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Buff Upgrades Continue.

The venerable B-52H Stratofortress will receive further upgrades in order to keep the aircraft viable until the end of its service life, or about 40 more years, as outlined in the US Air Force (USAF) Bomber Roadmap. While a program to upgrade the aircraft's multi-mission computer is already underway (see "B-52H Computer Upgrade to Enhance Potential Role as Standoff Jammer," JED, June 2000, p. 24), the latest upgrades to be announced will focus on the aircraft's electronic-support-measures (ESM) subsystems, radar warning receiver (RWR) and self-protection jammer.

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration (Owego, NY) was recently selected by the Boeing Co. (Wichita, KS) -- the aircraft's manufacturer -- to provide new ESM subsystems for the B-52H, or Buff, as it is commonly called. This upgrade will replace the AN/ALR20A RWR currently fitted aboard the bomber. Under the B-52H Situational Awareness Defensive Improvement (SADI) program, Lockheed Martin was awarded an initial engineering-and-manufacturing-development (EMD) contract valued at $10 million to design and deliver four prototype ESM subsystem upgrades over the next three years. The upgrades will provide the Buff with advanced threat detection and location, precision targeting and jammer cueing. The total value of the ESM-upgrade program could rise to $50 million over the next eight years.

In winning the EMD award, Lockheed Martin beat out the team of Sensytech, Inc. (Newington, VA), and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA). Last year, both had received contracts for the program-definition and risk-reduction phase of the program (see "Contractors Selected for B-52 SADI Program, JED, November 1999, p. 31), following a competition that also included Northrop Grumman Corp. (Los Angeles, CA), Litton Industries (Woodland Hills, CA), Condor Systems (San Jose, CA) and ITT Avionics (Clifton, NJ).

The Buff's self-protection jammer, meanwhile, will also receive an upgrade. The USAF recently contracted Nothrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector (Rolling Meadows, IL) to upgrade the B-52H's AN/ALQ-155, which one source called "a fairly unsophisticated jammer," noting that it employs only one jamming technique: continuous-wave noise jamming. Northrop Grumman's upgrade will add modern jamming techniques to the system and integrate the ALQ-155 with the Buff's sensors, presumably including the upgraded ESM systems to be provided under the SADI program.

The value of the initial contract for the jammer upgrade stands at $2.1 million, but a source at Nothrop Grumman told JED that the program could be worth as much as $180 million, should the USAF decide to move ahead with a full-rate production of 76 systems plus spares.

This series of upgrades underway for the B-52H could also have the added benefit of making it a more attractive option as the follow-on suppression-of-enemy-air-defenses (SEAD) aircraft sought by the Defense Department to replace the EA-6B Prowler. A variant of the B-52, dubbed the EB-52, is one of the alternatives being evaluated for such a role (see "SEAD: Operation Allied Force and Beyond," JED, January 2000, p. 51; and "Analysis of Potential Prowler Successors Officailly Underway," JED, March 2000, p. 23).

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Author:Rivers, B.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Date:Oct 1, 2000
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