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The Military IT Technology

B-52 Gets First Full IT Upgrade Since 1961 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-bomb-you-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with good news for everyone who wants to hold a LAN party in a Stratofortress. "The US Air Force's 10th Flight Test Squadron recently took delivery of the first B-52H Stratofortress to complete a refit through the Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) program. It's an effort to bring the Cold War era heavy bomber into the 21st century way of warfare—or at least up to the 1990s, technology-wise. While the aircraft received piecemeal upgrades over the past 50 years of flying, CONECT is the first major information technology overhaul for the Air Force's B-52H fleet since the airplanes started entering service in 1961."
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B-52 Gets First Full IT Upgrade Since 1961

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  • I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stox (131684) on Monday May 26, 2014 @06:48PM (#47095525) Homepage

    if an engineer, who designed the B52, would have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that the B52 would still be a major weapon of war over 50 years after it was built?

    • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Informative)

      by o'reor (581921) on Monday May 26, 2014 @07:03PM (#47095587) Journal
      Tell that to the russian engineers at Tupolev. The Tu-95 "Bear" [wikipedia.org], the soviet counterpart of Boeing's B-52, was first flown in 1952, and is still in active service 62 years later. Pretty damn fast too for a turboprop bomber.
      • by mirix (1649853)

        Counter rotating props are pretty neat. Shame about the racket they make, though. Never seen one flying, but they're supposed to be loud as hell.

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          A Korean comics artist name of Anyan does a web manga with anthropomorphic representations of military aircraft as high school girls. Tu-95 is very inquisitive, always sticking her nose in other people's business and always surprised that folks notice her doing it because of the racket she makes.

          http://www.batoto.net/read/_/1... [batoto.net]

      • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nojayuk (567177) on Monday May 26, 2014 @08:21PM (#47095951)

        A couple of Tu-95 Bears flew down towards the north of Scotland a few weeks back, the RAF went up to welcome them outside the national limit and got some nice pictures. I grabbed them off the MoD website and bundled them up since most of my friends are Apple fans and don't do Flash.

        https://www.mediafire.com/?fs5... [mediafire.com]

        Runs to about 12MB or so as a zip download.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The B-52 goes back just as far as the Bear - it's the current H series that came out in 1961.
    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Some of the ones that just got upgraded will probably keep flying for another 50 years - the Air Force plans to keep flying them at least until 2040, and I see no reason why they won't just keep using it.

      It's the pickup truck of strategic warfare. It's cheap, it can carry a huge payload, and it's reliable. Sure, it's slower than the speed of sound and is about as stealthy as a jackhammer, but for some jobs that doesn't matter.

      To this very day, the Air Force has more active B-52s than B-1 or B-2 bombers.

      • ...Sure, it's slower than the speed of sound and is about as stealthy as a jackhammer, but for some jobs that doesn't matter.

        But the electronics bays are about the size of a typical garage and as easy to get into and out of. The airframe may have the radar cross section of a battleship but stick enough jammers in the electronics bays and you'd be surprised how hard it is to hit one.

        Cheers,
        Dave

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Stealth is like making a ground vehicle mine-resistant or amphibious - it's an advantage, all else being equal, but due to design compromises all else cannot be equal.
          • When you don't want them to know you're coming: stealth.

            When you don't care if they know you're coming but don't want to get shot down: jam.

            All current (B-2 and F-22) and past (F-117) stealth aircraft become "unstealthy" for weapons release. If you have achieved surprise, that doesn't matter. When it's not a surprise, well, that's how the Serbs shot down an F-117.

            Cheers,
            Dave

    • if an engineer, who designed the B52, would have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that the B52 would still be a major weapon of war over 50 years after it was built?

      I wonder if he'd be alive to ask. It went into service in 1955. A junior engineer just out of college getting in on the tail end of development would be 81 years old now. A "senior engineer" at Boeing -- let's say mid 30s -- in the 1946-52 timeframe from contract award to first flight would be pushing 100 now . . .

      • One of the primary designers of the B-52, George Schairer [wikipedia.org] died in 2004.

        • by careysub (976506)

          One of the primary designers of the B-52, George Schairer [wikipedia.org] died in 2004.

          Age 91.

          If he were to tie with the oldest person ever (reliably) recorded he would have lived to 122 (in 2035) and still would have seen the B-52 flying in service.

    • by necro81 (917438)

      if an engineer, who designed the B52, would have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that the B52 would still be a major weapon of war over 50 years after it was built

      If they thought about it at all, they probably were wondering if humanity itself would still be around in 50 years.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday May 26, 2014 @06:49PM (#47095527)

    "If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust......frying chickens in the barnyard!"

  • Good... Now if we could just get the FAA stuff off of 360's, we're in business!
  • Captain, this is a complete rip off, I thought they put Xbox Kinects in these. I was totally going to play COD too, and not Kinectimals.

    In all seriousness, Happy Memorial Day.
  • by PsychoSlashDot (207849) on Monday May 26, 2014 @07:34PM (#47095729)
    Not even when he was only a Commander.
  • by erice (13380) on Monday May 26, 2014 @07:49PM (#47095809) Homepage

    Well, not exactly. But certainly if you proposed having a computer onboard in 1961, the first reaction would be: The B52 is big but it's not that big!

    Second would be "What would you do with one?"

    • Well, not exactly. But certainly if you proposed having a computer onboard in 1961, the first reaction would be: The B52 is big but it's not that big!

      That wouldn't be the first reaction of anyone with a clue - by 1961 there were already small computers in production. (For use in missile guidance systems if nothing else. This picture [navsource.org] shows the Polaris A-1 (1960) guidance on the right, the unit includes both the inertial assembly *and* the guidance computer.)

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Well, not exactly. But certainly if you proposed having a computer onboard in 1961, the first reaction would be: The B52 is big but it's not that big!

      Second would be "What would you do with one?"

      You would be surprised, but there were computers onboard at the time. Not digital ones though - analog ones. And most likely only partially electronic - usually just a collection of gears and gyros.

      The computer is for aiding the bombardier with targeting the weapons - it gets as inputs the plane's direction, airspee

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Apparently the large cargo Antanov has control systems made up of racks of gear with valves. A retired electrical transmission engineer I know (who did plenty of design work with valves in his career) was shown around inside one, and he suspected it was to deal with an EMP pulse. There's probably American stuff that is EMP hardened as well but there are solid state ways of doing it that were used by NASA before they sent the first probe near Jupiter.
      • by unitron (5733)

        Apparently the large cargo Antanov has control systems made up of racks of gear with valves. A retired electrical transmission engineer I know (who did plenty of design work with valves in his career) was shown around inside one, and he suspected it was to deal with an EMP pulse. There's probably American stuff that is EMP hardened as well but there are solid state ways of doing it that were used by NASA before they sent the first probe near Jupiter.

        When you say valves, do you mean what in the US are referred to as vacuum tubes, or are you referring to a mechanical device such as might be used in pneumatic or hydraulic control systems?

        • When you say valves, do you mean what in the US are referred to as vacuum tubes

          Sorry, I'd forgotten that thermionic valves in English is thermionic tubes in American and vacuum tubes on wikipedia presumably because that was more commonly used.

          Either way I haven't seen inside one of those planes myself and should probably try to talk my way aboard one to have a look while there are still some flying. Being unpressurised they may have a few more decades yet but the surviving ones are certainly running up th

  • Now Skynet has bombers!
  • by Greyfox (87712)
    Cyborg Rock Lobster!
  • Let's play Global Thermonuclear War.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2014 @09:37PM (#47096363)

    Interesting that the aircraft has outlived all of the actors and the director of that fantastic movie.

  • There are a couple things that come to mind in regards to this upgrade.

    1. These planes are older than the flight crews and maintenance staffs upkeeping them and flying them. Last ones entered service in the early 60's. Pushing 90 years old by the time of retirement! That's simply insane.
    2. There are good and bad to upgrades like this. Yes, it makes you more efficient, but you lose the skills of being able to do it by hand. Also, old systems are damn near impossible to hack, unlike newer, shiny s
    • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @02:50AM (#47097535)
      Another example is a DC-3 that took part in a search and rescue operation in Antarctica a few months ago. It was a situation where cost is not a consideration yet an airframe built in the 1930s was used because it was suitable for the job. That DC-3 has turboprops and has been cut in half then lengthened but every major structural part is over 70 years old. There's a few other DC-3s around.
      As with the B52 the modes of failure are very well known now so maintainance is going over a checklist and the nasty surprises happened decades ago.
      • by Alioth (221270)

        However, the thing I find interesting is the advance in turbofan engines since the B52 came out. A single Rolls-Royce Trent engine can put out almost as much thrust as all eight B-52 engines put together (the 8 B-52 engines combined produce 136000 lbs thrust static, and a Trent has been tested up to 115000 lbs thrust). They could replace those 8 old school and very thirsty engines with 2 RR Trent 772 engines (70,000 lb thrust each) and have better performance.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Good point. I wonder if there have been any engine upgrades on any B52s.
          • by s122604 (1018036)
            There actually has been talk of replacing the 8 50's era engines of the B52 with 4 modern engines (the same that Boeing puts on the 767)
            Such an upgrade would give the B52 more thrust, better range, and a much more robust supply chain for spares.

            As far as I know it has never gotten out of the proposal stage.
            • by dj245 (732906)

              There actually has been talk of replacing the 8 50's era engines of the B52 with 4 modern engines (the same that Boeing puts on the 767) Such an upgrade would give the B52 more thrust, better range, and a much more robust supply chain for spares. As far as I know it has never gotten out of the proposal stage.

              It would likely require changes to the wing/nacelle interface. It could very well be that the existing engine mounting points can't take the weight/thrust load so a more radical change to the wing might be required. If you're going that far, you might as well redesign the whole plane. Sometimes upgrades just aren't worth the cost, despite radical advancements in technology.

              • by PPH (736903)

                Its as simple a problem as engine diameter and ground clearance. The only way to fix ground clearance is to install longer landing gear. Which means bigger gear bays and now you might as well throw the whole structure out and start with a fresh design.

                Looking at what today's mission for a B-52 is, I wonder why they don't just put a bomb rack in a cargo plane or a 747.

  • Will they be replacing those CRM-114 discriminators in order to prevent nuclear disaster?

  • Please don't tell me they are running Windows NT 4.0 in the cockpit...

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