Skip to comments.Sixty years on, the B-52 is still going strong
Posted on 04/15/2012 6:32:45 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer
Along with the ICBM, it was one of the defining pieces of military technology during the Cold War: the B-52 bomber.
Those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s knew the B-52 Stratofortress as a central figure in the anxiety that flowed from the protracted staring match between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. On the one hand, it was reassuring to know that the Strategic Air Command was ready at a moment's notice to scramble its B-52s to counter any potential nuclear attack. On the other hand, if the bombers were flying that mission, well, things might well have ended badly for everyone.
But while the nuclear-tinged Cold War has come and, thankfully, gone, the B-52 is still going strong. And this after a half-century of service.
It was 60 years ago today, on April 15, 1952, that a B-52 prototype built by Boeing took off on its maiden flight. The 1950s-vintage B-52s are no longer in the U.S. Air Force inventory, but the 90 or so that remain on active duty (a total of 744 were built, counting all models) aren't that much younger. They're all the H model of the B-52, delivered between May 1961 and October 1962. That means the youngest is on the cusp of its 50th birthday.
That feat of longevity reflects both regular maintenance and timely upgrades -- in the late 1980s, for instance, GPS capabilities were incorporated into the navigation system.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.cnet.com ...
Good ol’ American know how!
Always loved watching them take off from Carswell AFB in Ft Worth. Two B-52s, followed by a KC-135. Their saggy wings would gradually lift as they reached take off speed. Hard to see much after that, though. Buffers were pretty smoky.
I’m sure she was a fine bird in her time, but I’m also pretty sure she should have been retired L-O-N-G ago.
>>Along with the ICBM, it was one of the defining pieces of military technology during the Cold War: the B-52 bomber.
Hey, what about the SSBN, which is the only leg of the strategic deterrent triad still viable?!?
41 for Freedom!
Like the battleship, the B52 represents the apex of evolution of a system. It would take a saltatory leap to render it obsolete. The B1 and B2 are out there, but when we needed a craft to loiter around the Afghan plain, only one airplane filled the bill.
Born and grew up here, and now I'm back. Saw/heard Hustlers crack a bedroom window going supersonic.
Saw the MITO take-offs. One BUFF after another, water injection on, roaring. I was probably 6, standing in my back yard, fingers in my ears, spring in the air, and feeling my chest cavity viberate from the sound.
And they were smokey, back in the day.
I did wind up in the AF eventually. TAC, not SAC, first time around.
God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.
God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.
bump johnny #9.
There’s something else about the Buff, as evidenced from EGPWS’ pic above:
The B-52 isn’t subtle. There’s no stealth. There’s no “environmental impact assessment.” From the moment the throttles go forward, the outward message of a B-52 rolling off the runway is:
“We are coming to kill you. We don’t care who knows. We’re not going to be crafty, stealthy, quiet or nuanced. When the bomb bay doors open, you will see a seemingly limitless succession of bombs drop out of this beast upon your head. Enjoy your last moments.”
Look back at what happened when Nixon finally bombed North Vietnam with B-52’s instead of attack or fighter aircraft. The Commies came back to the table right damn quick...
If we practiced a foreign policy of “speak softly and carry a big stick,” the B-52 is the biggest, ugliest piece of wood one could carry around.
That's not possible, according to the bean-counters.
I once worked out an engineering solution on a quadrille pad with a pencil at a meeting, and it included some greek characters! Oh, my! Basic algebra. No integration or anything.
I presented the solution and got told by the bean counters that I would have to explain some of it, and they wouldn't sign off until they understood it.
3 weeks later....it was the same answer down to 4 decimal places.
Likewise and more. The Buffs used to fly almost directly overhead on their landing pattern for Carswell. I lived just west (1/4 mile or so)of the primary runway and just north of the West Freeway. I could almost count rivets as they flew overhead. Always a treat to see them as well as comforting to know they were always on the job.
Slide Rules Rule!
Most amazing thing I ever saw there was a British Vulcan bomber in the ‘83 airshow. It performed maneuvers I never believed possible in an aircraft of its class.
Whoof! Take your breath away. There is a high hill north of NAS/JRB (KNFW) and one airshow, a BUFF rolled through about 100 ft above the hill (and my head) at about .6 mach. Airspace was closed so the speed limit was moot.
I opened my mouth and screamed to try to equalize pressures. I also went home and changed pants. Some frequencies cause involuntary defecation.
Having a B-52 that you never heard show up over your left shoulder moving at 300+ ground speed at 100 ft. doesn't help.
I cleared the hill, and the only bomb dropped was in my shorts.
I lived and worked around Elsworth AFB in South Dakota. We used to watch the Buffs pilots practicing landing and takeoffs. The noise of the motors on the takeoffs were tremendous. We were twenty miles away and the roar was so very loud even at that distance. Then the big plane would circle around to land and pass right over our heads
I hear them, and I know them. And Icget a warm fuzzy.
I always go out and watch them and listen to them on the VHF. They still fly around here sometimes. Makes me feel like a kid.
Makes plenty of sense. They shoulda bought more wings.
Fifteen miles down the Atlanta highway.....
One of the most amazing things about the BUFF ( and I wish I had the expertise to explain it correctly is, I believe it’s called “crabbing”.. its alibilty to land with the wheels parallel to the runway centerline, whereas the plane is as much as 45 degress offset....everytime I see a clip of this, it blows my mind..
The accurate response is some of the B-1Bs were on nuke alert. However, the majority of the fleet was grounded on 20 December 1990 due to disc problems in the F101 and malfunctions of the DAS. Incorporation of and qualification for dropping conventional ordnance had not yet occurred either.
The B-52 has non-standard landing gear with 2 sets of bogies fore and aft, and outrigger retractable wheels in the wing tips.
The main bogies can indeed be steered so that the aircraft can crab into a cross-wind, and yet land with the bogies rolling straight and true.
Which is important, because the sidewall pressure on a crosswind landing is harsh.
That was classified for a LONG time.
Many thanks for the info..I’ll try to find some vids and post the links..
Can you imagine the day when it is still flying and there isn't anyone who was alive on the day they first took flight?
Same story for me, except with B-36s.
I grew up in SE Montana in late 70s / early 80s and once while hiking in the hills outside of town I looked down at a B52 flying radar evasion missions.
A BUFF can do stuff you'd never believe for the type as well. I saw a movie of a guy doing some amazing aerobatics in one at very low airspeed just barely off the ground, till he rolled it too far over and went in. He was rolled like 90 degrees when he did.
I've a friend who was in Nam. He told stories about how he would wake up sometimes because he could feel the ground shake from carpet bombing by what he called Beefers. He said it was strange because sometimes you would feel it before you hear it and sometimes you wouldn't hear it at all but definitely feel it.
I was very, very young when they were flying and was more interested in mammary glands (as a food source) than aircraft.
I do remember they were loud, also.
Actually, my day is certainly coming. And my credentials as a 'Cold Warrior' are quite respectable. However, there is no denying that some of these older technologies are antique.
You guys remind me of the way I used to feel about the retirement of the Dew Line up in northern Canada. But, one day I realized that satellite coverage had simply rendered the Dew Line obsolete.
Maybe there still is a role for the old girl, but it's just as likely that the reason she's being kept alive is the same reason that other worthy defense systems are being scuttled ... P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S.
I do, however, miss my OTH radar on the east and west coasts of the US, which may someday prove to be a mistake with earthshaking consequences. :(
I saw that video. There is that instant when you start to yell “more thrust, more thrust” and then you see it’s hopeless, he missed his chance, gravity wins. Very sad.
Yup, on both counts.
It can run at .98 Mach number. With a big load of bombs, and monster amount of fuel.
We've changed tactics so we own the air now, not like in Viet Nam (Damn McNamara and Johnson) before they go in.
It works. Ain't broke, nothing cheaper is better in all the roles.... Keep it, in my book.
And my days of studying war are long gone. I was a frigging cook in my last enlistment because of my hearing.
So that's what a cook thinks about the B-52.
That redhead has got some big....hair.
I knew somebody would post a good pic of 8 engines a-burning!
Bears repeating. BTW, did you realize that unless "Barack Obama" means "statist Marxist putz" in Kenyan, Johnson was the most accurately named President?
I visited a childhood friend after he enlisted in the Air Force. As A kid he was always fascinated by my bedroom ceiling because it was festooned with model airplanes. I got real sick when I was young with scarlet fever and then soon after chicken pocks and then some nasty coughing sickness. My mom to keep me entertained and quiet would sit at a table near my bed and build all these wonderful model airplanes. One of favs was the gigantic B52. I like it so much I would get mom to take it down just so I could hold it (took both hands)
My air force fried remembered my love of the BUFF and when I visited took me to where I could observe a B52 starting up and then taking off. I asked why we were so far away And can't we get closer. (IIRC about 60 yards or so) He informed me weren't allowed to get closer and besides YOU DON"T WANT TO BE CLOSER. In a few minutes I understood why.
I've seen and heard some awe inspiring Loud events Rock Concerts, a Live Fire Exercise at a tank training area. Even got to see a live fire exercise of a destroyer and a ship defense system called the R2D2. And then there is the memorable Goal Line stand in Cleveland Stadium when the Browns held the Bengals on four consecutive downs. (I could have fired a 12 gauge right next to my wife's ear and she would never have heard it because of the crowd noise. It was feral in nature, the combined voices of 80,000 people in a rage.) BUT nothing comes close to that sound I FELT from the B52 when it got to full on startup of all those engines and then taxied out and hit the thrust!
Its one of those things you can't explain. You just have to experience it and when you tell another who has also went through it they nod knowingly.