The US Air Force’s Global Strike Command is planning on commemoratingthe 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress on15 April. The original event happened on 15 April, 1952, when the YB-52prototype took to the air over Seattle, Washington.
Unlike the current B-52 flying today, the original two testplanes had the crew sitting in tandem similar to the earlier B-47 aircraft.
Anyways, the B-52 has been in the USAF fleet for so longthat there are quite literally generations who have flown the type. One suchexample is the 23rd Bomb Squadron’s 1st Lt Daniel Welch, who is stationedat Minot AFB, North Dakota.His dad and grandfather both flew the eight-engine bomber.
There is a joke in the USAF that when any given newer typeof bomber is retired to the “Boneyard”, the last crew who drops off thataircraft to Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona will be picked up in a B-52. And thereis more than a grain of truth to that…
The B-52 has outlived all of its would be replacements.Remember the B-58 Hustler Mach 2+ bomber? Gone. XB-70–it’s in a museum in Ohio. FB-111? Those arerotting away in the desert somewhere. And probably so will the B-1 and B-2 whenit comes to their turn… (Don’t have a crystal ball, just willing to make that bet)
The USAF is working on a new stealth bomber under a newprogram called the Long Range Strike-Bomber as part of its classified budget. Theservice wants 80 to 100 of the aircraft to enter service in the mid-2020s andcost $550 million each. It will rely on “maturetechnologies” –even if it’s supposed to be optionally manned–and the USAF will watch its appetite for added new capabilities,Air Force chief Gen. Norton Schwartz insists. But he’s leaving in a couple ofmonths- what then?
The USAF has a long track record of bungling acquisitionsprograms and overreaching on technical requirements–so the jury is still out onif this new LRS-B will ever see the light of day.
Given the ever aging and ever shrinking USAF bomber fleet,it had better work out better than the F-22 and F-35 programs, much less theill-fated Navy A-12 program (which was also developed largely in the classifiedspace).
The Global Strike Command has put together a timeline here:
April 15, 1952 – Thefirst flight of the YB-52 Stratofortress will be commemorated with along-duration flight from AFGSC Headquarters at Barksdale.
May 10 through Oct.23, 1972 – Operation Linebacker – Linebacker was the first continuous bombingeffort conducted against North Vietnam since the bombing halt instituted byPresident Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1968.
June 18, 1965 -Operation Arc Light – The first use of the B-52D Stratofortress as aconventional bomber from bases in the U.S.to Guam to support ground combat operations in Vietnam.
Aug. 2, 1994 – B-52′sfirst round-the-world bombing mission.
Oct. 26, 1962 -Strategic Air Command received the last B-52 from production line
Dec. 18 through 29,1972 – Operation Linebacker II – This operation saw the largest heavy bomberstrikes launched by the U.S. Air Force since the end of World War II.