The U.S. Air Force expects to initiate the Radar Modernization Program (RMP) for the Boeing [BA] B-52 bomber this month.
“B-52 RMP is preparing for a Milestone B decision in April 2021 to award the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) contract and continue with the completion of subsystem-level and System-level Critical Design Reviews (CDRs) by late 2021,” per an email from Air Force Materiel Command’s (AFMC) Bombers Directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
The Air Force has said that the B-52’s APQ-166 terrain-following and mapping radar by Northrop Grumman [NOC] is based on 1960s technology, last modified in the 1980s, with a high rate-of-failure during operations.
RMP includes a new, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar based on Raytheon Technology‘s [RTX] APG-79; a new, wide-band radome by L3Harris Technologies [LHX] on the aircraft’s nose; two L3Harris 8 x 20 inch high definition displays for the radar navigator and the navigator; two new, hand controllers by California-based Mason Controls; and new display sensor system processors by L3Harris to interface between the radar and other B-52 systems.
AFMC’s Bombers Directorate said that the B-52’s planned AESA radar is “comparable to what is flying on U.S. Navy F-18 and U.S. Air Force F-15 aircraft.”
RMP does not include new B-52 electronic warfare (EW) systems. The Air Force’s 76 B-52Hs rely on a variety of EW systems against threats, such as air defense radars. Current B-52 EW systems include the L3Harris AN/ALQ-172 and the Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-155.
Last year’s RMP System-level preliminary design review “included completion of an initial design for a new high-speed communications interface to ensure interoperability between the new AESA radar and the ALQ-172 electronic warfare system,” per AFMC’s Bombers Directorate.
RMP initial operational capability on 11 B-52s is to come in 2026. RMP is to include better system reliability and maintainability, improved mapping, synthetic aperture radar imagery, navigation accuracy in GPS-denied environments, a better weather map, and search and track for ground moving targets and aerial targets.