BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The first B-52H Stratofortress departed Barksdale Air Force Base, La., July 16 en route to the depot at Tinker AFB, Okla., for the Combat Network Communications Technology, or CONECT, upgrade. The CONECT upgrade will allow B-52 crews to receive and send real-time digital information such as updated intelligence, mapping or targeting information while the aircraft is in flight. "The CONECT modification will replace the evolutionary data link, and become a permanent part of the aircraft," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Buxton, the 2nd Maintenance Group superintendent. "CONECT gives us the digital infrastructure that will be instrumental in future modifications to the B-52 aircraft." The CONECT upgrades include software and hardware such as new servers, modems, radios, data-links, receivers and digital workstations for the crew and will change the current appearance of the B-52 avionics system. "It's going to look considerably different," Buxton said. "There will be six new monitors in the aircraft which will give us increased functionality. We'll be able to tie in more systems to those monitors."
The new displays will exhibit a multifunction, colored moving map at each crew position. This ensures all data is available to each crew member at all times.
"While we are traversing the world to get from point A to point B, we are actually receiving information regarding the battlefield in a real-time, immediate situation," said Maj. Maxwell Dipietro, the 20th Bomb Squadron director of operations. "We will arrive to the battlefield with all the information we need to prosecute targets." A lot of effort went into the development of the new system and making sure that once newly installed in an aircraft, getting familiar with it would not be a lengthy process or a detriment to the mission. "The great thing about this equipment is that a lot of it is based on the foundation of the equipment we currently have in the evolutionary data link," Dipietro said. "So a lot of the training will be similar." This means that minimal training will be required to bring aircrews up to speed on the new equipment. "There will be some indoctrination to the new equipment, but basically, our guys won't skip a beat as far as incorporating this and utilizing this equipment," Dipietro said.