The B-52 Bomber Is Now A Network Hub With Wings

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The B-52 bomber is one the US Air Force’s most iconic aeroplanes — but it’s also beginning to show its age. Now, Boeing has decided to bring it right up-to-date though, with its new Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT).

CONECT effectively turns the B-52 into a flying network: using a wideband satellite link, it keeps in touch with other US Department of Defense systems, allowing it to swap missions plans in the air and redirect smart weapons after they have launched. The new system also provides those onboard with the ability to control multiple systems at once, and to chat over a digital intercom.

If that doesn’t sound cutting-edge, it’s because it isn’t: controlling all this will be good ol’ keyboards and trackball mice. But it’s worth bearing in mind that upgrading a fleet of 76 aeroplanes — which Boeing plans to do over the coming months and years — that were only themselves advanced when Kennedy was President is never going to revolutionary.

Indeed, this is the first IT upgrade aboard the aeroplanes since the ’60s. Crucially, now the B-52 can now keep up with the kinds of data streams supplied to newer, smarter aircraft — which is all it really needs. [Boeing via Ars Technica]