Digital system keeps bombers on target

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Battle-tested

Two years ago, a crew flying a B-52H'the Air Force's long-range, large-payload bomber'dropped deadly munitions on friendly forces during a close air-support mission.

That incident prompted senior Air Force officials to direct the Air Force Command and Control Battlelab to study ways to reduce the chances of transmitting incorrect target data to aircraft.

The initiative led to the installation of improved data modem cards and software on notebook computers used by B-52 crews. Thus, the B-52 Close Air Support Enhancement was born.

The modem cards let ground Air Force personnel transmit nine-line messages over ultra-high-frequency line-of-sight radio as well as satellite communications. The system lets crews choose among various cryptographic and communication modes for receiving data aboard a B-52.

When air planners on the ground wearing laser range-finder binoculars home in on targets, their data is transmitted via satellite or UHF to bomber pilots, officials said.

A final live-fly test of the technology is scheduled for this month.

'The B-52 is a very large platform with different kinds of bombs on it. Now, we're putting a new capability on the ground to talk to the aircraft in the air,' said Maj. Luis M. Tirado Jr., program manager of the initiative.

'Adding improved data modem capability to bomber aircraft will significantly improve their ability to conduct close air support and reduce the risk of fratricide,' Tirado said.

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