The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is an American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber. The B-52 was designed and built by Boeing, which has continued to provide support and upgrades. It has been operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) since the 1950s. The bomber is capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds of weapons, and has a typical combat range of more than 8,800 miles without aerial refueling.


The B-52 has been in active service with the USAF since 1955. As of December 2015, 58 were in active service with 18 in reserve. The bombers flew under the Strategic Air Command until it was disestablished in 1992 and its aircraft absorbed into the Air Combat Command. The B-52 completed sixty years of continuous service with its original operator in 2015. After being upgraded between 2013 and 2015, it is expected to serve into the 2040s.


The B-52 shared many technological similarities with the preceding Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber. The two aircraft used the same basic design, such as swept wings and podded jet engines, and the cabin included the crew ejection systems. On the B-52D, the pilots and electronic countermeasures operator ejected upwards, while the lower deck crew ejected downwards; until the B-52G, the gunner had to jettison the tail gun to bail out.


When the B-52 entered into service, the Strategic Air Command intended to use it to deter and counteract the vast and modernizing Soviet military. As the Soviet Union increased its nuclear capabilities, destroying or “countering” the forces that would deliver nuclear strike became of great strategic importance.


After Vietnam the experience of operations in a hostile air defense environment was taken into account. Due to this B-52s were modernized with new weapons, equipment and both offensive and defensive avionics. This and the use of low-level tactics marked a major shift in the B-52’s utility.


The B-52 contributed to Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, providing the ability to loiter high above the battlefield and provide Close Air Support through the use of precision guided munitions, a mission which previously would have been restricted to fighter and ground attack aircraft. In late 2001, ten B-52s dropped a third of the bomb tonnage in Afghanistan. B-52s also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which commenced on 20 March 2003. On the night of 21 March 2003, B-52Hs launched at least one hundred AGM-86C CALCMs at targets within Iraq.


On 9 April 2016, an undisclosed number of B-52s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, part of the Military intervention against ISIL. The B-52s took over heavy bombing after B-1 Lancers that had been conducting airstrikes rotated out of the region in January 2016. In April 2016, B-52s arrived in Afghanistan to take part in the War in Afghanistan (2015–present) and began operations in July, proving its flexibility and precision carrying out close-air support missions.


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The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

U.S. Air Force photo 060202-F-6809H-100. A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing static display with weapons, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (USA), in 2006.


The B-52 wasn’t created to be “green.” It was built to win wars and break things.

BINGO is not played in enemy territory. This image comes to mind when someone calls out “B-52” and the Bingo hall empties!

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