B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber
The initial YB-52 made its first flight over 50 years ago on April 15, 1952. Boeing eventually produced 744 B-52s of various models for the Air Force. The last B-52, an H-model, was delivered in 1962. The aircraft has been sustained through a myriad of structural upgrades and engine strengthenings. The aircraft is notable for a series of combat and non-combat achievements. A B-52 made the first airborne drop of the hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll on May 21 1956. On Jan. 18, 1957, three B-52B model aircraft completed the world’s first non-stop around-the-world flight by any jet aircraft, finishing a flight that lasted 45 hours and 19 minutes. The bombers made only three aerial refuelings during the trip. The B-52 is powered by eight Pratt & Whitney [UTX] TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines. The current version of the bomber, the B-52H, has an unrefueled range of 8,800 miles. The bomber can carry a crew of six and a multitude of weapons, including Boeing AGM-86C/D Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (CALCM) and Lockheed MartinÃs [LMT] AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM). It is also cleared to deliver nuclear weapons. The B-52 can fly at altitudes as high as 50,000 feet.
The B-52 began combat action in southeast Asia in June 1965 and proceeded through its life to serve in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and most recently during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The B-52H remains a major element in the American strike arsenal. Part of its ongoing strength can be tied to the sheer variety of weapons and systems the airframe can accommodate for combat operations. For example, during OIF B-52Hs were fitted to carry the LITENING II targeting and navigation pod built by Northrop Grumman [NOC] to deliver GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser guided bombs (LGB). Both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are cleared to produce the Paveway II LGB guidance kit. The B-52HÃs upcoming smart weapons integration next generation (SWING) upgrade will allow the bomber to carry the future 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb, the eventual Extended Range version of the JASSM, Lockheed MartinÃs Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser tail guidance kit for CBU-series dispensers and the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy being developed by Raytheon.