Despite my interest in all things military I rarely mention Air Force programmes unless they cross into civil territory. However this one needs to be highlighted.
The B-52 was designed in the late 1940’s and was produced between 1950 and 1962, entering service in 1955. It’s end was accelerated after Cold War hysteria over ‘bomber gaps’ where the Soviets were thought to have many more than the US, proved to be complete nonsense. Besides everyone expected supersonic aircraft to take over the bomber role and the ICBM was moving to centre stage – largely due to another non-existent ‘missile gap’!
The last one was built in 1962. While the vast aerial armada of B-52’s has long vanished only around 50 remain operational with around 18 in reserve.
The new defence budget request for 2019 has asked for new engines to be developed (it famously uses 8), to keep the bombers flying well into the 2050’s – some of the airframes will be 90-100 years old by then!
Meanwhile the B-1 (itself a design dating to the Mid-1970’s) and the ‘flying wing’ B-2 from the 1990’s will both be retired as the new B-21 enters service in the late 2020’s.
The B-52 or BUFF as it’s known colloquially (Big Ugly Fat Fucker), is loved for its loitering capability and vast range, coupled to its ability to stay so far from targets, it’s invulnerable to local defences. Drone and cruise missile operations are ideally operated from such aircraft.