B-52, B-1 and B-2 Bombers Will Soon Be Able to Drop Even More Bombs
Why China, Russia and North Korea should be concerned.
The US Air Force and BAE Systems are accelerating efforts to sustain, test and help modernize weapons carrying, sustainment and delivery across its fleet of bomber platforms.
The system, called the Bomber Armament Tester, is intended for the B-1B, B-2 and B-52H bombers; the intent of BAT is to assess operational readiness of bomb ejector racks, rotary launchers and pylon assemblies, BAE statements indicated.
"The BAT system provides critical verification that the aircraft’s weapon systems are operating as specified,” said Kevin Malone, vice president of Analytics Systems at BAE Systems, said in a written statement. “Our team, which includes Marvin Test Solutions and the Air Force Air Logistics Complexes, has extensive experience developing flight line qualified armament testers and test program sets.”
While primarily oriented toward testing, readiness and sustainment, the BAT effort is simultaneously interwoven with ongoing Air Force weapons modernization initiatives for all of its bombers. The concept is to both position the platforms for current or near-term attack missions and advance efforts to architect the fleet such that it can modernize its weapons arsenal and adjust as new technologies emerge.
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For bot current missions and expected challenges moving forward, BAT is, without question, expected to function as an integral component to testing and integration of both new and upgraded bomber fleet weapons.
Throughout a series of reports and interviews, senior Air Force officials and service weapons developers have discussed a wide range of near and long-term weapons modernization initiatives with Warrior Maven.
B-2 Future Weapons
In coming years, the B-2 will be armed with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and an Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, Air Force weapons developers have said in numerous previous interviews with Warrior Maven.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation, service officials told Warrior Maven.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others, according to officials who have talked to to Warrior Maven.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range, they said.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a B-2 pilot told Warrior Maven in an interview several years ago.
B-52 Internal Weapons Bay
In recent years, the historic B-52 bomber has been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but through a currently ongoing Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others, service platform developers told Warrior Maven.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing.
Pilots and B-52 modernization experts have said that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU integrates an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM, officials said.
Developers have added that a second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
Long Range Anti-Ship Missile – B-1B Bomber
The Air Force B-1B bomber is expected to deploy an air-launched the emerging Long Range Anti-Ship missile (LRASM) against a wide range of targets.
Overall, the LRASM, which is 168-inches long and 2,500 pounds, is currently configured to fire from an Air Force B-1B bomber, Navy surface ship Vertical Launch Tubes and a Navy F-18 carrier-launched fighter. The weapon is expected to be operational from both the Air Force B-1B bomber and a Navy F-18 by 2019, Navy statements have said.
Beginning as a Lockheed Martin, DARPA and Office of Naval Research effort, the LRASM weapon has recently upgraded to more advanced sensor technology.’
While many of the particulars of the new sensor for the weapon are not available for security reasons, BAE Systems developers do explain the technology in a general way.
For instance, BAE developers say the precision routing and guidance technology of the sensor is able to operate in a GPS-denied environment and doesn’t rely exclusively on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, networking links, or GPS navigation, BAE statements have said. The new sensor enables the missile to operate more effectively in contested domains and all weather conditions, day or night, officials said.
Along with advances in electronic warfare, cyber-security and communications, LRASM is design to bring semi-autonomous targeting capability to a degree that does not yet exist. As a result, some of its guidance and seeker technology is secret, developers have said.
BAE Systems is a subcontractor to main LRASM developer Lockheed Martin. Production of the sensor comes shortly after Lockheed received the first LRASM production contract award from the Navy and Air Force.
Once operational, LRASM will give Navy ships a short and long-range missile with an advanced targeting and guidance system able to advance attack technology by striking moving targets and partially guiding its own way to enemy targets. Unlike many existing weapons, designed to operate against fixed or very slow moving targets, technical advances engineer the weapons achieve wider range of pinpoint strikes - including open or shallow water.
Overall, LRASM employs the multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.
LRASM is engineered with all-weather capability and a multi-modal seeker designed to discern targets, Lockheed officials said. The multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system can detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.
LRASM is armed with a proven 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, Lockheed officials said.
With a range of at least 200 nautical miles, LRASM is designed to use next-generation guidance technology to help track and eliminate targets such as enemy ships, shallow submarines, drones, aircraft and land-based targets, according to Lockheed Martin developers.
"The objective is to give Sailors the ability to strike high-value targets from longer ranges while avoiding counter fire. The program will use autonomous guidance to find targets, reducing reliance on networking, GPS and other assets that could be compromised by enemy electronic weapons,” a Navy statement said.
Developers say the weapon is particularly well suited for the most advanced adversary weapons systems and most high-threat warfare scenarios such as a "near-peer" type of combat engagements. Advanced threat environments are expected to include enemy forces armed with long-range sensors, electronic warfare, tactics for compromising or jamming GPS signals and a host of additional countermeasures designed to thwart incoming surface and air weapons.
Given that the LRASM weapon is designed for both maritime and air launch, the efforts to build a new launcher are taking place alongside commensurate service efforts to advance the air launch efficacy of the weapon.
The Navy has previously released LRASM from an F/A-18 Super Hornet, involving a "jettison release" of the weapon designed to validate the aerodynamic separation models of the missile, developers explained.
This first appeared in Warrior Maven here.