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HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- A B-52 Stratofortress is prepared for take off on the runway April 6. Four B-52s arrived here from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to escape Typhoon Sudal which missed the island April 7. The B-52s are deployed to Andersen from Minot AFB, N.D. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Dey)
Air Force Global Strike Command's B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, air interdiction, offensive counter-air, close air support and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface.
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, thus further improving its combat ability and low-level flight capability.
Pilots have night vision goggle (NVG) capability to enhance their vision during night operations; providing greater safety and increasing the pilot's ability to visually clear terrain, avoid threats and see other aircraft in a covert/lights-out environment.
On-going modifications incorporate the global positioning system, external and internal weapon data bus upgrades and a full array of advance weapons currently under development. A recent modification is the addition of an advanced targeting pod, which offers infrared and electro-optical tracking and laser designation of stationary and moving targets. Additionally, an electronic data link and global messaging system has been added and can be used in conjunction with, or independent of, the advanced targeting pod.
The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles (14,080 kilometers).
The aircraft's flexibility was evident in Operation Desert Storm when B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Gulf War involved the longest strike mission in the history of aerial warfare at that time when B-52s took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., 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. The B-52 also supported both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom by flying a variety of missions not traditionally assigned to bomber aircraft.
For more than 50 years B-52 Stratofortresses have been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions. Updated with modern technology the B-52 will be capable of delivering the full complement of joint developed weapons and will continue into the 21st century as an important element of our nation's defenses. Current engineering analyses show the B-52's life span to extend beyond the year 2040.
The B-52A first flew in 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 Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Reserve Command.
Primary Function: Heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
Thrust: Each engine up to 17,000 pounds
Length: 159 feet, 4 inches (48.5 meters)
Height: 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters)
Wingspan: 185 feet (56.4 meters
Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.84)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters
Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds empty (83,250 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 488,000 pounds (219,600 kilograms
Range: Unrefueled 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance -- bombs, mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles)
Crew: Five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer
Accommodations: Six ejection seats
Unit Cost: $53.4 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Date Deployed: February 1955
Inventory: Active force, 85; ANG, 0; Reserve, 9
Air Force Global Strike Command, Public Affairs Office; 245 Davis Ave. E
Room 240; Barksdale AFB, LA 71110; 318- 456-0854 or 318-456-1305; or DSN 781-0854 or 781-1305.
(Current as of January 2014)