Command's B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of
missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes
up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided
conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
In a conventional
conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, air interdiction, offensive
counter-air and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40
percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective
when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and
mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square
miles (364,000 square kilometres) of ocean surface.
All B-52s are
equipped with an electro-optical viewing system that uses platinum silicide
forward-looking infrared and high resolution low-light-level television sensors
to augment targeting, battle assessment, and flight safety, thus further
improving its combat ability and low-level flight capability.
Pilots wear night
vision goggles (NVGs) to enhance their vision during night operations. Night
vision goggles provide greater safety during night operations by increasing the
pilot's ability to visually clear terrain, avoid enemy radar and see other
aircraft in a covert/lights-out environment.
Starting in 1989,
on-going modifications incorporates the global positioning system, heavy stores
adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound munitions, and a full array of advance
weapons currently under development.
The use of aerial refuelling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance. It has an
un-refuelled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles (14,080 kilometres).
flexibility was evident in Operation Desert Storm and again during Operations
Allied Force. B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations
and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Gulf War
involved the longest strike mission in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s
took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., launched conventional air launched
cruise missiles and returned to Barksdale -- a 35-hour, non-stop combat mission.
During Operation Allied Force, B-52s opened the conflict with conventional
cruise missile attacks and then transitioned to delivering general purpose bombs
and cluster bomb units on Serbian army positions and staging areas.
For more than 40
years B-52 Stratofortresses have been the backbone of the manned strategic
bomber force for the United States. The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching
the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. This includes gravity bombs,
cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.
Updated with modern technology the B-52 will be capable of delivering the full
complement of joint developed weapons and will continue into the 21st century as
an important element of our nation's defences. Current engineering analyses show
the B-52's life span to extend beyond the year 2045.
The B-52A first
flew in 1954, and the B model entered service in 1955. A total of 744 B-52s were
built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H model is
still in the Air Force inventory and is assigned to Air Combat Command and the
Air Force Reserves.
The first of 102
B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can
carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the
conventional cruise missile that was launched in several contingencies during
the 1990s, starting with Operation Desert Storm and culminating with Operation
Function: Heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
Thrust: Each engine up to 17,000 pounds
Length: 159 feet, 4 inches (48.5 meters)
Height: 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters)
Wingspan: 185 feet (56.4 meters)
Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.86)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters)
Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds empty (83,250 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 488,000 pounds (219,600 kilograms)
Range: Un-refuelled 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance
-- bombs, mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles,
Harpoon anti-ship and Have Nap missiles.)
Crew: Five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and
electronic warfare officer)
Accommodations: Six ejection seats
Unit Cost: $53.4 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Date Deployed: February 1955