The B-52 Stratofortress is a heavy, long-range, strategic bomber that has been used by the US Air Force in several armed conflicts during and after the Cold War. The B-52 was developed by Boeing between 1946 and 1952. The prototype XB-52 performed its first flight on April 15, 1952, and became operational on June 29, 1955, in the 93rd Heavy Bombardment Wing (93rd BW) at Castle Air Force Base, California. When the B-52 entered service, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) intended for it to be used to deter and counteract the vast and modernizing Soviet military. Of the original 744 B-52 aircraft built by Boeing, only 70 of them remains in service, most of them B-52H models.
It has 35º swept wings, which are mounted high on the fuselage. The B-52H version is powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF-33-P-3-103 turbofan jet engines. The cabin of the aircraft features crew ejection systems. It is the first USAF aircraft to use alternative fuel.
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was used during the Vietnam War. Its first combat mission was Operation Arc Light and was flown by B-52Fs on June 18, 1965, when 30 bombers of the 9th and 441st Bombardment Squadrons struck a communist stronghold near the Ben Cat District in South Vietnam. At the end of 1965, a number of B-52Ds underwent Big Belly modifications to increase bomb capacity for carpet bombings. While the external payload remained at 24× 500 pound (227 kg) or 750 pound (340 kg) bombs, the internal capacity increased from 27 to 84× 500 pound bombs or from 27 to 42× 750 pound bombs. The zenith of B-52 attacks in Vietnam was Operation Linebacker II, which consisted of waves of B-52s, mostly D models, but some Gs without jamming equipment and with a smaller bomb load. Over 12 days, B-52s flew 729 sorties, dropping 15,237 tons of bombs on Hanoi, Haiphong, and other targets.
The B-52 also took part in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, delivering 40% of the weapons dropped by coalition forces while suffering only one non-combat aircraft loss, with several receiving minor damage from enemy action. As part of the 1996 Operation Desert Strike, two B-52H struck Baghdad power stations and communications facilities with 13 AGM-86C conventional air-launched cruise missiles. The B-52 also contributed to Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, 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 which previously would have been restricted to fighter and ground attack aircraft. B-52s also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was initiated on March 20, 2003. During the night of March 21 2003, three B-52H bombers launched at least one hundred AGM-86C CALCMs at targets within Iraq.
Specifications for the B-52H
Type: Long-range strategic bomber aircraft
Engine: eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofans, capable of producing 17,000 lbf (76 kN) thrust each
Maximum speed: 650 mph (1,025 km/h)
Range: 10,145 mi (16,232 km)
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
Length: 159 ft 4 in (48.5 m)
Wingspan: 185 ft 0 in (56.4 m)
Crew: 5 (pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, and Electronic Warfare Officer)
Avionics: Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod
Weapons: one 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon mounted in a remote controlled tail turret; Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kg) mixed ordnance; bombs, mines, missiles, in various configurations