1 of 2 | A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber flies over the Pacific Ocean during a routine training mission on August 2, 2018. Photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis/U.S. Air Force
April 15 (UPI) -- Boeing has been awarded a $14.2 billion contract to modify, modernize and test weapons systems on B-1 and B-52 bombers for the U.S. Air Force.
The flexible acquisition and sustainment contract provides for the planes' upcoming modernization and sustainment efforts to increase lethality, enhance survivability, improve supportability and increase responsiveness, the Defense Department announced Friday.
Work will be performed at Boeing's plant in Oklahoma City and is expected to be complete by April 11, 2029.
Fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $1.2 billion are being obligated on the first task order at the time of award.
The original B-1 Lancer's first flight was in December 1974, but by June 1977 the program was canceled. Nicknamed "The Bone," the B-1B Lancer has served the United States Air Force since 1985 as a long-range, multi-mission, supersonic conventional bomber.
The B-1 was originally designed for nuclear capabilities but switched to an exclusively conventional combat role in the mid-1990s. They have flown a total of 12,000-plus sorties, including in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Boeing. Each plane holds 24 cruise missiles and 75,000 pounds of ordnance.
In 2014, the Air Force received the first B-1 bomber upgraded with the integrated battle station, "which essentially turns the B-1 into a new aircraft with the addition of full color displays, moving maps and a new diagnostics system," according to Boeing.
The B-52 Stratofortress, which has served the U.S. Force since 1955, has nuclear and conventional global strike capability, and is the most combat capable bomber in the U.S. inventory, according to Boeing. The heavy bomber, now designated the B-52H, has a huge payload of 70,000 pounds, range of 8,800 miles and ceiling of 50,000 feet.
In 2015, the Defense Department awarded Boeing a contract to upgrade the entire fleet with upgraded combat network communications technology, known as CONECT. "The B-52 bomber was built during the Cold War, but CONECT provides 21st century digital capabilities that give the bomber the agility and flexibility needed for the modern battlefield," Boeing said in a news release at the time.