B-52 Stratofortress

The B-52H is a long-range nuclear/conventional bomber and USAF’s primary standoff cruise missile carrier.

The YB-52 prototype first flew on April 15, 1952, and Strategic Air Command declared IOC with the B-52A on June 19, 1955. The H model is now the last serving variant of the Stratofortress.

Multimission capabilities include long-range precision strike, CAS, air interdiction, defense suppression, and maritime surveillance utilizing both Litening and Sniper targeting pods.

The B-52 is undergoing major upgrades to replace key obsolescent systems. Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) replaces cockpit displays and comms, adds Link 16, and enabling machine-to-machine tasking/retargeting. The Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade enables internal carriage of smart weapons, with the Conventional Rotary Launcher roughly doubling advanced weapon payloads, reducing drag, and increasing range. CRL transitions from CALCM to the AGM-158B JASSM-ER long-range cruise missile.

Some 31 B-52s were modified to prevent their nuclear use under the New START agreement, and a total of 36 aircraft are currently “deployed” nuclear platforms under the treaty.

Major development includes AESA radar, and replacing the TF33 engines with a more modern and efficient power plant. Future upgrades include VLF/LF receiver modernization, ATP color MFDs to enhance targeting and situational awareness, and AEHF SATCOM integration. Ongoing mods include Tactical Data Link to add low-latency, jam-resistant C2/comms in conjunction with CONECT, and GPS updates.

USAF expects to award an engine replacement contract in June 2021, and both CONECT and weapons bay upgrades are slated for completion this year. AESA radar is slated for introduction in 2026. Upgraded B-52 will eventually complement the B-21 Raider after retirement of the B-1 and B-2, potentially serving into the 2050s.

Contractor: Boeing.
First Flight: July 20, 1960 (B-52H).
Delivered: May 9, 1961-Oct. 26, 1962 (B-52H).
IOC: May 1961 (B-52H).
Production: 744 (incl 102 B-52H).
Inventory: 76.
Operator: AFGSC, AFMC, AFRC.
Aircraft Location: Barksdale AFB, La.; Edwards AFB, Calif.; Minot AFB, N.D.
Active Variants: •B-52H. Longer-range development of the original B-52A, with more efficient turbofan engines.
Dimensions: Span 185 ft, length 159.3 ft, height 40.7 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 488,000 lb.
Power Plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3 turbofans, each 17,000 lb thrust.
Performance: Speed 650 mph, range 8,800 miles (further with air refueling).
Ceiling: 50,000 ft.
Armament: Nuclear: 12 AGM-86B ALCMs externally, and eight ALCMs or gravity weapons internally. 12 AGM-158 JASSM externally, and eight JASSM-ER/MALD/ MALD-J internally (upgraded aircraft). Conventional: AGM-86C/D CALCMs, Mk 62 sea mines, Mk 82/84 bombs, CBU-87/89 cluster bombs, CBU-103/104/105 WCMDs, GBU-31/38 JDAMs, AGM-158A JASSMs, and GBU-10/12/28 LGBs, MALD, and MALD-J jammer variant.
Accomodation: Two pilots, navigator, radar navigator, and EWO on upward/downward ejection seats.

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