B-52 not ready to retire

Jan. 22, 2018

Back in 1952, the B-52 flew its first successful test mission, and the first three combat-ready versions were delivered to SAC in 1954. With variants still in action, the bombers are poised to play a role in any conflict with North Korea. The Air Force last week deployed six nuclear-capable B-52Hs to Andersen Air Base in Guam, reports Gordon F. Sander in Politico. He adds that other B-52Hs based in Qatar and armed with conventional laser-guided bombs are flying missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Yet what is truly extraordinary about this spectacle of bomber power is that the Strangelove-era aircraft are flying at all, no less still on the front lines of American defense,” adds Sander, a journalist and historian who frequently writes about military history. “To virtually everyone’s surprise, the Air Force’s workhorse bomber of the 1960s has turned out to be one of the most durable and versatile aircraft ever designed.”

He adds that some military experts see a downside to the plane’s longevity: “…the fact that the B-52 is still needed to fill out the Air Force’s bomber line-up highlights the Pentagon’s byzantine and defective system for advanced weapons procurement.”

Nevertheless, Sander writes, “One point on which all the experts agree is that the uncannily long-lived aircraft, arguably the most successful military aircraft ever built, was one of the best purchases Uncle Sam has made.”

He quotes Rebecca Grant, president of the defense research company IRIS Independent Research, as saying, “Divide the B-52’s development and test cost by ordnance dropped and hours providing deterrence across seven decades and it may be the best air power investment ever.”

Sander describes the B-52 from its inception through today, with a mention of its appearance in the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Love the Bomb, which he describes as “Stanley Kubrick’s nuclear black comedy.” Read the complete article here.

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