 Stratofortress

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L3Harris Awarded US Air Force Contract to Upgrade B-52 Stratofortress

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L3Harris Awarded US Air Force Contract to Upgrade B-52 Stratofortress
L3Harris Awarded US Air Force Contract to Upgrade B-52 Stratofortress

Soaring through the skies since the 1950s, the B-52 Stratofortress is a U.S. Air Force (USAF) workhorse and an enduring symbol of American military might. The eight-engine behemoth boasts unique capabilities unmatched by any other American warplane – which is why, after more than 70 years of service, it continues to play a vital role in nation’s defense and national security strategy. And thanks to a collaboration between L3Harris and the USAF, this iconic aircraft is poised to remain mission-ready against highly sophisticated, emerging threats for decades to come. Under a 10-year, $947 million contract awarded in 2021, L3Harris is upgrading and enhancing the AN/ALQ-172 electronic warfare (EW) self-protection system, which protects the B-52 and aircrews from a wide range of electronic threats. L3Harris current work builds on decades of experience providing critical technology as the Original Equipment Manufacturer of the AN/ALQ-172 systems for the B-52 fleet. And combined with other modernization efforts underway, our upgrades will extend the B-52’s relevance and reliability through the 2050s. The USAF plans to conduct a test flight with the B-52’s new EW capabilities in 2024.

“We’re implementing affordable solutions that not only reduce costs but provide aircrews with more advanced protection against the most sophisticated radar-detected threats. This all adds up to a more modern, efficient and effective aircraft that’s ready to dominate the future fight,” says Jimmy Mercado, L3Harris Program Director.

“Our adversaries continue to evolve, fielding advanced, long-range threats that challenge our ability to operate in contested environments. It is critical that we provide our B-52 aircrew with the tools they need to keep the B-52 relevant, lethal, and survivable as the backbone of the United States’ strategic bomber force,” says Robert “Trip” Raymond, Air Force Program Lead, EW Technology Development, L3Harris.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is an American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber. The B-52 was designed and built by Boeing, which has continued to provide support and upgrades. It has been operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) since the 1950s, and NASA for over 40 years. The bomber can carry up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons,[2] and has a typical combat range of around 8,800 miles (14,200 km) without aerial refueling. The B-52’s official name Stratofortress is rarely used; informally, the aircraft has become commonly referred to as the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fucker/Fella).

There are 72 aircraft in inventory as of 2022; 58 operated by active forces (2nd Bomb Wing and 5th Bomb Wing), 18 by reserve forces (307th Bomb Wing), and about 12 in long-term storage at the Davis-Monthan AFB Boneyard. The bombers flew under the Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was disestablished in 1992 and its aircraft absorbed into the Air Combat Command (ACC); in 2010, all B-52 Stratofortresses were transferred from the ACC to the new Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). The B-52 completed 60 years of continuous service with its original operator in 2015. After being upgraded between 2013 and 2015, the last airplanes are expected to serve into the 2050s.

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