The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range jet strategic bomber flown by the United States Air Force (USAF) since 1954. It replaced the Convair B-36 and the Boeing B-47. Although built for the role of Cold War-era nuclear deterrent, its conventional capabilities now take priority. The aircraft has the longest range of any bomber and carries a heavy strategic or tactical weapons load. Its economy in operation and high subsonic performance compared to the rest of the USAF strategic bomber fleet has enabled it to continue to serve rather than be replaced by the Mach 3 XB-70 Valkyrie, B-1B Lancer and stealth B-2 Spirit. In January 2005, it was the second aircraft after the English Electric Canberra to mark 50 years of continuous use with its original primary customer.
The USAF Strategic Air Command had B-52 Stratofortresses in service from 1955 through 1991, when the aircraft were assigned to the Air Combat Command.
Air Combat Command's B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. It is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15 km) and can carry a variety of weapons, including nuclear or conventional precision-guided munition. It was designed to carry just two enormous thermonuclear weapons to any point in the USSR.
The YB-52 prototype. The bubble canopy is similar to that on the B-47
A B-52H Stratofortress from the 5 Bomb Wing deploying its drag chute for landing
For more than 50 years, the B-52 Stratofortress has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 was the first jet bomber with 6000 mile range and payload sufficient to replace the B-36 Peacemaker piston/jet bomber which was vulnerable to jet interceptors. The last H model with turbofan engines are capable of 12,000 mile range, though the B-1 and B-2 were also designed to the same 6000 mile range capability of the original B-36. The Soviet Union never produced a comparable jet bomber, but developed the Tupolev Tu-95 'Bear' - a 4-engine contrarotating turboprop bomber with similar range and speed. The B-52 was based on technology pioneered in the B-47 Stratojet medium bomber. It had swept wings and podded engines mounted under a high flexible wing, and bicycle landing gear.
Unlike the World War II strategic bombers which were its spiritual precursors, the B-52s dispensed with most anti-fighter armament retaining only tail guns initially, and eventually dropping them totally from the weapons load. The B-52A through F carried a tail-mounted armament of four .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns with the gunner sitting in the tail which would prove effective against MiGs in Vietnam. The B-52G moved the gunner up front and controlled the guns by remote. The B-52H used the single 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan used by many USAF fighters. By the mid-1990s, the tail gun was removed from all of the B-52H aircraft to reduce weight and because a gun is ineffective against fighter aircraft launching guided missiles.
The B-52 is capable of deploying a wide array of weapons in the U.S. inventory, including "dumb" free-fall gravity bombs, cluster bombs (CBUs), and precision guided ordnance such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). In the early 1960s, they carried the jet powered Mach 2 AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missile which could be used to help on takeoff. The aborted Skybolt project would have launched ballistic missiles from the bomber, but was canceled due to technical problems. The ADM-20 Quail decoy was meant to mimic the B-52's radar image. Its diminutive engine would be the basis for the F-5 Freedom Fighter. The AGM-69 Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) was also introduced in the late 1960s. Launched from the rotary launchers and underwing pylons, it was a rocket powered stand-off attack missile. It has since been retired for safety reasons. The Quail's replacement would be the subsonic AGM-86 cruise missile, sized to fit the same launchers as the SRAM. B-52s could perform a "stand-off" role of launching cruise missiles at their targets while the bombers could safely avoid Soviet defenses. These pilotless AGM-86s would have flown to their own targets at treetop level and high subsonic speeds. The Soviet Union's attempts to defend against cruise missiles were extremely expensive and helped bring about that government's demise. The Carter administration chose to justify canceling the expensive B-1 replacement bomber program because of the cruise missile, though it would later be revived by the Reagan Administration. When updated with the latest technology, the B-52 will be capable of delivering the full complement of joint developed weapons; allowing it to continue well into the 21st century as an important element of U.S. military capabilities.
Two prototypes were built, designated XB-52 and YB-52. They were almost identical, but the YB-52 incorporated enough changes to warrant a different designation. The most notable difference between the prototypes and the B-52A was that the X and Y aircraft used a tandem cockpit for the pilot and co-pilot, very similar to that of the B-47. The cockpit for the B-52A was completely redesigned at the insistence of General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the Strategic Air Command, who was opposed to the tandem seating arrangement. Two crew members are housed on a lower deck with downward firing ejection seats. Although the XB-52 was the first prototype to be completed and rolled out, the YB-52 was the first to fly—on April 15, 1952—due to damage on the XB-52's wing trailing edges caused by a hydraulic system failure. The XB-52 eventually flew for the first time on October 2, 1952. Both aircraft were scrapped in the mid-1960s, though the YB-52 was available for viewing in the USAF Museum from the late '50s. The B-52 far outperformed the Convair YB-60, which was a backup plan to put swept wings and jet engines on a B-36 airframe.
The B-52A first flew in August 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 the Air Combat Command and the Air Force Reserves.
The oldest B-52 still flying had been a B-52B, tail number 52-0008, that was built in 1955, though it also has the fewest flight hours of any surviving B-52. Nicknamed "Balls 8", it was operated by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and was famous for dropping such aerospace research vehicles as the X-15, X-24, HiMAT, lifting body vehicles, X-43, and others. It was the last B-52 in service of any type other than the H model. It had the lowest total air time of any operational B-52, and was the oldest active B-52 at the time, having first flown on June 11, 1955, and entering service with NASA in 1959. On July 30, 2001, Dryden received a B-52H to replace the older B-model, which was retired on December 17, 2004. Balls 8 will be preserved at Edwards' base museum.
The threat of B-52 attacks partially motivated the Soviet Union to back down from its plan to deploy nuclear-armed missiles (MRBMs) to Cuba in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
For carpet bombing duty in Vietnam, the B-52D received the "Big Belly" modification which squeezed 84 500-pound conventional bombs or 42 750-pound bombs into the bomb bay, as well as 24 750-pound bombs on each of the underwing pylons. Undersides were painted black to counter searchlights. B-52 raids which saturated large areas with heavy explosives had devastating effects on troop concentrations over South Vietnam. They were also used against strategic targets in the north, but were vulnerable to MiGs and SAMs.
The G- and H-models have a shorter (by eight feet) vertical tailplane. This configuration had previously been tested on a B-52A. The B-52H uses TF33-3 turbofan engines, which are visually different because of the fan section exhaust sections. They provide 20% greater range, 70% more thrust and are considerably quieter than the J57 engine which had been used on all previous variants. Turbofan engines use less fuel because the fans move unburned air as well as heated exhaust gases. The first of 102 of the B-52H model was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was used in several missions during the 1990s, starting with Operation Desert Storm and culminating with Operation Allied Force in the spring of 1999.
A portion of the B-52 force was kept fueled, crewed, and loaded with nuclear weapons for take off on a few minutes' notice. The plan was to remove the aircraft from their bases, which would have been destroyed by incoming enemy missile warheads.
B-52 Airborne Nuclear Alert route
B-52s also performed airborne alert duty under the code-name "Chrome Dome" where bombers loitered near points outside of the Soviet Union. During this program a fatal collision occurred between a B-52 and a KC-135 over Palomares, Spain in 1966. Four megaton-range nuclear bombs were lost (all four were later recovered). Two of the four bombs had a minor detonation, as the warheads' conventional explosives were set off, with serious dispersion of both plutonium and uranium material. The main fuse safety withstood the violent impact and explosion, preventing a nuclear disaster.
After this crash thousands of tons of contaminated soil were sent to the US. The USAF decided this was too expensive to risk again and ended the airborne alert program. In 2006 an agreement to investigate and clean the pollution after the accident was made between the U.S. and Spain.
The 1973 Arab attack on Israel, and the subsequent threat of a Soviet invasion of Israel, brought the B-52s to their highest state of ground alert (see below).
In 1991 President George H.W. Bush ended an era when he took the B-52s off "alert" duty.
B-52s were used extensively in the Vietnam War (see Operation Arc Light) against the North Vietnamese Army. B-52s dropped bombs on suspected enemy arms caches and hideouts and were thought to have inflicted huge losses - but hard data pertaining to the results of many bombing missions with "dumb" bombs are scarce. The use of such unguided munitions has been phased out as it required very large expenditure of munitions and accuracy was questionable. In modern times, B-52s more commonly carry smart bombs such as the JDAM. in Vietnam war, a total of 25 B-52s were lost to soviet anti-aircraft missiles.
In the Battle of Khe Sanh, North Vietnam's plan to turn the Marine stronghold into another Dien Bien Phu was allegedly thwarted by round-the-clock B-52 strikes.
The zenith of B-52 attacks in Vietnam was Operation Linebacker II, which consisted of waves of B-52s (mostly D models, but some G's without their jamming equipment and with a smaller bomb load) bombing Hanoi. This was called "The Eleven-Day War". The objective was to force North Vietnam back to the Paris Peace Talks, which up to that point they had refused to do. In Linebacker II, fifteen B-52s were shot down, and in all, 25 were destroyed in combat during the war.
B-52D tail gunners were credited with shooting down two MiG-21 'Fishbeds'; one on December 18, 1972, by SSgt Samuel O. Turner, and one on December 24, 1972, by A1C Albert E. Moore. Turner was awarded a Silver Star for his actions.
The Yom Kippur War in October 1973 saw the Soviet Union threaten to intervene on behalf of Egypt and Syria. To stop the Soviets, President Richard M. Nixon called on the military to raise its alert level to DEFCON 3. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird ordered the B-52s to an immediate war footing. Fully armed and fueled B-52s were circling Greenland, round trips, round trip from USA to Europe, Northern Europe daily for years. The Soviet Union did not become directly involved in the war.
In 1982, the last B-52Ds were retired. The remaining G and H models were used for nuclear standby ("alert") duty (see above) as part of the United States' nuclear triad. This triad was the combination of nuclear-armed land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles and manned bombers. The B-1B Lancer, rather than completely replacing the B-52, replaced only the older models and the supersonic FB-111. The B-2 Spirit also accelerated the retirement of the B-52G models but did not lead to the B-52's total retirement either. In the 1960s, the Mach 3 B-70 was cancelled as more emphasis was placed on ICBMs, and the B-52 was given a conventional bombing mission.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the B-52Gs were destroyed as per the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Today only the H models remain in service.
High-altitude carpet-bombing by B-52s was an important part of the air war during Operation Desert Storm during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Since the Coalition forces had complete air superiority and were able to suppress any air defense systems capable of reaching the high-altitude bombers, they could be employed with impunity. Though less destructive than more advanced weapons such as cluster-bombs or precision guided projectiles, the conventional strikes were used because they were economical, and it was hoped that by demoralizing the defending Iraqi troops, they could be induced to surrender rather than be destroyed.
The B-52 also contributed to the U.S. success in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, providing the ability to loiter high above the battlefield and provide Close Air Support (CAS) through the use of precision guided munitions, a mission that had been restricted to fighter and ground attack aircraft. B-52's also played a key role in the second Gulf War in 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom), where they provided close air support and bombing.
The Air Force intends to keep the B-52 in service until around 2050, an unprecedented length of service for a combat aircraft model (the venerable DC-3, now 70 years old, is still in regular revenue service in civilian hands). This is especially remarkable considering that the last B-52 was built in 1962; the Air Force fully expects to be flying 90-year-old airframes. It is entirely possible that the B-52 may outlive both its replacements, the B-1 and B-2. Periodically, B-52s are rebuilt at the USAF's maintenance depots such as Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Therefore, despite their chronological age, their actual service age is quite young.Boeing has suggested re-engining of the B-52H fleet with the Rolls-Royce RB211 534E-4. This would involve replacing the eight Pratt & Whitney TF33s (total thrust 8 x 17,000 lb or 30.574 kN) with four RB211s (total thrust 4 x 37,400 lb or 33.191 kN). The RR engines will increase the range/payload of the fleet and reduce fuel consumption. However, the cost of the project would be significant. Procurement would cost approximately $2.56 billion ($36 million × 71 aircraft). A General Accounting Office study of the proposal concluded that Boeing's estimated savings of $4.7 billion would not be realized. They found that it would cost the Air Force $1.3 billion over keeping the existing engines.
The USAF continues to employ the B-52 because it remains an effective economical heavy bomber, particularly for the type of conflicts conducted since the end of the Cold War against nations with limited anti-air capabilities. The stealth and speed of the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have only been useful until enemy air defenses were destroyed, a task that has been swiftly achieved in recent conflicts. The B-52 boasts the highest mission-capable rate of the three types of heavy bombers operated by the USAF. Whereas the B-1 averages a 57% ready rate and the B-2 achieved a 26% in 1997, the B-52 averages 80%.
A B-52H after refueling over Afghanistan
Boeing B-52H taking off
The same aircraft shortly after takeoff
A B-52H over the ocean
In a conventional conflict the B-52 can perform strategic attack, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. During Operation Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40% of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces.
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. This improves its combat ability and low-level flight capability.
Pilots wear night vision goggles (NVGs) to enhance their vision during night operations. These goggles provide greater safety during night operations by increasing the pilots' ability to avoid terrain and enemy radar and to see other aircraft in a covert/lights-out environment.
In addition to its twin-tandem main wheels, B-52s have two small retractable "boogie wheels" near the outboard ends of the wings which are used during takeoff and when the aircraft is being taxied or is parked. These prevent the wing tips, which droop when the wing fuel tanks are filled, from brushing the ground.
Starting in 1989, ongoing modifications incorporate the Global Positioning System, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound (900 kg) munitions, and a full array of advanced weapons currently under development.
The B-52 has an unrefuelled combat range in excess of 8,800 statute miles (14,000 km). The use of aerial refuelling from KC-135 or KC-10 tankers gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance, or in the extreme, required maintenance. B-52s launching cruise missiles at Iraq flew from and returned to bases in the US.
The B-52 has an air-refueling receptacle above the cockpit hidden behind slip-way doors. Fuel can be transferred to the B-52 at a maximum rate of 6400 pounds (1000 gallons) per minute.
The crosswind crab system of a B-52 provides a means of turning all four main gear to align with the runway while the aircraft is flown in a wings-level attitude compensating for drift. This system uses the steering actuators on the front main gear and a similar set on the rear main gear. The landing gear can be preset and turned up to 20° left or right of center during the approach. The maximum of 20° crab will accommodate landings in crosswinds up to and including 43 knots blowing 90° to the runway at a landing weight of 270,000 pounds.
The aircraft is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. In two hours, two B-52s can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 km²) of ocean surface. This area is about as large as a circle centered at New York City and covered as far as Washington, DC, Syracuse and Boston (radius, equaling 212 statute miles or 340 km).
The aircraft's flexibility was evident in Operation Desert Storm and again during Operation Allied Force. B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and ruined the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Persian Gulf War involved the longest strike mission in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, 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.
In September 2006, the B-52 became one of the first US military aircraft to fly using 'alternative' fuel. Syntroleum, a leader in Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology, announced that its ultra-clean jet fuel had been successfully tested in a B-52. It took off from Edwards Air Force Base with a 50/50 blend of FT and traditional JP-8 jet fuel which was burned in two of the eight engines on the plane. This marked the first time that FT jet fuel has been tested in a military flight demo, and is the first of several planned test flights.
On December 15, 2006, tail number 61-0034, Wise Guy took off from Edwards with the synthetic fuel blend powering all eight engines, the first time an Air Force aircraft has been completely powered by the mixture. The test flight was captained by Major General Curtis Bedke, commander of the Edwards Flight Test Center, the first time in 36 years that the installation's commander has performed a first-flight in a flight test program. The flight lasted seven hours, reached an altitude of 48,000 feet, and was considered a success.
This program is part of the DOD's Assured Fuel Initiative, an effort to develop secure domestic sources for the military's energy needs. The Pentagon hopes to reduce its use of crude oil and foreign producers and obtain about half of its aviation fuel from alternative sources by 2016.
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Speed: 650 mph, 1000 km/h (Mach 0.86)
Range: unrefuelled 8,800 statute miles (14,200 km), refuelled unlimited (subject to crew limitations).
Armament: Approximately 60,000 lb mixed ordnance—bombs, land mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship and AGM-142 Have Nap missiles.)
The nuclear weapons capacity has previously included B28, B43, B53, B61, and B83 free-fall nuclear bombs, or various combinations of twelve AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACM), 20 AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM) and eight bombs.
The B-52 is the only known bomber to have shot down jet-powered fighter aircraft after Korea; one unit of the type shot down two MiG-21 fighter planes during the Vietnam War.
Accommodations: five (Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, Radar Navigator (AKA Bombardier) & Electronic Warfare Officer) with all sitting in ejection seats
Unit Cost: $53.4 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
NB-52A - 1 aircraft rebuilt to carry the X-15 research aircraft.
B-52B - 50
NB-52B - 1 aircraft rebuilt to carry the X-15 research aircraft.
RB-52B - 27 B-52Bs converted into reconnaissance aircraft. Two 20 mm Cannons replaced by four .50 calibre machine guns in the tail. The original designation was XR-16.
B-52C - 35
B-52D - 170
B-52E - 100
B-52F - 89
B-52G - 193
B-52H - 102
Total produced - 744
Data from Quest for Performance
Crew: 5 (Pilot, Copilot, Radar Navigator (Bombardier), Navigator and Electronic Warfare Officer). Originally the B-52 had a crew of 6, with a Gunner sitting in the tail in all models up to the G. In the B-52 G/H, the Gunner position was moved to the front cockpit, with the gun remotely controlled.
Length: 159 ft 4 in (48.5 m)
Wingspan: 185 ft 0 in (56.4 m)
Height: 40 ft 8 in (12.4 m)
Wing area: 4,000 ft² (370 m²)
Airfoil: NACA 63A219.3 mod root, NACA 65A209.5 tip
Guns: All models up to the H had a pod of four .50-caliber guns which could be loaded with armor-piercing/incendiary ammunition. The H model had one 6-barrel 20-mm Vulcan gatling cannon. The tail guns have now been removed on all operating B-52s.
Ordnance: up to 60,000 lb (27,200 kg) bombs, missiles, and mines, in various configurations
Tail gun position in Anachrome-compatible 3D.
Main article: B-52 Units
The B-52 is stationed at two USAF bases
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana
Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota
The B-52 bomber gained notoriety after Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Cold War black comedy movie. The cockpit of the plane is one of only four movie settings. The Air Force refused to allow Stanley Kubrick to photograph the cockpit interior; he developed his B-52 cockpit by extrapolating from photos of a B-52 interior published in a British flying magazine, based on a walking tour of the cockpit of a B-29 Superfortress bomber. His guess was so accurate that his production company was later investigated by the Department of Defense. The flying model also shows the characteristic upswept wing tips of a flying plane. Major T. J. “King” Kong (played by actor Slim Pickens) is famous as the pilot in a cowboy hat who rides the bomb down to its target.
A hairstyle known as the "B-52", because of its resemblance to the nose cone of this aircraft, was popular in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The musical band The B-52's (Love Shack, Rock Lobster) were named after the B-52 hairstyle members of the band wear.
A joke used on the children's television show J.P. Patches in the 1960s was "Roses are red, violets are blue, you have a nose as big as a B-52".
A B-52 is the name of a drink, said to have been invented in Thailand during the Vietnam war in bars frequented by American military personnel.
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Among its crew, the B-52 is affectionately known as the "BUFF", an acronym for "Big Ugly Fat Fucker" (or "Fellow" in some circles where profanity is not used). In some circles, Fat is replaced by Flying.
The B-52 carries a total fuel load of about 300,000 pounds (roughly 50,000 US gallons).
B-52 flies unlike other aircraft. Shortly after take-off, as it gains speed, the nose dips and it climbs in an initial nose-low attitude, a consequence of the high camber of its wing in the full flaps configuration. This looks strange to most people, who are used to seeing aircraft take off nose-high.
An aircraft of this massive size, power and weight necessitates hydraulically boosted control surfaces. However, in the early years of the B-52's service, B-29 Superfortress pilots, who were used to employing brute force from the human body to actuate the control surfaces, would be transferred to the newer aircraft, which had hydraulic controls. Therefore, strong springs are used to help imitate the control feel of the older aircraft. As a result the B-52 is a physically demanding aircraft to fly.
Each B-52 has a name. Usually the maintenance crew chief has the privilege of naming her (in the U.S.A. aircraft, like ships, are referred to as female). Some of the more interesting names are "The Need for Speed", "Heavy Metal II", "Conceived for Liberty", "Death from Above", and "Night Stalker". One is even named "Memphis Belle IV," in honor of the original Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
Each B-52 has small wingtip landing gear which do not touch the ground except when the aircraft is fully loaded with fuel and weapons.
The B-52's skin looks wrinkled when the aircraft is on the ground. In flight, the wrinkles disappear as the wing loading causes the wings and airframe to flex to in-flight configurations.
The B-52 was built for war, not for comfort. The crew compartment (cockpit) is quite cramped. There is a bunk on H models, but not on earlier ones. B-52 crews joke that Boeing put the cockpit in as an afterthought.
The only toilet facilities on board are a urinal on the lower deck, just forward of the crew compartment pressurization door, and a potty (lined with a plastic garbage bag) on the upper deck. The potty has a privacy curtain. Female crew members use an adapter for the urinal.
The B-52 has a very small oven which can warm food for the crew. The only drinking water is carried in coolers. There is no sink or shower.
The B-52's landing gear have to be turned at an angle ("crabbed" in aeronautical terms) when landing in a crosswind. The gear is made to point down the runway while the nose of the plane points into the wind. Pilots call this "crosswind crab". This is made possible by a complex, but highly reliable, hydraulic system. The ability to crab enables the B-52 to land in conditions which would force other aircraft to divert elsewhere.
The B-52's longevity is marked by the possibility that a grandfather, father, and son could have all served as B-52 crew.
The ejection seats for the lower-deck crewmembers, the Navigator and Radar navigator, eject downwards. Because of this, these crewmembers cannot eject at an altitude of 200 feet or less. A navigator and a radar navigator from Fairchild AFB both survived a downward ejection at approximately 200 feet above ground level in a training accident near Kayenta, Arizona on the evening of October 20, 1984. The upper deck crewmembers (pilot, copilot, and electronic warfare officer) have seats which eject them upwards. Their seats work at any altitude, as long as the airspeed is at least 90 knots. This is necessary to inflate their parachutes, since their ejection seats are blast propelled and not rocket propelled, and are not 0-0 certified (ejection from the ground with no forward airspeed) as are more modern ACES-II ejection seats.
Memorial and wreckage of B-52 on Elephant Mountain
During a training mission on January 24, 1963, a B-52C out of Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts experienced trouble and crashed into the side of Elephant Mountain near Greenville, Maine. Of the 9 men aboard, only 2 of them survived the crash. The wreckage of the crash is still on the side of the mountain to this day. The navigator, Capt. Gerald J. Adler struck the snow covered ground about 2,000 feet from the wreckage at a force estimated at 16 times the force of gravity when his parachute did not deploy upon ejection. His skull was fractured and three ribs were broken. The impact bent his ejection seat enough that he could not get his survival kit out. He survived the night by wrapping himself in his parachute, but both feet were frostbitten. The other survivor, pilot Lt. Col. Dante E. Bulli broke an ankle when he landed in a tree 30 feet above the ground. He survived the night, with temperatures reaching 28 degrees below zero, by tucking the sleeping bag from his survival kit into the snow.
In the early 1980s Boeing submitted an unsolicited proposal for a "Super B-52," more appropriately known as the B-52I. It would have offered upgraded engines, improved electronics and avionics and vastly improved ergonomics for the crew. The plan was considered but dropped in favor of the B-1B that was then being considered to replace the then-20+ year old B-52G/H fleet. Boeing submitted another unsolicited proposal in 1997 to replace the B-52's 8 engines with 4 engines and update cockpit avionics. Since the original proposal never left the drawing board, this proposal, which has received tentative Air Force approval due to the cost savings involved, is also referred to as the B-52I model.
North Vietnamese pilot and future cosmonaut Pham Tuan claimed that on the night of December 27, 1972, he became the first person ever to shoot down a US B-52 bomber during the US campaign named Operation Linebacker II at the end of the Vietnam War. The USAF has not acknowledged the claim, which it attributes to propaganda, and states that all B-52 losses during Linebacker II were to SAM attack.
As part of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia, 365 B-52Gs were flown to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The bombers were stripped of all usable parts, then chopped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel blade dropped from a crane. The guillotine sliced four times on each plane, severing the wings and leaving the fuselage in three pieces. The ruined B-52s remained in place for three months so that Russian satellites could confirm that the bombers had been destroyed, after which they were sold for scrap (satellite view).
There is a story told by many B-52 pilots that sums up the aircraft: "The B-52, with its familiar wrinkled fuselage sides, has enough metal to make 10,000 garbage cans. The wiring in the Stratofortress is equivalent to five miles of baling wire. Its engines are as powerful as eight locomotives. And that's the way it flies, like eight locomotives, pulling ten thousand garbage cans with five miles of baling wire!"
The B-52 on static display outside Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, has a patch on the cockpit. The damage was caused by impact with an American Bald Eagle during landing.
It is predicted that the B-52 will last until at least 2040, at which time the USAF has programmed a phase-out cycle. Some Air Force proposals are that the supersonic B-1, designed to replace the B-52, would be retired before the B-52.
The Military Channel named the B-52 as their top bomber due to service length and payload.
During the early morning of January 17, 1991 the first day of operation Desert Storm a B-52G (tail # 60-248) was fired upon by an F-4G Phantom II in Wild Weasel trim. The B-52's tail gunner locked his tail gun radar on the Wild Weasel mistaking it for an Iraqi MiG. The Wild Weasel immediately detected the B-52 tail gun radar and misidentified the radar signature as an Iraqi Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) site. The F-4G crew fired a single AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile and watched in horror as it headed not towards the non-existent Iraqi AAA site, but to one of the B-52 bombers it was tasked with protecting. Luckily the missile failed to hit the plane, but instead detonated directly behind the bomber. The shrapnel and missile debris damaged the tail section of the B-52G. It ripped off everything aft of the vertical stabilizer. This included much of the tail gun system, the aft Electronic Warfare suite, and the drag chute. The B-52G was able to return safely to the island of Diego Garcia. It was later fully repaired at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam where it was renamed "IN HARM's WAY". The tail gunner position was subsequently eliminated from the entire B-52 fleet.