In the earliest years of the Cold War, there usually was at least one B-52 airborne at all times. Later, the plane flew missions over Vietnam and during the Gulf War. They bombed Yugoslavia in 1999 and, more recently, flew sorties over Afghanistan and Iraq. And as old as it is, the Air Force expects the venerable plane to remain in service for at least another 35 years.
So it’s time they got an upgrade. In April, the Air Force began the four-year process of fitting its fleet of 76 B-52s with Boeing’s new Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) system. For the first time, B-52 crews can easily retarget weapons and change mission parameters while airborne. They can see intelligence data overlaid on maps shown on high-def LCD screens. And the plane’s myriad communications, targeting and navigation systems can receive data electronically, rather than having it relayed by radio and entered by hand. […]