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B-52 "Arsenal Plane"

Triton

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Author Kris Osborn claims in a video on this page that the much talked about "arsenal plane" will be an upgraded B-52.


"B-52 Weapons Upgrade to Add More Payload, Range of Weapons"
by Kris Osborn
Yesterday at 7:58 AM

Source:
http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1650624-air-force-b-52-gets-new-attack-weapons

The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.


The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies


Weapons Upgrade

The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft. Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.


B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.


“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.


“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.


The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.


Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.


B-52 History

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
 

FighterJock

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An interesting concept Triton. First up on that "arsenal plane" would be that sorely needed engine upgrade. I would imagine Boeing using the same engines that are on the 787.
 

TomS

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FighterJock said:
An interesting concept Triton. First up on that "arsenal plane" would be that sorely needed engine upgrade. I would imagine Boeing using the same engines that are on the 787.
Thus current thinking seems to be favoring a reengineering with 8 small but more modern engines (possibly TF34s or even regional jet powerplants). It takes a lot less effort to certify eight engines than reengining with four large airliner engines. IIRC, engine out with four engines might take more yaw authority than the current rudder can offer

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/us-air-force-glides-toward-b-52-engine-replacement-plan
 

Archibald

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If only Curtis Le May could see that. He would jump up and down in joy. ;D
 

kitnut617

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TomS said:
FighterJock said:
An interesting concept Triton. First up on that "arsenal plane" would be that sorely needed engine upgrade. I would imagine Boeing using the same engines that are on the 787.
Thus current thinking seems to be favoring a reengineering with 8 small but more modern engines (possibly TF34s or even regional jet powerplants). It takes a lot less effort to certify eight engines than reengining with four large airliner engines. IIRC, engine out with four engines might take more yaw authority than the current rudder can offer
Could see something like this then
 

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Grey Havoc

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There's an odd certificate glitch with that link, so here's the default - http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,22961.0.html
 

bobbymike

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To me the arsenal plane should be the B-1B but I digress.

The second point and a point of annoyance to me is when I see 'Arsenal Plane" and they mention air to ground ordinance. Isn't this EXACTLY what a bomber is supposed to carry?

An arsenal plane, to be clear on the mission, should be in reference to carrying air to air weapons to greatly deepen, from stand off ranges, the magazines of the stealth fighter fleet. You could probably add non-tradition SEAD/DEAD capabilities to the arsenal plane nomenclature.

Otherwise it is just a bomber upgrade for its' traditional bombing mission.
 

FighterJock

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How about a combination of B-1B and the upgraded B-52 as arsenal planes? That would be an idea worth pursuing.
 

Triton

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bobbymike said:
The second point and a point of annoyance to me is when I see 'Arsenal Plane" and they mention air to ground ordinance. Isn't this EXACTLY what a bomber is supposed to carry?

An arsenal plane, to be clear on the mission, should be in reference to carrying air to air weapons to greatly deepen, from stand off ranges, the magazines of the stealth fighter fleet. You could probably add non-tradition SEAD/DEAD capabilities to the arsenal plane nomenclature.

Otherwise it is just a bomber upgrade for its' traditional bombing mission.
I believe your definition of "arsenal plane" is too narrow. The key technology that transforms a fighter or bomber into an "arsenal plane" is the upgraded data-link capability that allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine). (Does this data transfer also issue a fire or ordnance release command directly to the "arsenal plane" systems in which the stealth fighter is controlling the "arsenal plane"?) Sadly, the B-52 and the B-1 are not stealthy platforms which limits their use as bomb trucks for the stealth fighter fleet in contested environments.

Perhaps the term "arsenal plane" should have been restricted to a dumb stealthy UAV flying magazine, without radars, in which the stealth fighter transferred targeting data and issued the firing or ordnance release command directly to this platform, much like the Bouda Arsenal Ship concept from 1996.
 

Triton

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FighterJock said:
How about a combination of B-1B and the upgraded B-52 as arsenal planes? That would be an idea worth pursuing.
Remember the B-1R "weapon truck" proposal by Boeing? The Boeing 2040C upgrade proposal could also be used as an "arsenal plane" under the term's current usage. What about datalinked B-2 and B-21 bombers, could they serve as "arsenal planes"? Should we dispense with the term "arsenal plane" altogether and replace it with ordnance-carrying datalinked aircraft in which a stealth asset is acting as a forward fire-control sensor?
 

Avimimus

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Wouldn't it have a sufficient radar signature to let an Izdeliye 810 or R-37 hit it at near full range (>200 km?)
 

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Triton said:
FighterJock said:
How about a combination of B-1B and the upgraded B-52 as arsenal planes? That would be an idea worth pursuing.
Remember the B-1R "weapon truck" proposal by Boeing? The Boeing 2040C upgrade proposal could also be used as an "arsenal plane" under the term's current usage. What about datalinked B-2 and B-21 bombers, could they serve as "arsenal planes"? Should we dispense with the term "arsenal plane" altogether and replace it with ordnance-carrying datalinked aircraft in which a stealth asset is acting as a forward fire-control sensor?
My interpretation of the arsenal plane is that it will be operating in areas in which air superiority isn't an issue and enemy air defenses are already smashed: stealth not needed. In other words it's a plane to fight yesterdays wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what is being done in Syria today. Maybe it could be of use in an Iranian campaign? With it's speed, the bone would have been ideal. Plus the airframes are decades newer.
 

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http://www.janes.com/article/69139/army-strategist-future-war-may-look-like-ukraine-syria

Paywalled, but in essence, expect asymmetric tactics used against massed formations - eg., cheap drones used as spotters and then massed precision artillery bombardment. Battles are certainly going to be less 'Napoleonic' and more chaotic.

While the 'flying coke machine' is proposed here:

http://breakingdefense.com/2016/06/flying-coke-machine-would-replace-a-10-if-we-had-air-force-chief-welsh/

The source talks about drones and next-gen fighters 'if we had the money', which means 'we don't', but from what I gather, the B-52 arsenal plane could fit the bill very well as a flying coke machine. Now of course the B-52 is not a CAS platform, but it could loiter at altitude carrying weapons in that fulfil that requirement. It would be able to carry a large and varied payload, dispensing weapons by type and quantity as required.
 

Rhinocrates

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Avimimus said:
Wouldn't it have a sufficient radar signature to let an Izdeliye 810 or R-37 hit it at near full range (>200 km?)
I remember reading a spoof article in Smithsonian Air & Space, I think. It proposed joining several B-52 fuselages together to make the complete opposite of a stealth bomber - it's signature would be so huge that it would scare the shit out of enemy radar operators. Moreover, it could provide significant crew amenities such as a bowling alley and swimming pool.
 

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Deployed B-52s Receive New, Internal Weapons Launchers

B-52s deployed to the Middle East now, for the first time, have a new operational capability that both increases its weapons payload and allows it to carry a mix of conventional smart or GPS-guided weapons. On Nov. 6, a C-5M Super Galaxy delivered the first Conventional Rotary Launcher from Barksdale AFB, La., to B-52s deployed at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. Previously, B-52s could only carry smart bombs on external pylons. With the new system, the B-52 can carry these bombs inside, freeing up its pylons for additional weapons, according to an Air Force Global Strike Command release. This increases the B-52’s smart weapon payload by 67 percent. “It’s a big game changer for current and future warfare,” said MSgt. Adam Levandowski, Air Forces Strategic Armament Systems manager, in a release. The system underwent testing at Edwards AFB, Calif., for about two years before the deployment. —Brian Everstine
 

trang

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The A/B/C-52I ? (A/B/C = Arsenal Plane/Bomber/Cruise Missile Carrier)
 

sferrin

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What's the heaviest military load ever contemplated for the B-52's inboard pylons? I'd think 6 AGM-129s would probably be it, or close. 22,000lbs not including the pylon. A pair of Skybolts would have been about the same.
 

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https://www.governmentcontracts.us/government-contracts/opportunity-details/NBD00159034368491641.htm?cts=a0178
 

GeorgeA

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Isinglass plus its pylon were well over 100,000 lbs but that never flew, of course. Skybolts were 11,000 lbs each not counting the pylon.
 

bobbymike

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A nice sized hypersonic missile with a big BGV on the front end............hopefully ;D
 

seruriermarshal

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I think US military have got a number hypersonic weapons , maybe they hide in other plans .
 

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bobbymike said:
A nice sized hypersonic missile with a big BGV on the front end............hopefully ;D
That would be a total waste of money to develop a hypersonic weapon that could only be carried by the buff. After all, the missile will outlive the airplane.... And then what do you do with a missile and no platform to carry it? Unless a single copy will fit inside the weapons bay(s) of the Raider. But then we can rule that out as they are not fitting it inside the buff weapons bays. Its logically just a large unpowered conventional bomb. Which of course means its a weapon for conflicts like Afghanistan, in which a large unstealthy platform can overfly the target. All in all a waste of money and not very exciting. The buffs time is coming up and why waste resources developing expensive specialized missiles for it that only IT can carry? Then you have to develop another platform for the missile once there are no more buffs.
 

bobbymike

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With re-engining isn’t the B-52 possibly around past 2040? Having a weapon for 20+ years isn’t useful?
 

Dragon029

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Last I heard the plan was for the B-52 to stick around until about 2060, so even more reason to fit stand-off weaponry to it.
 

dark sidius

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https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/usaf-set-to-begin-dual-mode-ramjet-design-for-hypers-449581/ May be useful for this futur demonstrator, a little like the X-15 , the B-52 was the mothership.
 

marauder2048

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bobbymike said:
A nice sized hypersonic missile with a big BGV on the front end............hopefully ;D
The DSB study on prompt global strike did look at an ALBM derived from Pegasus.
 

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marauder2048 said:
bobbymike said:
A nice sized hypersonic missile with a big BGV on the front end............hopefully ;D
The DSB study on prompt global strike did look at an ALBM derived from Pegasus.
Please keep in mind Balls 8 had a specially strengthened wing for all the things NASA wanted to drop from it. It's replacement Balls 25 wasn't modded and could carry much less.
 

sferrin

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quellish said:
https://www.governmentcontracts.us/government-contracts/opportunity-details/NBD00159034368491641.htm?cts=a0178
Ah, so it's not anything to do with the aircraft itself but a new pylon that could release up to a 20,000lb munition.
 

marauder2048

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mkellytx said:
Please keep in mind Balls 8 had a specially strengthened wing for all the things NASA wanted to drop from it. It's replacement Balls 25 wasn't modded and could carry much less.
That's true. And even the standard Pegasus is well in excess of 20,000 lbs so it's not
like they were just envisioning replacing the payload fairing with a warhead.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Do we have anything on that Pegasus-based hypersonic weapon?
 

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In_A_Dream

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The next 25+ years are probably going to be insane for innovation.
 

bobbymike

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The next 25+ years are probably going to be insane for innovation.
And still probably not come close to the 50s/60s.
Only because today’s innovation is mostly unseen. A fully autonomous fighter jet or tank will look pretty much the same visually but will contain unbelievably sophisticated AI and other technologies unseen
 

sferrin

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True. I was thinking more in general. For example SpaceX, with their Starship, is breaking new ground in ways we haven't seen since the 60s. Software aside, most military stuff is incremental. We won't see something like Project Pluto (even though Russia has their own nuclear-powered cruise missile). That US Army 1000-mile gun is new.
 
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