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SSgt. Stefano Cothran, a 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load team member, secures a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition to a pylon during the 2014 Global Strike Challenge on Barksdale AFB, La., Aug. 27, 2014. Air Force photo by SrA. Benjamin Gonsier.

​The 96th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale AFB, La., last week became the first operational B-52 squadron to train with the upgraded aircraft. The Military Standard 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade allows the B-52 to carry significantly more Joint Direct Attack Munitions, by rewiring the internal bomb bay and reconfiguring the external pylons. The B-52’s pylons have been able to work with digital systems on precisions weapons “for years,” but the bomb bay was analog, making it incapable of dropping guided weapons, a weapon systems officer with the 96th Bomb Squadron said. The upgrade extends the range of the aircraft and lowers fuel needs by reducing drag, and it gives the unit the option of cutting the number of aircraft required for a mission. The first increment of the upgrade allows the B-52 to carry up to eight J-series weapons, such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) and the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), internally and up to 16 laser-guided JDAMs externally. The next increment will allow the aircraft to carry eight JASSMs and a variety of miniature air-launched decoys internally, and increase the external capacity to up to 12 of the JASSM-Extended-Range variants. A test B-52 in April demonstrated the new conventional rotary launcher, just days after several Barksdale B-52s arrived at Al Udeid AB, Qatar.