Aviation History

B-52 maintainer explains how heavy maintenance is helping the iconic BUFF to stay in service forever

‘We do heavy maintenance to the B-52. I mean heavy,’ Darren Dennis, Aerospace Propulsion Apprentice at US Air Force.

Since it entered service, the B-52 Stratofortress has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the US. The BUFF (Big Ugly Fat F****r as the B-52 is dubbed by its aircrews) is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the US inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs).

Actually, the US Air Force (USAF) has decided that the B-52 will remain in service until at least 2040, by which time the service plans to have retired all B-1B and B-2 bombers. For this reason, in 2018 a proposal was undertaken to re-engine the fleet of 76 B-52H aircraft fleet to fly alongside the next-generation Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider. This effort is known as the Commercial Engine Replacement Program (CERP) with the idea of outfitting the legendary aircraft with commercial off-the-shelf, in-production business jet engines.

A weapons load crew from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron transport a GBU-10 munition to be loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress during Combat Hammer at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Mar. 10, 2021. Top image: An Air Force crew chief helps prepare a B-52H Stratofortress for takeoff during training operations at Royal Australian Air Force Base, Darwin, Australia, Apr. 3, 2018.

But how was the iconic BUFF able to remain in service for so long?

‘We do heavy maintenance to the B-52. I mean heavy,’ says Darren Dennis, Aerospace Propulsion Apprentice at US Air Force, on Quora.

‘I work on the engines of the B-52 and I can tell you that anything that even looks broken, from everything from clamps to major components gets replaced or repaired by the good ole maintenance folk.

‘Not to mention the Air Force has a very strict guideline of how our parts and components are maintained and kept serviceable.

‘Think about it this way. Imagine you buy a car and as the years wear on it, eventually you can’t drive it anymore because the parts are too worn out. Even if you change the fluids and do every simple maintenance thing you could to it.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-52H Stratofortress 2nd BW, 20th BS, LA/60-0008 “Lucky Lady IV”. Barksdale AFB, LA

‘Now imagine if every 1,000 miles on your car, mechanics are going in and changing out everything from your tires, wiring, body paneling, AC, fluids, lights, car seats. Essentially your car will last forever.

‘Same concept with the B-52. Also, it’s just a reliable aircraft.’

Dennis concludes;

‘The Air Force isn’t getting rid of them any time soon cause there isn’t anything good enough to replace it yet. Much like the A-10 Warthog.’

One day a new aircraft will be designed to replace this legendary machine and maintainers’ efforts may be the best hope to keep the iconic BUFF flying for at least another quarter century proving that old soldiers never die, they simply fade away.

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel and Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman / U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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