Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL)
Rotary launchers provide for the internal storage of a relatively large number of missiles in a confined space and provide the ability to precisely position the weapon for ejection. This layout allows the use of a smaller weapon bay than would be required when using conventional bomb racks. As a result, the opening in the fuselage need only be slightly larger than that of the individual missile. The problem is that even a small opening will allow a considerable amount of air turbulence into the weapon bay, especially if the aircraft is at near sonic or supersonic speeds. The turbulence can cause high structural loads to be placed on the missiles, the launcher itself and any hydraulic and/or electrical equipment located within the weapon bay. Another problem is the dramatic increase in the radar cross-section of the aircraft, along with an increase in aerodynamic drag when the weapon bay doors are open.
Since the Air Force's decision in 2013 to increase the B-52H Stratofortress fleet's effectiveness and versatility by increasing the aircraft's smart weapons capacity by over 50 percent, teams from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Boeing, and now Edwards AFB, partnered up to begin developmental testing on the bombers newest upgrade. This new upgrade csme in the form of a Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL), which members from the 419th Flight Test Squadron, the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force and Boeing installed on an Edwards AFB B-52H in December 2015.
The upgrade modifies the internal weapons bay of the B-52H bomber by integrating a CRL that has the capability of carrying Military Standard 1760 smart weapons. According to the Boeing test team, the upgrade is essential because it increases weapons capability on the external wing stations of the B-52H, while adding the smart weapons capability for the first time to the bomb bay.
One of the benefits of the 1760 upgrade is it brings a lot of capability to the B-52 that did not exist on the aircraft. The B-52 wasn't able to carry smart weapons inside the bomb bay, but now with the new CRL it will be able to carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions with the first increment, and with future increments it will be able to carry Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and Miniature Air Launched Decoys.
The addition of smart weapons capability to the internal weapons bays allows the bomber to respond with accuracy and flexibility in real time to the warfighter's needs. The upgrade adds capability while remaining affordable by adapting existing technology for use in the weapons bay. By providing smart weapons capability in the bay, the bomber can be employed in a clean wing configuration, (meaning) no weapons on the external pylons, thus increasing its range and loiter time.
The increased carriage of smart weapons would allow the B-52 to engage more targets precisely compared to the unguided bombs currently approved for bay carriage. By being able to integrate smart weapons in the bay, the Air Force can prosecute more targets, more precisely, while minimizing collateral damage. It will allow performing direct attack, provide close air support for our Army brethren on the ground and be able to execute our overall mission more effectively and efficiently. With future increments, the strategic attack capability will be enhanced, which is the cornerstone of the B-52; by being able to perform long range strikes and carry smart weapons in the bay.
At the conclusion of the upgrade, all B-52H's will be modified with this unique capability and the aircraft will be available for employment by Air Force combatant commanders, Lupton said. There are several stages of testing included with the hardware and software modifications. The final stage of the upgrade will include approximately 10 test flights to verify the B-52H's upgraded capability.
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