EB-52 standoff jammer … it’s baack!

It’s not everyday you see a $14.98 million contract announcement by the US Air Force that discreetly launches a $3 billion to $4 billion, long-term development program. Check Monday’s list of US Department of Defense contract announcements, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

The Boeing Co., of Wichita, Kan., is being awarded a cost plus fixed fee contract for $14,983,252. This action will accomplish aircraftintegration system engineering studies to support development ofcritical technologies required to enable airborne stand-off electronicattack. The technologies include low-band, high-power transmittingphased arrays, mid-band high-power transmitting phased arrays, andadvanced exciters.”

I covered the original B-52 standoff jammer system until it was canceled in 2006, and I had a hunch this contract was its long-awaited — and, some hope, more successful — sequel. After checking with Boeing, my hunch was confirmed.

This relatively puny contract kick-starts what could be a decade-long effort to convert about one-third of the B-52 bomber force into long-range, radar-jammers. Interestingly, this contract indicates the USAF has abandoned the original plan to make Boeing compete for the aircraft integration role.

Click on the link posted beneath the video — I can’t resist the (admittedly stretched) tie-in to Dr. Strangelove! — to read my news story that will appear in next week’s Flight International magazine.

B-52 jammer concept revived, scaled-back

By Stephen Trimble / Washington DC

The US AirForce has revived a plan to transform a portion of the Boeing B-52 bomber fleetinto long-range, radar-jamming platforms, formally launching a five-year study phaseon 23 June.

The revivalcomes nearly three years after the USAF was forced to cancel the B-52 standoffjammer system (SOJS) programme after cost estimates ballooned seven-fold to $7billion. The delay has shifted the operational debut of the new jammer fleet atleast four years to 2018.

The newprogramme seeks to avoid seeks to hold overall costs to about $3 billion or $4billion by scaling back the jamming requirements and reducing the number ofB-52s involved.

The SOJSprogramme was cancelled after requirements grew to target all emitter threatsin the low and middle bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Whereas,the new programme continues to focus on the early warning radars that fallmostly in the low band, but is aimed at only a subset of the potential threatsin the middle band, said Jeff Weis, Boeing’s programme manager for airborneelectronic attack technology maturation.

The numbersof B-52s expected to be modified has shrunk from the entire bomber force to 34aircraft, Weis said. Also, the USAF also plans to buy only 24 sets of wingtippods during the programme, he added, so only two dozen B-52s would be able toperform the mission at any one time.

The USAFplans to spend $68 million over the next five years to improve the technicalmaturity of the contracts involved. On 23 June, Boeing received a nearly $15million contract to complete aircraft integration studies for new phased-arraypods called core component jammers (CCJs) and advanced exciters.

NorthropGrumman’s Integrated Systems division, Boeing’s previous competitor for theoriginal SOJS contract, is now Boeing’s subcontractor.

Potentialsuppliers for the CCJ – EDO Corp, ITT Corp., Northrop’s Electronic Systemsdivision and Raytheon – are being awarded separate contracts to develop the newjamming systems.

The USAF islaunching the revived programme with support from the US Navy, which plans todevelop a new phased-array called the next-generation jammer to replace theanalog ALQ-99.


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10 Responses to EB-52 standoff jammer … it’s baack!

  1. Matthew G. Saroff 27 June, 2008 at 2:42 pm #

    I wonder if the real goal of this is not to pull B-52 airframes out of service as bombers in order to justify the next gen bomber?

  2. Stephen Trimble 27 June, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    NGB is not going to replace the B-52. In terms of payload capacity, it’s much closer to a subsonic replacement for the F-111, but probably should be thought of as a near-term upgrade of the B-2, and eventually as the B-2′s replacement. The B-52 replacement doesn’t come along until the late-2030s.

  3. HerkEng 28 June, 2008 at 8:01 pm #

    I think I read this in a Dale Brown novel… what was it called again? ;)

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