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By Brian Brackens
Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas – A B-52 from the 307th Bomb Wing arrived at a Boeing Co., facility in San Antonio, on May 25, to begin receiving the Active Electronically Scanned Array system (AESA), as part of the Air Force’s B-52 Radar Modernization Program.
“The arrival of this aircraft is a big deal, and signals the beginning of a key part of our effort to modernize the B-52 fleet,” said Col. Louis Ruscetta, Senior Materiel Leader for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-52 Program Office, which is leading the Radar Modernization Program, and overall effort to modernize the bomber. “AESA will replace 1960s radar technology, and greatly increase the navigation and targeting capabilities of the B-52 in higher threat areas.”
In addition to increased situational awareness and navigation and targeting ability, AESA is designed to be adaptable, so that new capabilities to address future threats, can be added via software modifications.
Boeing and Raytheon are both heavily involved in the installation process.
“Boeing is the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] for the B-52, so their long-standing history and knowledge of the platform is really critical to making sure we can get this [AESA] out as quickly as possible,” he said. “We are also working with Raytheon on the radar side. Overall, the partnership helps ensure we have a government off-the-shelf solution that minimizes development and helps reduce both the development and test timelines.”
Installation of AESA is one of the largest upgrades to the B-52 in the history of the fleet. The effort will cost approximately $2.8 billion, with initial operational capability expected in 2027.
“Sustainability is an important part of this effort, because the old radar is unsustainable,” said Ruscetta. “The advancement in combat capability that AESA will bring is really critical in keeping this aircraft effective with our near-peer adversaries. The new radar is an enabler for our long-range standoff capability and will prepare the aircraft for optimized lethality.”