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By A1C Nia Jacobs
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
The backbone of the U.S.’s strategic bomber force, the B-52 Stratofortress, will soon demonstrate advanced communications capabilities through the new AgilePod, enabling a modernized, further-reaching, more secure communication on the historic aircraft.
B-52 aircrew depend on rapid incoming and outgoing communication—whether that be with other bombers, in dissimilar formations, or with control personnel on the ground—while not forgoing security.
“Our goal is to accelerate and integrate disruptive technologies onto the B-52, B-1, and possibly other patrol-class aircraft,” said Nate Dawn, Chief of the AFGSC Strategic Plans and Programs Modernization, Integration, and Technology Transition Branch.
To address this issue the team began executing an AgilePod demonstration effort, creating a multi-function pod that could integrate advanced communications capabilities for the B-52 across all domains and enhance data transfer, weapon employment, and provide rapid solutions to emerging threats.
“The AgilePod TENTaCLE (Tactical Edge Network Targeting in a Contested Long-Range Environment) program started as an OSD Rapid Prototyping Program, which allows us to quickly provide these needs to our bombers without the years-long timelines required for a permanent modification to the aircraft,” said Dawn.
With this quick and secure technology, the historic B-52 fleet continues to adapt and modernize, able to better meet combatant commander and warfighter needs.
“Our adversaries are working hard to deny us an ability to operate, so it is even more critical for us to deliver these new capabilities as rapidly as we can,” said Col David Donatelli, 608th Air Operations Center commander.
On Feb. 22, test pilots with the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron completed the initial flight test of the AgilePod. The 49 TES will continue with additional multiple ground and flight tests to the pod, ensuring operational capability and integration.
Maj. Brent Drabek, one of the B-52 operational test pilot at the 49 TES, remarked, “This capability is a game changer allowing us to rapidly develop, test, and field new technologies on a warfighter-relevant timeline.”
The project leveraged expertise and capabilities throughout the Department of Defense and industry partners, according to Dawn. The pod development required collaborative work with the B-52 Systems Program Office, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Research Laboratory, the AgilePod Systems Program Office, the 53rd Wing, 49th TES, several Navy program offices, and industry partners Fuse Integration, Inc and Jacobs Aerospace.
“We are very proud of our AgilePod team. We moved from just a concept two years ago to our upcoming demonstration flights this spring,” said Dawn. “We could not have done this without every organization involved contributing at a high level.”