In addition to making the Boeing B-52H more fuel efficient and sophisticated, the US Air Force’s ongoing makeover project also aims to make the pride of Gen Curtis LeMay’s Cold War-era bomber fleet more destructive.
A market survey opened on 21 June reveals the USAF’s plan to equip the B-52H wing pylon to carry a single weapon weighing up to the 9,070kg (20,000lb) class, which potentially includes the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB).
The B-52H now has the ability to carry heavy weapons, including the 13,600kg-class Massive Ordnance Penetrator, internally. But the the Improved Common Pylon on the B-52H wings are limited to carrying weapons weighing up to 2,270kg (5,000lb).
“There wasn't a requirement nor did anyone foresee a need to carry weapons heavier than 5,000lb,” the market survey released by the USAF states.
“With current heavy weapons exceeding 5,000lb there is a new requirement for a replacement external carriage pylon assembly to facilitate these and other emerging needs,” the document adds.
The USAF hasn’t identified a schedule for launching development of the new pylon, but plans to move quickly once the contract is awarded.
The B-52 system programme office is considering a plan to award a cost-plus-fixed-fee-type contract for prototypes and production, with a three- to six-year period for engineering manufacturing and development.
LeMay originally envisioned replacing B-52s with a fleet of supersonic bombers, but the subsonic, long-range H-model has persisted since it entered the fleet in 1961.
Instead of transitioning to retirement, the USAF now plans continue operating the fleet until they reach nearly the century-mark in 2060.
In addition to connectivity and networking upgrades, the USAF plans to re-engine the Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofans with modern eight modern engines for each aircraft.