Skip to comments.USAF Assesses B-52H For Electronic-Attack Role
Posted on 12/10/2002 12:00:35 PM PST by Stand Watch Listen
The US Air Force (USAF) wants to equip its B-52H Stratofortress bombers with the capability to jam enemy air defences.
The aircraft, already 50 years old and expected to operate to 2040, is part of the multi-platform solution the service envisions to fill the void left when, at the end of the decade, the US Navy begins to retire the EA-6B Prowler electronic jammer aircraft, on which the USAF relies.
USAF officials said the modified B-52H, along with electronic attack-capable unmanned combat air vehicles and a jammer variant of the expendable Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, would provide the effects the service wants to confuse, overwhelm and incapacitate enemy air defences once the Prowlers are phased out.
The latter have been the sole stand-in airborne jamming capability available to the USAF since it retired its fleet of F-4G Wild Weasel and EF-111A Raven aircraft in the 1990s. The navy and US Marine Corps (USMC) each operate four four-aircraft EA-6B expeditionary squadrons that support the USAF, in addition to the Prowlers they fly for their own needs. Altogether there are 122 Prowlers.
The USAF is defining the requirements for the airborne electronic attack (AEA) variant of the bomber, which it notionally calls the EB-52H. The aircraft could suppress enemy air-defence capabilities while operating safely outside their range (stand-off jamming), or could lead a strike package over hostile territory (stand-in), and remain there for long periods (stand-on), according to officials in the USAF's Air Combat Command (ACC).
"That is exactly why we think the B-52 is great for this [role]," said Terry Bott, deputy chief of the B-52 Weapon System Team in the ACC's directorate of requirements. "Not only that, we can also bring in the electronic-warfare capability, and right along with it, a very large load of weapons" to attack the air defences and targets of opportunity that may emerge.
The USAF has 94 B-52Hs, with 85 in its active force and nine in reserve. Chief Master Sgt Timothy Finch, the ACC's B-52 weapon system team superintendent, told Jane's Defence Weekly that the service has not determined how many B-52Hs it would modify.
The proposed modifications would encompass replacing the aircraft's external tip tanks with a yet-to-be-determined jamming 'pod', he said.
Final approval to proceed with the EB-52H, as well as the USAF's other next-generation AEA plans, lie with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). As JDW went to press, it had yet to issue its guidance, due by the end of 2002 as part of the Department of Defense's Fiscal Year 2004 budget preparations, on how the USAF, USMC and navy, will proceed in replacing the Prowler.
Unable to find a common AEA solution among the services, the OSD appears likely to allow each service to pursue capabilities that address its own needs. The USMC has expressed its intent to maintain its Prowler fleet to around 2015, when it may opt to procure an electronic-attack version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The navy wants to start replacing its Prowlers around 2009 with 80 to 90 EA-18G aircraft, a fully combat-capable electronic-jammer variant of Boeing's two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet multirole fighter.
We already retired EF-111s. B-1Bs were retired because of high maintence and operations costs (money saved is used to keep the rest flying) B-52Gs would need new engines. Why not just use some old 727s or 737s retired from airline service? They can go anywhere a BUFF can, expect down low, and an EB-52 wouldn't be doing that anyway. I think we need all the -Hs models to remain bomb droppers. The coming conflagration may prove their numbers insufficient as it is.
Can you hang a nuke inside the bomb bay?
Okay, I admit it, I'm looking for some loopholes in the treaty. :)
Good grief, man, I thought you were taking English lessons from Bill Clinton ("now this is where we determine the meaning of 'is' in this particular context").
To quote Abe Lincoln, calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.
For the same reason they aren't still flying on 727s and 737s. They are much less efficient than new engines and require lots of maintenance. It would be better to lease new engines bundled with maintenance contracts if the DOD can't find the cash to buy them.