BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
History was made Nov. 6, 2017, when the first Conventional Rotary Launchers (CRL) were flown out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La. on a C-5M Super Galaxy to be used in their first ever combat area of responsibility.
CRLs are improved munitions equipment that allows B-52 Stratofortresses to carry a selection of different conventional smart weapons or GPS guided weapons.
“It’s a big game changer for current and future warfare,” said Master Sgt. Adam Levandowski, Air Forces Strategic (AFSTRAT) Armament Systems manager who has been involved in multiple portions of the CRL program. “When you take a B-52 and load it with mixed smart weapons you now open up many more options with one aircraft instead of having to call in other aircraft for other types of munitions. Now, combatant commanders are presented with a much more flexible weapons selection without the need to request additional air support.”
Rotary launchers are being utilized on current air frames. However, this is the first rotary launcher of its kind. The new CRLs will be increasing the B-52’s carrying capacity of smart weapons.
“Before these launchers, the B-52 was not capable of carrying smart weapons internally,” said Levandowski. “Now each CRL allows for internal carriage which adds an additional eight smart bombs per aircraft.”
The creation of these CRLs will increase the B-52’s smart weapon carrying capabilities by 67 percent.
“This has modernized the B-52 to be more up to speed with other air frames,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Hall, 2nd Munitions Squadron Armament Systems flight section chief who oversaw this whole project.
The idea of a CRL has existed since 1990, but recently the program actually started developing.
“Within the last two years we have basically went from having an idea to seeing them in that C-5 to go into a combat zone to be utilized,” said Senior Master Sgt. Donavan Stinson, a leader in the CRL project and 2nd MUNS Armament Systems flight chief.
Every aspect from demonstrating use and maintenance capabilities was taken on by Barksdale’s Armament Flight.
“Boeing brought us the basic idea and we were tasked to complete it. We performed function checks and added it into our systems and distributed it,” said Stinson. “We are basically a manufacturer and distribution point for the rest of the B-52 world for these CRLs.”
Preparation for these launchers involved more than just development. Upgrades to current equipment and training were needed as well.
“We had to modernize our current equipment to be able to work with this new equipment,” Stinson said.
After the upgrades, training was needed for Barksdale and Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, who will also be using the CRLs.
“Everyone had to be trained on how to utilize this new technology,” Stinson said. “Last year we were able to give Minot a CRL to work with as we worked with our own. Even though there are still certain situations that we have not experienced yet that we’ll need to be trained on down the road, for the most part we are ready to go.”
Modernizing and improving the capabilities of the B-52s through the newest piece of equipment broadens the Air Force Global Strike Command mission of providing strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support.