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Boeing to upgrade B-52 bombers for U.S. Air Force

The company received a $23.8 million contract for 10 combat network communication technology upgrade kits, the latest order in the years-long upgrade program.

By
James LaPorta
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for an integrated bomber operation Aug.17, 2016. Photo by Tech Sgt Richard P. Ebensberger/U.S. Air Force
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for an integrated bomber operation Aug.17, 2016. Photo by Tech Sgt Richard P. Ebensberger/U.S. Air Force

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The Boeing Co. has been awarded a modified contract for 10 full-rate production combat network communication technology upgrade kits for B-52 bombers.

The deal, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, is worth more than $23.8 million under a fixed-price incentive-firm, cost-plus-fixed-fee modified contract, meaning that the contract between the Air Force and Boeing is the maximum amount the U.S. government will pay for the upgraded technology.

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Once work is completed, the U.S. Air Force and Boeing will determine the final cost of the contract awarded.

Installation of upgraded communication technology for the Pentagon's B-52 bombers has long been in the works. In 2014, the first U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber was upgraded with advanced communication systems from Boeing.

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Two years ago, Boeing and the U.S Air Force finalized plans to integrate all B-52 bombers with up-to-date digital communications to enhance their combat capabilities. At the time, Boeing said they had completed successful negotiations to upgrade the aircraft with Boeing's Combat Network Communications Technology, or CONECT.

"The multifunction, critical capability that CONECT provides for the B-52 was at risk for missing kit installation schedule," Renee Sauerland, B-52 CONECT project manager for the Air Force in 2015, said at the time. "Boeing and the Air Force's collaborative effort to reduce the kit contracting process by 50 percent paved the way to deliver on-time, quality war-fighting capabilities."

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B-52 bombers go in for program depot maintenance every four years, and the Air Force has had the CONECT upgrades installed as they go in for the scheduled maintenance. So, if the Air Force runs out of kits, aircraft that have not been upgraded during scheduled maintenance would have to wait an additional four years to receive the new capabilities.

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Work on the contract announced Thursday will be performed in Oklahoma City, Okla., with an expected completion date of October 2019.

Fiscal 2018 procurement funds in the amount of $23.8 million have been obligated at the time of the award.

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