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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. The first of 102 B-52H’s was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961.
The backbone of US strategic bomber force
For almost 70 years, B-52s have been the backbone of the strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 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. Updated with modern technology, the B-52 is 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 defenses. The Air Force currently expects to operate B-52s through 2050.
The B-52 payload: the BUFF can carry the entire weight of the EA-18G Growler…in bombs!
But what really makes the B-52 so devastating?
‘Could I interest you in a plane that can carry this:
‘The BUFF (Big Ugly Fat…Fella, let’s go with Fella) has a max payload capacity of 70,000 pounds. To put that into perspective, the max takeoff weight for my last aircraft, the EA-18G, is 66,000 pounds. The BUFF can carry the entire weight of the Growler…in bombs! Not only that, but with those 8 engines, it’s surprisingly fast at altitude. I did a strike with one with me as escort and I could barely keep up…I had to occasionally tap burner to catch up. Nothing quite like calling a plane a derogatory name and then watching as that plane begins to pull away from you in flight. Speak softly and carry a big stick indeed.
B-52 payload: CALCMs and Jamming Pods
‘Some people have been commenting on how the B-52 is a relic of the cold war, only really useful for attacking huge troop concentrations. While that is true to an extent, we just might have come up with a few more ways the BUFF can contribute to a fight, even a modern standoff one. CALCM, Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile, are exactly what they sound like. The B-52 can carry about 20 of these. How about a swarm of autonomous drones? They’ve also proposed to use it [by means of the Growler’s ALQ-249 jamming pod] in an Electronic Attack role for China threat.
‘In other words, the BUFF is the UPS truck of American aviation: not really all that pretty to look at but damn it can carry a lot of shit!’
‘So, from a Navy guy evaluating a USAF asset, that’s what I see as why the B-52 is so devastating.’
Photo credit: Cmdr. Pete Scheu / U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force