B-52 STRATOFORTRESS Bomber

Since the Boeing YB-52 prototype made its first flight more than 50 years ago, on April 15, 1952, the Stratofortress has been the world's foremost heavy bomber. After decades of serving as the backbone of the manned-strategic bomber force for the United States, the B-52 has provided its unique capabilities to numerous military operations including Operation Desert Storm and, most recently, Operation Enduring Freedom.

Because the B-52 has been kept up to date with numerous improvements over the years, it is referred to as the bomber that is "not getting older, just getting better." The Air Force and Boeing have continually updated the B-52 with new avionics, data-link communications, defense systems and precision-guided weapons capabilities, and are jointly exploring re-engining the Stratofortress fleet with modern, fuel-efficient turbofan engines.

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Boeing has extended the structural life of the B-52 airframe to at least the year 2040 through a service-life extension program that has become an industry standard.

No bomber in U.S. military history has been called upon to remain operational for the length of time expected of the B-52.

The latest model, the B-52H, has almost the same external appearance of earlier models, however it is substantially different. Some of the major advancements include:

Increased range made possible with more powerful Pratt & Whitney TF-33 turbofan engines;

More refined electronic defensive and offensive systems; and

Extreme low-altitude capabilities.
The Stratofortress is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons, both conventional and nuclear, in the U.S. inventory. It can deliver approximately 70,000 pounds of mixed payload both internally and on external pylons.

Boeing built 744 B-52 bombers, including the XB-52 and YB-52 test models. The Boeing plant in Wichita produced 467 of that number, and Seattle employees built 277. Today, 94 B-52H models remain in Air Combat Command service and are based at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Minot AFB, N.D. One B-52H is used as a test aircraft at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.

Nov. 29, 2004, A Boeing [NYSE: BA] program to modernize the U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber is the latest Integrated Defense Systems program to meet the Company's key requirements for networked combat readiness.

Boeing defense programs are required to meet internal Company criteria ensuring the systems and platforms are delivered with the inherent ability to seamlessly share data and voice communications via mobile wireless networks. This capability ?known as interoperability ?is a key tenet of network centric operations, in which networked systems share information and are able to dynamically reallocate resources based upon operational needs.

The Boeing criteria for NCO readiness incorporate customer requirements while helping to ensure the interoperability of enduring Boeing platforms. Boeing Strategic Architecture, the organization that developed the collection of interoperability standards and interfaces known as the Strategic Architecture Reference Model, is responsible for setting the internal criteria and certifying each of the programs. Compatibility with the SARM is among Boeing's key internal NCO requirements and ensures Boeing-built systems remain compatible with standards recommended by the newly formed Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium, of which Boeing is a founding member.

揟his important milestone is also a solid indication of Boeing's commitment to provide our nation's warfighters with the networked tools and technologies they need to prevail in battle and return safely from the fight,?said Strategic Architecture Vice President Carl O'Berry. 揑t also demonstrates the adaptability of the reference model as an architecture approach enabling new systems, such as Future Combat Systems, and Joint Tactical Radio Systems as well as fielded systems, such as the B-52, to operate in a network centric environment.

T he B-52 Stratofortress has proven its flexibility over 40 years, from dropping bombs at 50,000 feet to providing close-air support. Through this upgrade, these planes will be able to share data seamlessly with the newest platforms that are now being built.

The B-52 Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) program is now in an initial phase at the Wichita Development and Modification Center . The program will improve the B-52's ability to share data with other military systems and platforms through enhanced communications, added tactical data links for increased situational awareness, and new technology to allow aircraft crews to dynamically retask missions and weapons during flight.

 

see the B-52 CONECT program as the enabler for Network-Centric operational capability on the B-52. CONECT will allow B-52 mission transformation through information integration, both on-board and off-board the aircraft, creating new warfighting roles not previously anticipated,?noted Scot Oathout, B-52 program manager for the IDS Aerospace Support business.

Boeing built a total of 744 B-52 aircraft. The first B-52 flew in 1954. The last one built, a B-52H, was delivered in October 1962. Today 94 of the H model planes remain in the Air Force inventory, assigned to the Air Combat Command and the Air Force Reserves.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is one of the world's largest space and defense businesses. Headquartered in St. Louis , Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is a $27 billion business. It provides network-centric system solutions to its global military, government, and commercial customers. It is a leading provider of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems ; the world's largest military aircraft manufacturer; the world's largest satellite manufacturer and a leading provider of space-based communications; the primary systems integrator for U.S. missile defense and Department of Homeland Security; NASA's largest contractor; and a global leader in launch services.

60th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

The US Air Force's Global Strike Command is planning on commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress on 15 April. The original event happened on 15 April, 1952, when the YB-52 prototype took to the air over Seattle, Washington.

061026-F-1234S-016.jpgThe YB-52 is actually the second Stratofortress built by Boeing. The XB-52, which was the first aircraft, was damaged during ground testing and first flew on 2 October, 1952.

Unlike the current B-52 flying today, the original two test planes had the crew sitting in tandem similar to the earlier B-47 aircraft.

Anyways, the B-52 has been in the USAF fleet for so long that there are quite literally generations who have flown the type. One such example is the 23rd Bomb Squadron's 1st Lt Daniel Welch, who is stationed at Minot AFB, North Dakota. His dad and grandfather both flew the eight-engine bomber.

There is a joke in the USAF that when any given newer type of bomber is retired to the "Boneyard", the last crew who drops off that aircraft to Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona will be picked up in a B-52. And there is more than a grain of truth to that...

The B-52 has outlived all of its would be replacements. Remember the B-58 Hustler Mach 2+ bomber? Gone. XB-70--it's in a museum in Ohio. FB-111? Those are rotting away in the desert somewhere. And probably so will the B-1 and B-2 when it comes to their turn... (Don't have a crystal ball, just willing to make that bet)

The USAF is working on a new stealth bomber under a new program called the Long Range Strike-Bomber as part of its classified budget. The service wants 80 to 100 of the aircraft to enter service in the mid-2020s and cost $550 million each. It will rely on "mature technologies" --even if it's supposed to be optionally manned--and the USAF will watch its appetite for added new capabilities, Air Force chief Gen. Norton Schwartz insists. But he's leaving in a couple of months- what then?

The USAF has a long track record of bungling acquisitions programs and overreaching on technical requirements--so the jury is still out on if this new LRS-B will ever see the light of day.

Given the ever aging and ever shrinking USAF bomber fleet, it had better work out better than the F-22 and F-35 programs, much less the ill-fated Navy A-12 program (which was also developed largely in the classified space).

B-52s have seen active duty over Vietnam, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. They delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces during operation Desert Storm, in 1991. According to the Air Force, B-52s can perform strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction and offensive counter-air and maritime operations, including ocean surveillance.

The B-52 also has been used to launch a variety of experimental aircraft from the 1960s to the present. And it does an impressive fly-over for sporting events and air shows.

Boeing plants in Seattle and Wichita, Kan., built 744 of the bombers, including 102 B-52H models. The Air Force still has 85 with the active force, plus nine with the Air Force Reserve.

The accomplishments that Global Strike Command plans to highlight, after first flight, include:

Operation Linebacker, from May 10 through Oct. 23, 1972 -- The first continuous bombing effort against North Vietnam after President Lyndon B. Johnson halted bombing in November 1968;
Operation Arc Light, on June 18, 1965 -- The first use of the B-52D as a conventional bomber from bases in the U.S. to Guam to support ground combat operations in Vietnam;
Aug. 2, 1994 -- The B-52's first around-the-world bombing mission;
Oct. 26, 1962 -- When strategic Air Command received the last B-52 from production line;
Operation Linebacker II, from Dec. 18 through 29, 1972 -- The largest heavy bomber strikes by the U.S. Air Force since the end of World War II.

The B-52 "will continue into the 21st century as an important element of our nation's defenses," according to the Air Force. "Current engineering analyses show the B-52's life span to extend beyond the year 2040."

Which is just as well, given that, as Flightglobal's Dave Majumdar put it: "The B-52 has outlived all of its would-be replacements."

 

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