The B-52H and its partner the B-2 taxiing at Diego Garcia during operation "Enduring Freedom".
The B-2 is a plane like no other. Tracing its roots back to the days when Jack Northrop created his flying wings, the YB-35 and the jet powered YB-49, in the 1940’s. In fact, the B-2 Spirit has the exact same wingspan as the YB-49: 172.0 ft or 52 m. It was back then that the flying wing design demonstrated the low radar signature, however the YB-49 was canceled in favor of the more conventional B-36 produced by Convair.
Another aircraft that definitely played a role in the B-2 development is the German Horten Ho 229 flying wing. There will be more information about this aircraft in another posting..
The B-2’s stealth comes from a combination of reduced acoustic, infrared, visual and radar signatures, making it difficult for defences to detect, track and engage. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2’s composite materials, special coatings and flying wing design contribute to its stealth abilities. The B-2 uses radar absorbent material and coatings, that have required climate-controlled hangars for maintenance.
An assessment published by the USAF showed that two B-2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft, and i think that kinda says it all.
the aircraft has operated over Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the Iraq campaign, B-2s were temporarily operated from Diego Garcia. Later missions to Iraq launched from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. This resulted in missions lasting over 30 hours and one mission of over 50 hours.
Even while the Air Force works on its Next-Generation Bomber and 2037 Bomber projects, it intends to keep the B-52H in service until at least 2040, 78 years after production ended, 85 years after it entered service. This will be an unprecedented length of service for a military aircraft. B-52s are periodically refurbished at USAF maintenance depots such as Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
The USAF continues to rely on the B-52 because it remains an effective and economical heavy bomber, particularly in the type of missions that have been conducted since the end of the Cold War against nations that have limited air defense capabilities. The B-52 has the capacity to "loiter" for extended periods over (or even well outside) the battlefield, and deliver precision standoff and direct fire munitions. It has been a valuable asset in supporting ground operations during conflicts such as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Photo via Ted Morris
Canadian Aviation Blog