B-52 Stratofortress

B-52 Stratofortress
A B-52 from  Barksdale AFB flying over the desert
RoleStrategic bomber
ManufacturerBoeing
First flight15 April 1952
IntroductionFebruary 1955
StatusActive: 76
Reserve: 20
Primary usersUnited States Air Force
NASA
Produced19521962
Number built744
Unit costB-52B: US$14.43 million
B-52H: $9.28 million (1962)
B-52H: $53.4 million (1998)

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) since 1955.

Beginning with the successful contract bid on 5 June 1946, the B-52 went through several design steps; from a straight wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52, with eight turbojet engines. The aircraft made its first flight on 15 April 1952 with "Tex" Johnston as pilot.

Built to carry nuclear weapons for Cold War-era deterrence missions, the B-52 Stratofortress replaced the Convair B-36. Although a veteran of a number of wars, the Stratofortress has dropped only conventional munitions in actual combat. The B-52 carries up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons.

The USAF has possessed B-52s in active service since 1955, initially with the Strategic Air Command (SAC), with all aircraft later absorbed into the Air Combat Command (ACC) following SAC's disestablishment in 1992. Superior performance at high subsonic speeds and relatively low operating costs have kept the B-52 in service despite more developed aircraft or modern aircraft in service including the Mach 3 XB-70 Valkyrie, the supersonic B-1B Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit. In January 2005, the B-52 became the second aircraft, after the English Electric Canberra, to mark 50 years of continuous service with its original primary operator. There are six aircraft altogether that have made this list as of 2009; the other four being the Tupolev Tu-95, the C-130 Hercules, the KC-135 Stratotanker, and the Lockheed U-2.

Popular culture

The B-52 has been featured in a number of major films, most notably: Bombers B-52 (1957), A Gathering of Eagles (1963), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and By Dawn's Early Light (1990). It has also been featured in numerous novels, such as most of the early Patrick McLanahan novels by Dale Brown feature one or more heavily-modified B-52 bombers, nicknamed the "EB-52 Megafortress". A 1970s hairstyle, the beehive, is also called a B-52 for its resemblance to the aircraft's distinct nose. The popular band The B-52's was subsequently named after this hairstyle.

See also:

Development

Design

Operational History

Variants

Operators

Notable Accidents

Survivors

Specifications