The Air Force and Boeing have upgraded the bomb bay launchers in six B-52 bombers, allowing the aircraft to carry smart bombs in the weapons bay for the first time. The upgrade is needed as the B-52s eventually transition from the Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missiles to the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, said Col. Tim Dickinson, USAF’s B-52 program director, in a Boeing release. The upgrade modifies the B-52s existing common strategic rotary launcher to increase the total number of weapons the B-52 can carry. The launchers can carry eight GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, with future upgrades coming that will allow the launchers to carry standoff missile and Miniature Air Launched Decoys, according to Boeing. (See also: Carlisle Provides JSTARS and JASSM-ER Update.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.