The B-52 – Not just for flattening things any more

Electronic warfare role eyed for B-52

The lumbering B-52 just keeps on keeping on. The latest upgrade is the Stand-Off Jammer program to install major radar-jamming capability to the old beast:

The Air Force plans to modify 16 of the high-altitude bombers to carry 12 two-pod sets, with an initial operational capability in 2014 and an early operational capability desired in 2012, according to Dave Kratz, the B-52 SOJ capture team leader at Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in Bethpage, N.Y. The 16 B-52Hs and another 60 of the aircraft are slated to receive new electronic support measures equipment for detecting enemy radar emitters.

If funding permits, the service hopes to modify those 60 additional B-52Hs to carry the 30- to 40-foot-long electronic warfare pods. The B-52Hs will retain their full bombing capability.

The Air Force hasn’t had major radar-jamming capability since the EF-111s were retired in the late 90s. While this may, actually, be your father’s B-52, it ain’t your father’s B-52.


  1. If we need radar jamming capability, as evidenced by this program, why did we let the Aaardvarks go before there was an effective replacement. Anyone know?

  2. Incidentally, I’ve seen pics of Navy (Marine?) EA-6B Prowlers flying out of land bases in Afghanistan for sure and maybe in Iraq as well. The base is run by the Marines, and they even use an arresting gear landing system on the field similar to an aircaft carrier’s system. The Prowlers are probably doing a lot of the work the Ravens would be were they still in service. If we need Prowlers in Afghanistan and Iraq, what situation would we be in if we were going against someone with actual air defenses? But, like I said, there was probably a *real good reason*…

  3. Who do we need radar jamming for? Oh thats right, we dont. The chinese? maybe?? in 10 years??? maybe???? and then of course there’s the other threat- the space aliens. Yeah they could be dangerous too. maybe.

  4. Well, brainiac, let’s just say for the sake of discussion that the only people with radar are the Chinese and that they won’t have it for ten years. When is this project going to be fully complete? Anyone? Anyone? Nine years from now in 2014. So even if your brilliant analysis of the need for radar jamming capability were in any way accurate or honest, this would be right on track. So what’s your point, again?

  5. What about: * North Korea (lots of AAA & SAMs, mostly ex-USSR) * Iran (ditto, although nowhere near as much) * Egypt/Syria (ditto) Hopefully nobody will be getting into a full-scale war with any of them, but we just don’t know what will happen in the next few years. If we did we could save heaps of money not building all sorts of stuff that won’t be needed. But since we don’t, we have to build everything that we think we might need, lest we be caught with our trousers around our ankles.

  6. It is my understanding the offical reason that the Ravens were dropped because of cost. The unofficial reason is that it was thought that the air force could get by with using the Prowler & F-16C teams, using the HARM in the wild weasel mode and equiping the fighters with self protection jamming pods. The problem with the Raven beyond cost, was that it was not big enough nor produced enough power for the air force’s electronic attack concept. The pods on the BUFF’s are 40 feet long. You should not that think that thier mision is the classic standoff radar jamming (though that is their secondary mission), but rather their primary mission is electronic attack. Think focused EM pulse. The BUFF’s are already shielded from EM (side benefit from being a nuclear bomber) and are big enough to carry and power the pods. The other large birds out there – B1 & B2 could not use the pods for obvious reasons. That leaves the BUFF’s to become flying EM Arrays.

  7. Were the 111’s similarly as inadequate for current needs and as expensive as the Ravens? Also, do they really use the arresting gear on Navy and Marine planes when they land on land? It seems like they’d avoid the additional stress on the airframe if they could.

  8. The ‘Raven’ is the code-name for the electronic warefare version of the F-111 I believe. I think it was called the EF-111 Raven. (Remember, the regular F-111 never got an official name until it was retired, although the pilots called it Aardvark for a long time I believe). I think you’re asking us to compare the F-111 to the Raven when they are the same thing? Well, I guess the answer to your second question depends on whether they deleted the wheel brakes from the navy fighters. I doubt it since I imagine all navy aircraft would occasionally take off and land from runways. Unless the runway is particularly short, I don’t see why they need to use that technique – maybe they’re simply used to it, and want the practice?