The B-52 Stratofortress remains the mainstay of the U.S. strategic bomber force, and in-theater combat communications improvements may allow it to make better use of advanced weapons like the JDAM. The B-52H, which went into service in 1961, is the only remaining B-52 model in use by the USAF. It flies slightly faster than a 767, operating at high subsonic speeds and altitudes up to 50,000 feet and carrying nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance. On-going modifications have added global positioning system compatibility for the aircraft and weapons, targeting pods like the LITENING, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound munitions, and an array of advanced weapons.
Under the B-52 combat network communications technology (CONECT) program, the B-52H fleet will receive will new computers and color displays, key datalinks, an advanced wideband satellite terminal, and a series of tie-ins to existing USAF systems that will allow them to receive new missions, or even retarget weapons during flight. The total development contract could run to $500 million, and CONECT could roll out to the entire 76-plane B-52H future fleet