Boeing B-52

Overview

The Boeing B-52 has become one of the United States Air Forces longest lived designs as well as one of its icons.  The roots of the B-52’s existence go back to 1946 when an air force requirement for a future successor to the then new Convair B-36 bomber was issued.  Boeing entered the competition with a turboprop aircraft; however their programme became seriously hampered by engine development problems.

Then after a week of tense meetings during October 1948 a group of Boeing employees sketched out the basic design of the B-52 over a weekend in a Dayton hotel room.  What emerged was a swept wing bomber with eight engines, an un-refuelled range of 3,000 miles (although it was to be capable of in-flight refuelling) and the capacity to carry 34,000lbs of weaponry.  The first B-52 flight followed three and a half years later and finally went in USAF service on the 29th June 1955.

Continual development of the design eventually led to eight variants serving with the USAF.  The last type, the B-52H entered service with a range of 8,800 miles (un-refuelled) and 105,100lb weapon load.  Even though the 744th and last B-52 was actually delivered on the 26th October 1962, further updates to the aircraft have allowed it to carry weapons from traditional free fall bombs through to air launched cruise missiles.  The USAF expects the B-52 to remain in service until 2040.

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