In for the Long Haul

The 50-year-old B-52 bomber is just too valuable to consider discarding it as long as it can be modified with new technology and not be more expensive than buying new bombers, says Lt. Col. Grey Morgan, Air Combat Command’s B-52 program element monitor. Morgan added, “Despite its age, the B-52 has the highest mission capable rate of the three heavy bombers currently in the Air Force.” Among the modifications USAF has made to the B-52H bombers are addition of the LITENING advanced targeting pod, which serves to target weapons and provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability; and laser designator and laser range-finder to aid precision delivery of laser-guided munitions. Lt. Col. Bryan Harris, ACC B-52 weapon system team chief, calls the Buff, “the most combat capable bomber” in USAF’s inventory. That inventory could expand because service officials are considering adding another squadron of combat-coded B-52s. ACC boss Gen. John Corley in Washington last week told defense reporters that he wants to expand the upgraded aircraft from 56 to 76 to enable the service to field 44 combat-coded aircraft, instead of the current 32 airframes. (ACC report by David Hopper)