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 ...
A close friend of mine was a ‘52 pilot during Nam. When I came home from there, we ran into each other at a party. The first thing he asked after he learned where I’d been was what was it like to be on the ground when he and his fellow pilots were dropping all that metal? Enemy or not, I always pitied those poor suckers who caught the brunt of those massive loads. Yes, they surely could be felt and heard. Thankfully, my friend has long since made his peace with what his ordnance wrought.
Not too shabby for a cook. (:^)
Hear, hear! 100 percent agreement with you on this.
Mach number is complex, and the F-18s that were doing their fast fly over flower formation (or whatever they call it) had just broken at about angels 10 and met back up midfield going everywhichaway.
One broke off low. Over my house. And dear Lord, the vapor trail hit the ground. Broke the sound barrier (not his fault, he was trying to run right at the edge and the pressure changed). Dust drifted down from the ceiling, a glass of water on the table jumped.
But that keeps us free. I dislike those that bitch about the noise.
And I pray for the men that fly and fight.
Personally, I don't like walking around military aircraft. They are dangerous, just sitting there. ;)
He told me a story of his platoon going into a forward area that had been "Prepared" for the arrival of some bigwig (General or some politician) He said for 100's of yards in all directions all there was was churned up dirt. No vegetation at all just dirt. Which was astonishing cuz it was in the middle of Jungle/Forest He and his buddies first figured maybe SeaBees or some Armored Unit had flown in dozers and such using choppers. His Sgt. informed him it had been "Skyplowed" by BUFFs.
Back in the 70's I was the first FAA controller allowed to take a KC135/B-52 fam trip.
Day one was briefings, day two a 15 hour B-52 flight, day three a six hour flight to refuel Buffs.
The highlights were low level oil burner routes in the mountains near La Junta, CO and the landing back at Kincheloe with a 40 degree crosswind.
I got to do some pretty cool things while in FAA, and that is certainly near the top of the list.
(Couple of others were photographing flight ops from port catwalk on Forrestal, and front row seat for a B-747 crash.)
Thanks for the ping. See post 17 for a good explanation of why the H model has lasted so long.
Got that tee shirt only it was after some Arc Light runs. The smell of cordite and other “things” are unmistakable. Yes, lots of churned up dirt and trees. Urban and non-urban renewal at its quickest. Truly amazing to see.
There is a good and sane reason I do not fly in military aircraft. They scare me. I can support them or the men that fly them. But don't ask me to do a walk around or sit in one.
The article doesn't mention when they were upgraded from burning coal.
That was a "hot shot" pilot that was breaking rules on purpose practicing for an airshow. His wings stalled at around 45 degrees, then continued rotating nose down to impact.
The airplane is great, but not at aerobatics. The Vulcan, because of it's configuration, was much better at low speed airwork.
I know, but it amazed me that it was even possible (including the stuff he did that was recoverable before the fatal maneuver).
Damn! Now I feel old - Log-Log-Duplex-Decitrig! It's prolly around here someplace .......................................... FRegards
You create/buy cutting edge tech to own the air and supress surface to air and other anti-air assets.
Then you send the busses in at .98 mach to pulverize the ground. Add targetted long range munitions, and you don’t even need to fully own the air.
BFUBs suit the bill wonderfully. Still do, will until they literally start falling apart. And the replacement probably won’t do the job as well...
Back in the mid 60's I was a radar tech working on the AN/SPS-2 system on USS Northampton CC-1 out of Norfolk. The 'Deuce' was electronically identical to a DEW Line radar, with a 20'x40' diamond parabolic antenna, stabilized for pitch and roll and perched VERY high on the ship.
If we were far enough at sea and tilted the antenna down, we could paint the entire East coast. Very cool.
But the damned thing used a LOT of power, and every time the snipes dropped the load on generators, we blew a klystron...took about three days to repair. It was eventually declared 'unfit for sea duty' and removed.
Too funny!!! And I’m sure the smoke is from cooking and not the patrons’ weeds!!
A visitor last year picked it up and said: "This looks complicated, what is it for?"
I never answered. I just went to get another beer.
That's actually a calculation I've made several times. Including once in a military dining facility where there was a 'stuck' front door.
Took forever to get a real engineer to look at the numbers and the plain proof of a few millibars of vacuum compared to outside air pressure.
Simple changes in the make-up air vents, and all was good.
Cooks can do a lot.
Why were they called snipes? And what actually were they? Powerplant?
Always time for schooling for the ignorant.
The OTH was cool because it bounced off the ionosphere and “looked down” at the target, which is/was about the only way (other than pure dumb luck) to detect an incoming cruise missile (hence my previous “earthshaking” comment).
The last model, the H's aren't so smokey. Their engines are different than the other models (TF-33, verses J-57) but are still an old design, really just a modified version of the older J-57 with a fan stage or two. The newer engines, or a very similar commercial model, are so old that they've long since left most commercial service, and many reserve KC-135s, which originally also had J-57s, have been re-engined with the commercial variant, taken off old airliners. That wing flapping causes lots of fatigue problems in the fuselage. A BUFF on the ground looks all wrinkled, like the old gal she is.
They still sound like a B-52 after all these years.
The crew on the Buff was VERY experienced, but the 135 had a young guy. It was a hot mid-day departure scheduled, we got to ops & he ran the numbers, said "holy shit", and called the command post and said we were too heavy to get off the ground and needed to offload some fuel. Command post said we could make it, so he had us hurry out and start engines to burn fuel before takeoff. Ran thru checklists several times, admitted he was looking for something wrong...eventually decided the wing trim tab actuators were working slow, so shut 'em down & get maintenance out (hoping the delay would allow the afternoon to cool down providing more thrust).
Well, the wing panels are off, guys swarming it, & I'm standing on the ramp in a jump suit with no rank on it, picking my nose and watching aF-117 takeoff, when a bird Col comes up, stares me in the eye and says "What's your rank mister?". I calmly looked him in the eye and said GS-14....what's yours?
He was taken aback for a moment, then said "Oh--you're the FAA guy". I admitted I were, he invited me in the command post to cool down, have a drink and wait for repairs.
When we finally took off I was really glad the pilot was a chicken, cuz I got a REAL good look at the over-run area....counting rosary beads.
Snipes are the Navy engineering ratings....Boilermakers, Electricians, etc.
And never call a Captain a Colonel... Ouch.
I finally figured it out after having it 'splained.
If I had grown up with it? I'd be fine.
But after the rivalry of the '80s, to get thrust back into a Joint Everything after 9/11. Learning quickly was the only good option.
I actually studied on the other services.
Wrong Wrong Wrong. That beautiful beast is a bomb truck for convential arms. It can drop GPS guided bombs from great altitude. The GPS guided bombs will hit the intended target and the bad guy dies that day.
The B52 can also carry nuclear armed cruise missiles. The B52 can launch these missile hundreds of miles from the target. Those B52s will survive their mission, the target will not survive. The target will be a smoking cinder from a 250 kiloton fission fusion fission that the B52 delivered from a stand off distance.
High tech is great, but what is even better is low tech delivering the bang for a much lower price.m
First Vulcan I saw was at Lincoln AFB.. or more properly it was doing an air show there, but I saw it over my house. I was 10 or younger, didn’t know what it was and didn’t recognize the British roundel. Of course it’s a very unconventional looking thing, especially for circa 1960.
Scared me for a while until I figured out the roundel.
I think I was there, Carswell, for that ‘83 airshow. I was a reservist then, attached for “inactive duty” training to a reserve Intell training detachment. Was actually assigned as IMA at Foreign Technology Division at Wright Patterson. We used the SAC bomb wing’s Intell/Ops shop, along with some facilities of the reserve F-16 Wing. We also did miscellaneous work for both, mostly for the Bomb Wing.
Did you know there is a town in the old Soviet Union, now Uzbekistan, called Nukus. :) But AFAIK, we didn’t plan to.
Never, ever felt anxiety.
Just immense pride and the B-52 was a VERY big symbol of that.
Fly on, BUFF.
There are already cases of pilots flying the same aircraft, by tail number than their grandfather had flown. :) But not really the same airplane. New avionics a couple of times, not counting all the different EW fits. They've removed the tail gun. (Only took 20-30 years or so, but they just about had it approved, when some sergeant shot down a MiG over North Vietnam. :) But it made me sick to see a BUFF in a maintenance hanger at Tinker about 10 years ago, with no tail gun, just a rather ugly fairing. They haven't scrapped the guns, nor done anything to preclude remounting them, AFAIK.
I went through Engineering college using them.
But I like my computer, thank you very much. I've even simulated a BUFF on one. A somewhat crude 2 dimensional model. Sufficient for demonstrating you fly with an automatic terrain following system.
They should have the same components, but I can hear the fan, which the H models have and none of the others did. Of course the most distinctive fan sound is that of the C-5. But they are re-engining those,at least the B and C models, so they may sound different soon. Or not. The ones from the Reserve unit at Lackland still sound the same to me. I can tell when one is in the pattern at Ft. Hood, from inside my house.
Yes, I remember those flights. (We lived on a ranger station in SE Montana.) You could feel the vibrations as it approached, and then it would appear over the crest of the hill flying so low you could almost touch it, disappearing almost immediately over the next mountain. Very impressive flying.
Great post! Every word rings true.
Great pic! many thanks..
An elderly gentleman in his 80's) in my new parish is retired USAF..he was a navigator on 52s..I'm just getting to know him..will have to get him reminiscing....
could dig some shock-and-awe.
Thank you for mentioning post 17. I had not noticed it when I saw the article. I’ll tuck the info away for future reference.
Thanks for mentioning the OREs. I’d forgotten about seeing them, and fortunately, I saw several of them take place. They were truly mesmerizing every time I watched them. I took pictures of a number of them but, alas, that camera was stolen with the film inside.
Quick sidebar. While coming home from a Browns game a few years ago on the Shoreway the same time as the Airshow was in progress I looked out the window and directly in front of me was a F-117 making an approach to Burke Airport at what seemed to be a hundred feet off the deck. It was almost totally noiseless, until it went past.
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