BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --- The B-52 Stratofortress is set to receive an upgrade that will significantly increase its weapons payload, officials said.
The initial 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade will allow the B-52 to house up to eight advanced precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions in its internal weapons bay, in addition to the 12 it can currently carry on exterior weapons pylons.
"It will increase the B-52's overall carrying capacity by 67 percent," said Alan Williams, the B-52 Deputy Program element monitor at Air Force Global Strike Command.
The 1760 IWBU is based on rewiring the existing B-52 launcher into a Common Rotary Launcher, which carries the munitions and is housed in the B-52's bomb bay. The rewiring allows the B-52 to communicate with the newest weapons in the Air Force's arsenal.
"Military Standard 1760 is the technical name," Williams said. "It determines how the wiring will be laid out and what signals will go through them. It's similar to your home's internet connection; you need a specific type of wiring to access the signal and a software agreement as to what those signals will be. Without that correct type of wiring and the software agreement, your computer can't talk to the internet."
While the B-52 has long been able to carry JDAMs and other cutting-edge weapons from that family, on an exterior pylon under each wing, the interior weapons bay was not equipped to communicate with those types of munitions.
"The system uses a digital interface," Williams said. "Then there's a software piece called a storage management overlay, or SMO. We currently have the SMO that can talk to the weapons on the wing. With the new wiring in place, we're now going to be able to change the software to also allow for communication with those weapons in the bomb bay."
The addition, the wiring in the internal weapons bay also lays the groundwork for future expansion to other advanced weapons.
"By having 1760 in the bay, it allows us to upgrade the aircraft," Williams said. "As new J-Series weapons come onboard, all we have to do is rewrite the software and add those weapons to the aircraft inventory. For instance, increment 1.2 will add the JASSM-Extended Range missile and the MALD-J missile into the complement in the bay," Williams said, adding that these missiles will bring greater mission flexibility to the B-52.
A contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development has been awarded to Boeing to develop and produce six of these upgrades by April 2016. After those have been installed and tested, a new contract will be awarded for procurement of an additional 38 units.
All 1760 IWBUs should be online by October 2017, Williams said. With them, each B-52 will bring much more firepower to the fight.
"Now instead of three aircraft carrying 36 weapons, we can have two aircraft carrying 40 weapons," Williams said. "That lowers your number of crews for a mission, and lowers your fuel requirement, or it gives you the option to be able to put more weapons on target with the same number of aircraft. It will make us more efficient and more responsive to the warfighter."