The B-52 is an intercontinental jet bomber, with a large and flexible swept wing, a fuselage incorporating enormous bomb bays, and eight engines in pairs of two. Since it became operational in 1955, the B-52 has been the main long-range heavy bomber of the Strategic Air Command. It first flew on Apr. 15, 1952. Nearly 750 B-52s were built when production ended in Oct. 1963, of which 170 were -Ds. The -Ds were modified to carry conventional bombs and Quail decoy missiles, including the large 'Hound Dog', on pylons under the wing.
The B-52 has set many records in its 25-plus years of service. On Jan. 18, 1957, three B-52Bs completed the world's first non-stop round-the-world flight by jet aircraft, lasting 45 hours and 19 minutes with only three aerial refuelings en route. It was also a B-52 that made the first airborne hydrogen bomb drop over Bikini Atoll on May 21, 1956.
In June 1965, B-52s entered combat when they began flying missions in Vietnam. By Aug. 1973, they had flown 126,615 combat sorties with 17 B-52s lost to enemy action. The B-52 where in combat again during the Gulf War. Increasingly vulnerable in a modern combat environment, the B-52 still offers unique bomb-carrying capacity; several plans to replace it were found to be too costly. It entered service in 1955 and will probably stay until at least 2000! The B-52 also played a role with NASA as launch aircraft, carrying into air the X-15 and others. The B-52 also was employed for recce tasks as the RB-52.
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Primary Function: Heavy bomber
Crew: Five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer)
Length: 159 feet, 4 inches (48.5 meters)
Height: 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters)
Wingspan: 185 feet (56.4 meters)
Powerplant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan Each engine up to 17,000 pounds
Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.86)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,151.5 meters)
Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds empty (83,250 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 488,000 pounds (219,600 kilograms)
Range: Unrefueled 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance -- bombs, mines and missiles, both convertional and nuklear. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles, Harpoon anti-ship and Have Nap missiles.)
Unit cost: $30 million