US Air Force, Boeing Begin B-52 Stratofortress Fleet Radar Upgrade

The US Air Force has begun radar modernization for its B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber aircraft fleet in partnership with Boeing.

The effort will equip the planes with new active electronically scanned array (AESA) systems to upgrade the fleet’s radar technology and extend its service life beyond 2050.

A B-52 from the 307th Bomb Wing has been sent to the company’s facility in San Antonio to officially begin the initiative.

“The arrival of this aircraft is a big deal, and signals the beginning of a key part of our effort to modernize the B-52 fleet,” B-52 Program Senior Materiel Leader Col. Louis Ruscetta stated.

“AESA will replace 1960s radar technology, and greatly increase the navigation and targeting capabilities of the B-52 in higher threat areas.”

AESA Production With Raytheon

In 2019, Boeing partnered with Raytheon to design, develop, produce, and sustain AESA radars for the program. The systems the team selected are based on Raytheon’s APG-79/APG-82 radar family.

AESA is expected to bolster the US Air Force B-52 fleet’s navigation, targeting ability, and situational awareness.

Furthermore, the radar can adapt through software modifications to match future threats in aerial combat.

A B-52H Stratofortress bomber carrying the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon. Photo: Matt Williams/US Air Force

‘Optimized Lethality’

The AESA integration is among the largest B-52 upgrades in the fleet’s history, according to the US Air Force.

Works for the program will cost around $2.8 billion, with initial operational capability expected in 2027.

“Sustainability is an important part of this effort, because the old radar is unsustainable,” Ruscetta explained.

“The advancement in combat capability that AESA will bring is really critical in keeping this aircraft effective with our near-peer adversaries. The new radar is an enabler for our long-range standoff capability and will prepare the aircraft for optimized lethality.”

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