The B-52 may be one of the US Air Force’s most reliable bombers, but it’s not exactly a technology powerhouse; some of its systems were only fresh when Kennedy was President. The aircraft’s newly-delivered CONECT (Combat Network Communications Technology) variant is finally catching up with the times, though. It’s effectively a network hub with wings. A wideband satellite link keeps the machine in touch with other Department of Defense systems, letting it receive new mission plans and redirect smart weapons after they’ve launched.
The upgrade also helps communications between crew members, which get an internal network to both control multiple systems and chat over a digital intercom. The CONECT B-52 still isn’t cutting edge — it’s just getting keyboards and trackball mice, and it will take a while for all 76 of the Air Force’s B-52s to get the revamp. However, showing off isn’t really the point. The modernized bomber should be smart enough to survive in the internet era, where real-time battlefield data is as important as having the right kind of firepower.
The U.S. Air Force is in the early phase of a technological upgrade of it’s B-52 fleet. The first operational B-52 slated to receive the CONECT upgrade departed Barksdale Air Force Base for the depot at Tinker Air Force Base today.