The venerable B-52 Stratofortress long-range bombers, which have been carrying America’s nuclear bomb deterrent safely since today’s grandfathers were in diapers, are being withdrawn from a key national nuclear bomb delivery strategy, says a new report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Hans Kristensen at the Federal of America Scientists noted there have been several indications in recent years of a coming change.
He said the military budget request for FY2018 “only lists the B-2 as carrier of the strategic nuclear gravity bombs.”
“U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) apparently has not been assigning nuclear gravity bombs to B-52 bombers since at least 2010. Today, only the 20 B-2 stealth-bombers are tasked with strategic nuclear gravity bombs under the nuclear strike plans,” he explained.
“The reason for the change appears to be that the B-52 is no longer considered survivable enough to slip through modern air-defenses and drop nuclear gravity bombs on enemy territory,” said Kristensen.
“The B-52 is still equipped to carry the nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM or AGM-86B), which can be launched from well outside the reach of air-defenses, and is scheduled to receive the new LRSO (Long Range Standoff Missile) by the late-20s (even though that’s probably unnecessary),” he wrote.
According to Boeing, manufacturer of the B-52, the aircraft celebrated 60 years in the air in 2014.
“The eight-engine, 390,000-pound (176,901-kilogram) jet was America’s first long-range, swept-wing heavy bomber. It began as an intercontinental, high-altitude nuclear bomber, and its operational capabilities were adapted to meet changing defense needs,” the maker said.
“It had a rocky beginning. The original XB-52 design, selected by the Army Air Forces in 1946, was for a straight-wing, six-engine, propeller-powered heavy bomber. On Oct. 21, 1948, Boeing Chief Engineer Ed Wells and his design team were in Dayton, Ohio, when the Air Force’s chief of bomber development told them to scrap the propellers and come up with an all-jet bomber. Over the following weekend, in a Dayton hotel room, the team designed a new eight-engine jet bomber, still called the B-52, made a scale model out of balsa wood and prepared a 33-page report.”
The result was the beginning of production and the turbofan-powered version. The most recent version made its first flight in 1961.
A total of 744 were built in Seattle and Wichita, Kansas, and about 10 percent still fly.
The B-52 cut the round-the-world speed record in half. In January 1962, it flew 12,500 miles nonstop from Japan to Spain without refueling. The jet broke 11 distance and speed records on that flight alone. The B-52 saw active duty in the Vietnam War and was used in the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and over Afghanistan in 2001.
The technology on the bombers constantly is being upgraded, and Boeing stated, “Modern engineering analyses showed the B-52’s expected lifespan extending beyond 2040.”