Communications upgrade for B-52s successfully tested

By Shelley K. Mesch / June 27, 2022 at 11:28 AM

The Air Force demonstrated its new beyond line-of-sight communication system for the B-52 bomber last week, moving one step forward in an upgrade officials say is vital.

The test paired the capability, called IRIS, with an Iridium Certus terminal on a bomber at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA, the service announced in a news release.

The system uses a Low Earth Orbit constellation of satellites, which provides global coverage and a greater broadband capacity than the previous communications capability.

“In a wartime scenario, the single point of failure often lies in our ability to communicate,” said Capt. Richard Brown, 49th TES Conventional test flight commander. “If we can’t send and receive mission critical data from our aircraft reliably and efficiently, then we will lose.”

The Air Force Global Strike Command used an AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research contract to assess the feasibility of tying a commercial, off-the-shelf system to the B-52 global satellite architecture to provide unimpeded communications coverage.

AFGSC will continue to work through AFWERX to secure an SBIR Strategic Finance contract to support the IRIS system, the service said.