|Air Combat Command's B-52 is a
bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of
flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6
meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance
with worldwide precision navigation capability.
In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, air
interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. During
Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by
coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean
surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying
operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles
(364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface.
All B-52s are equipped with an electro-optical viewing system that uses
platinum silicide forward-looking infrared and high resolution
low-light-level television sensors to augment targeting, battle
assessment, and flight safety, thus further improving its combat
ability and low-level flight capability.
Pilots wear night vision goggles (NVG) to enhance their vision during
night operations. Night vision goggles provide greater safety during
night operations by increasing the pilot's ability to visually clear
terrain, avoid enemy radar and see other aircraft in a
Starting in 1989, on-going modifications incorporates the global
positioning system, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound
munitions, and a full array of advance weapons currently under
The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew
endurance. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles
The aircraft's flexibility was evident in Operation Desert Storm and
again during Operations Allied Force. B-52s struck wide-area troop
concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the
morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Gulf War involved the longest
strike mission in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s took off
from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., launched conventional air launched
cruise missiles and returned to Barksdale -- a 35-hour, non-stop combat
During Operation Allied Force, B-52s opened the conflict with
conventional cruise missile attacks and then transitioned to delivering
general purpose bombs and cluster bomb units on Serbian army positions
and staging areas.
For more than 40 years B-52 Stratofortresses have been the backbone of
the manned strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 is
capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the
U.S. inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision
guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions. Updated with modern
technology the B-52 will be capable of delivering the full complement
of joint developed weapons and will continue into the 21st century as
an important element of our nation's defenses. Current engineering
analyses show the B-52's life span to extend beyond the year 2040.
The B-52A first flew in 1954, and the B model entered service in 1955.
A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in
October 1962. Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory and
is assigned to Air Combat Command and the Air Force Reserves.
The first of 102 B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May
1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In
addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was
launched in several contingencies during the 1990s, starting with
Operation Desert Storm and culminating with Operation Allied Force.