B-52 gets a facelift

The Air Force has awarded a $30 million contract to Boeing Co. to install Integrated Weapons Interface Units on B-52 bombers, which will greatly increase the heavy bomber's ability to deliver precision-guided weapons.

Under the contract, Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems unit will replace the B-52s' three-piece interface units with a single, state-of-the-art IWIU. 'It's a significant upgrade to the B-52 fleet,' said Scot Oathout, B-52 program director at Boeing.

The long-range B-52 has been the Air Force's primary strategic bomber for 50 years and is expected to remain so at least until 2040, Boeing said.

During prototype testing in 2005, a B-52 equipped with the IWIU for the first time was able to release eight 2,000-pound smart bombs from the internal bomb bay. All eight hit their targets. Previously, the B-52 could release the weapon only from its wing pylons.

The new IWIUs are designed to accommodate future modifications and improvements that could further increase the crew's ability to see and control targeting functions, Oathout said.

Boeing will assemble and test the units at its St. Charles, Mo., weapons facility, before shipping them to Wichita, Kans., where they will be prepared for final delivery. The first IWIUs are scheduled for delivery in October 2008.

Boeing will also provide engineering support during installation at B-52 bases in Barksdale, La., and Minot, ND.

The IWIU deal follows a $150 million Air Force contract Boeing Integrated Defense Systems won last year to upgrade several weapons systems on the bombers.

David Hubler writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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