US will replace B-52’s 60-year-old radar with new AESA radar

A comprehensive modernization program was launched for the B-52 strategic bombers that have been used by the US Air Force for many years. As part of the modernization, work has practically begun on the integration of AESA radar on B-52 bombers.

US sent a bomber to the area where Russia fired a supersonic AShM - B-52 bomber
Photo by 2nd Lt. Mary Begy

A B-52 from the 307th Bombardment Wing arrived at Boeing’s San Antonio facility May 25 to integrate a new AESA radar as part of the U.S. Air Force’s “B-52 Radar Modernization Program.”

Col. Louis Ruschetta of the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s B-52 Program Office, which leads the radar modernization program and the overall bomber modernization effort, said, “The arrival of this aircraft is a significant event and a key part of our effort to modernize the B-52 fleet”.

AESA will replace radar technology from the 1960s and greatly improve the B-52’s navigational capabilities and targeting capabilities in higher threat areas. said.

A radar developed on the AN/APG-79/82 AESA family of radars developed for the F-18 Super Hornets will be integrated into the B-52s. The integration of AESA radar is intended to increase the B-52’s situational awareness and access new capabilities.

US will replace B-52's 60-year-old radar with new AESA radar
Photo credit: USAF

The AESA radars will replace the mechanically scanned AN/APG-166 radars based on 1960s aviation technology.

The AN/APG-79/82-based radars developed by Raytheon will be integrated into a total of 77 B-52 aircraft. The integration of an AESA radar will be one of the largest B-52 upgrades in fleet history. The radar modernization program will cost approximately $2.8 billion, and initial operational capabilities are expected to be announced in 2027.

In addition to AESA radar integration, the B-52s will also receive new turbofan engines and avionics. The aircraft will be equipped with F130 turbofan engines developed by Rolls Royce, instead of the TF-33 engines used since 1962.

The optics used for navigation in the nose of the aircraft will be removed and the aircraft will have a flatter nose. New communication, navigation systems and a digital/analog engine management system will be integrated. One flight officer post will also be abolished.

With engine, radar and avionics upgrades, the B-52 will receive the largest upgrades in its history. The upgraded B-52H will now be called the B-52J. It is estimated that the almost completely modified B-52Js can remain in service until 2050. The aircraft, which entered service in 1955, will reach a full 100 years of service if it is in service until 2055.


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