US Air Force: Time for B-52 to Get Smarter (Bombs)

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The US Air Force’s aging B-52 Stratofortress is slated for a weapons bay renovation to provide pilots with more attack options during combat missions, Warrior Maven reports.

"The B-52 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade proves internal J-series (smart) weapons capability," an Air Force spokeswoman told Warrior Maven March 7.

According to the news outlet, the B-52's internal weapons bay upgrade (IWBU) will provide the plane with the capability to carry the service's latest smart missiles. The 60-year-old planes have previously only been configured to carry precision-guided munitions underneath their wings.

U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar (File) - Sputnik International
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For planes like the F-35 Lightning II, the internal weapons bay supports its stealth profile, minimizing the plane's radar cross signature. However, there are downsides to storing missiles and bombs internally: planes can't carry as many weapons inside as they can mounted on wing pylons and there are higher manufacturing and maintenance costs, engineering researchers say. By contrast, externally attached bombs also produce more drag, or aerial resistance pushing in the opposite direction of the plane's motion — an internal bay is more sleek in the wind.

The slated upgrades to the B-52's internal weapons bay will increase its bomb capacity by two-thirds, the National Interest reported in December.

As Warrior Maven observes, the modernization effort signals that the service no longer envisions the role of the B-52 to be "carpet bombing" missions with dumb bombs, such as it performed in conflicts such as Vietnam. With more smart missiles, the B-52 will be better suited for modern scenarios requiring precise weapons, such as counterinsurgency and large-scale mechanized warfare, the article notes.

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