New Boeing Pylon Might Shift Hypersonics Testing to B-1, Add Bomb Capability

OKLAHOMA CITY—Boeing is proposing the Air Drive shift the testing of hypersonic missiles from the B-52 to the B-1, utilizing a brand new pylon for the bomber that might, as an additional benefit, improve the B-1’s munition-carrying capability by 50 p.c for a lot of current weapons, the corporate says.

Boeing developed what it’s calling the Load Adaptable Modular (LAM) pylon with its personal cash, however the Air Drive is utilizing some congressional add-on funds to check it. These exams are actually underway.

The Air Drive has earmarked eight B-52s to check engine, radar, weapons, and different upgrades. With 10 to 12 extra bombers anticipated to be in depot, restore, or improve at any given time for the foreseeable future, that leaves solely 56-58 of the 76 B-52s obtainable for operations, creating a possible subject as a result of the B-52 has a nuclear deterrence mission, whereas the B-1 doesn’t.

“The entire level of this … is for the B-1 to turn out to be the hypersonic testbed for the Air Drive,” Jennifer Wong, Boeing’s director of bomber applications, informed reporters at Tinker Air Drive Base, Okla. Boeing and Rolls Royce offered journey, lodging, and meals for reporters overlaying B-52 improve efforts.

“Due to all of the modernization efforts on the B-52, we will really not take away from what we’re doing on the B-52 at this time to have it check hypersonics,” Wong mentioned. “So we will probably be doing hypersonics testing on the B-1.”

The B-52 has been used to check the hypersonic AGM-183 Air-launched Fast Response Weapon (ARRW), however the Air Drive has mentioned it’s winding that challenge down—though some members of Congress have mentioned they might add funds in fiscal yr 2024 to maintain it going. The service can be pursuing the Hypersonic Assault Cruise Missile, an air-breathing cruise missile.

Boeing noticed a necessity for the Air Drive to check newer, heavier weapons, however “on the time didn’t have the funding for it or the requirement for it, and so we stepped in,” Wong mentioned. Boeing constructed 4 of the pylons with its personal funds however expects a contract quickly to construct extra, she mentioned. The Air Drive is utilizing some congressional add-on funding for hypersonics to conduct exams and probably purchase extra LAMs. An official announcement about this system is anticipated quickly.

An artist’s rendering reveals a B-1 bomber with Boeing’s Load Adaptable Modular pylon, launching a notional missile. Rendering courtesy of Boeing, Photograph by John Tirpak/Air & Area Forces Journal

The brand new unit was designed to be quickly reconfigurable to hold quite a lot of totally different new and current weapons. It really works by having adjustable mounts and fasten factors that may be modified on the flightline to shift from one form of weapon to a different.

Attachment lugs “click on into a brand new place … like Lego” on the pylon, Wong mentioned. The LAM can carry heavy missiles in the identical class as ARRW; as much as 7,500 kilos per station.

For check crews and forward-deployed bombers, the unit means “one pylon versus seven,” Wong mentioned, which might simplify the quantity of {hardware} that weapon loaders must practice on or take with them to theater.

The LAM can even “carry some future ideas” involving hypersonics, she added with out elaborating.

The primary pylon was delivered to Edwards Air Drive Base, Calif., and put in on a B-1, and “they’re going via floor exams as we converse,” Wong mentioned. That will probably be adopted by captive-carry exams with a dummy weapon this summer season.

The LAM will be put in on the B-1’s exterior hardpoints, which had been inactivated as a part of the nuclear arms START treaty. However Wong mentioned “we’ve woken them up” to be used with the LAM. The hardpoints had been initially meant to hold strategic AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missiles, so the constructions can carry heavy weapons in these places. The hardpoints can be utilized now as a result of Russia has withdrawn from the New START treaty.

As a result of the LAM can carry such a heavy load—and the B-1 might mount six of them on exterior hardpoints in addition to in its two bomb bays—it might considerably improve the B-1’s fight loadout as nicely, Wong mentioned. She confirmed a chart indicating these will increase, damaged down by weapon kind:

B-1 Loadout by Weapon With New LAM Pylon

Weapon LAM Present/Inside TOTAL
Joint Direct Assault Munition (5K) 6 N/A 6
Joint Direct Assault Munition – Prolonged Vary (2K) 12 12 24
Joint Direct Assault Munition (2K) 12 24 36
CBU WCMD 12 24 36
Powered Joint Direct Assault Munition 12 24 36
Joint Air-to-Floor Standoff – Prolonged Vary 12 24 36
Hypersonic Assault Cruise Missile (estimate) 12 24 36
Small Diameter Bomb 48 96 144
Boeing information

The airplane has the gross takeoff capability to raise the heavier hundreds, Wong mentioned.

“What this does for the B-1 is, it does hold it within the battle longer, it retains it related, and once more, takes among the workload off the B-52,” she mentioned.

The testing thus far has generated curiosity, Wong mentioned, and “we’ve really had different, I’ll say ‘weapons suppliers’ come discuss to us about presumably working with them to combine their weapon onto it and get it examined onto a B-1” with the LAM. “We’re weapons-provider agnostic. It could possibly be a Boeing weapon, it could possibly be someone else’s weapon.”

Nonetheless, the LAM won’t match on the B-52, Wong mentioned. Whereas there could also be curiosity in a heavy shops pylon for the B-52 sooner or later, it must be a unique unit, she mentioned. There have been preliminary discussions with the Air Drive about such a challenge, however “they’re not going there, simply but,” she mentioned.

The Air Drive is targeted on the most important upgrades now within the works for the B-52—radar, new engines, communications, integration of the brand new strategic LRSO missile, and others—and doesn’t wish to additional complicate that already-complex total effort with one other challenge, she mentioned.

Though the Air Drive is contemplating launching hypersonic weapons off the F-15EX’s centerline fuselage weapons station, the LAM can’t match that plane, both, Wong mentioned.