NATO’s Most Dangerous Bomber Marks 70 Years Since First Flight: Will the B-52 Stratofortress Make a Century?

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Seventy years aft its archetypal formation connected April 15,1952, the B-52 Stratofortress is inactive considered the astir susceptible bomber ever to person served successful the United States Military oregon that of immoderate occidental country, with the craft having been produced from 1952 to 1962 and seen extended improvements to its show made some during that clip and since. As its sanction implies, the craft was considered a successor to the B-29 Superfortress which ravaged the Japanese mainland during the Second World War and destroyed 69 cities successful atomic and incendiary raids earlier carrying retired akin operations successful Korea. The B-52 began improvement little than a twelvemonth aft the extremity of the Second World War successful 1946, and was designed chiefly to transportation atomic weapons and if needed employment them against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Although ne'er seeing combat successful Europe, the craft would spot extended work during the Vietnam War astir notably carpet bombing North Vietnamese cities nether the Richard Nixon medication during the Linebacker Raids.

While considered blase erstwhile it entered work successful 1955, successful the pursuing decades the craft would progressively beryllium prized for its simplicity successful opposition to its successors the B-1B, B-2 and cancelled B-70 which each came to beryllium seen arsenic excessively analyzable and impractically hard to run and maintain. The effect is that the B-52, successful spite of nary having been built for 60 years, volition service successful the U.S. Air Force longer than the B-1 oregon B-2 contempt these having entered work successful the 1980s and 1990s arsenic intended successors, with the B-52’s higher availability rates, greater easiness of attraction and little operational costs making it much viable for continued service. 

The B-52 has seen extended combat work astir notably successful the Vietnam War, but besides successful Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and has been consistently deployed to large hotspots astatine times of precocious tensions from missions adjacent Iran under the Trump medication to deployments aimed astatine signalling North Korea and contesting Chinese territorial claims successful East Asia. While the basal airframe has remained the same, the craft has been kept viable by the integration of caller engines, sensors and weapons systems, with the bomber expected to beryllium the archetypal successful the American fleet to integrate hypersonic weapons. While the bomber is acold from survivable operating adjacent force fighters oregon aerial defences, arsenic the relation of bombers has evolved the B-52 has been astir exclusively allocated the relation of neutralising targets astatine standoff ranges with assorted precise agelong ranged cruise missiles. Similar trends person been seen successful overseas bomber programs specified arsenic the Russian Tu-22M, Tu-95 and Tu-160M and Chinese H-6 which person each evolved into rocket carriers portion seldom carrying abbreviated ranged gravity bombs. The B-2 is the lone exception, with its stealth illustration allowing it to perchance past against moderately defended targets to drop bombs from adjacent ranges, though with it excessively dating backmost to the 1990s the viability of the craft successful this relation against newer aerial defence networks has besides been brought to question. 

The B-52 is successful aboriginal expected to alert alongside the B-21 Raider stealth bomber which volition regenerate the B-1 and B-2 and apt signifier new bomber units to grow the fleet. The B-1 has already begun to beryllium retired, portion the tiny fleet of 20 B-2s is expected to travel successful the 2030s. There remains a important anticipation that the B-52 volition alert past 100 years into the 2nd fractional of the 21st century, though what benignant of craft volition yet regenerate it remains uncertain. All B-52s successful work are of the B-52H variant, of which 102 were built with work introduction opening successful 1961. Improvements to the craft and the older B-52G were initially made to compensate for delays to the B-58 supersonic bomber that saw a overmuch smaller accumulation tally and was retired little than 10 years aft entering work owed mostly to its precocious attraction needs and operational costs.

The B-52’s capabilities are expected to beryllium acold successful beforehand of what they are contiguous erstwhile the bomber yet leaves service, and the craft is apt to proceed to look consistently successful areas of precocious tensions and summation a caller lease of beingness with the integration of hypersonic weapons. The value of the relation it plays volition apt heavy beryllium connected the capabilities of the B-21 being developed to travel it successful service, and peculiarly whether the B-21 volition beryllium capable to transportation a akin scope of precocious standoff weapons and beryllium capable to clasp precocious availability rates arsenic the B-1 and B-2 could not.