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The Air Force has the funding in place to upgrade the communications gear on 30 of its B-52 bombers under the Combat Network Communications Technology program, said Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, on Wednesday. Service officials are working to secure the funding to upgrade the rest of the B-52 fleet with this equipment, he told attendees of his talk on Capitol Hill that AFA sponsored, along with the National Defense Industrial Association, and Reserve Officers Association. Already, "the first operational aircraft has gone off to get that upgrade," said Kowalski, referring to last month's departure of a B-52 from Barksdale AFB, La., for the B-52 depot at Tinker AFB, Okla., where technicians will install the CONECT gear. Last year, when testifying on the Air Force's Fiscal 2013 budget proposal, Kowalski said the service had to cut funding from CONECT due to higher priorities, but would "continue to advocate" for the much-needed upgrade. At Wednesday's gathering, Kowalski said he expected "the next tranche" of B-52s to get funding for CONECT in Fiscal 2015. CONECT is designed so that B-52 aircrews can send and receive real-time intelligence and targeting information in flight.