B-52: The Air Force Plane That Refuses To Die

Megalith

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I thought this was a nice write-up on our largest bomber, which is expected to be around “until at least 2040.”

“I love the B-52,” Captain Adsit said. “But the fact that this is still flying is really insane.” A few minutes later, his onboard navigation computers crashed.
 
I don't see how computer crashes have anything to do with the airworthiness or age of a bomber that was flying before computers could fit in the bomb bay of a bomber. Other than that, it was a decent fluffy article on the B-52.
 
Ah, the military. When the computers running the obsolescence upgrade to the obsolescence upgrade are still DOS based.
 
The issue is really that anything that we would replace it with Right Now (tm) would feature similar specs as these ageing air planes. There is simply little point to it. And thus the B-52 will outlive the start of the US/Soviet space race, the launch of the ISS as well as its (currently planned) demise.

The only thing that we could maybe do at this point is restart the B-52 production lines, featuring upgraded airframes. That would be less expensive than designing a new bomber from scratch. The other option is to wait until 2040 and see what our options are at that point.

The story of the B-52 is in many ways similar to that of the A-10. Scheduled for replacement every decade, but outliving any of them. Some planes are just too unique that they will hang around for a very long time.
 
If they designed from the ground up an aircraft that can do what the B-52 does ... it is going to look exactly like the B-52. It is the peak of its evolution for a heavy bomber.

At this point you just upgrade the chassis with new equipment, engines, ect ... but the airframe is never going to change shape and most likely not going to change materials.
 
There is absolutely nothing like the sound and smell (yes, smell) of a B-52 flight doing a minimum interval takeoff a few seconds apart. Designed just after WW2, it will be flown by the first crew's great-great grandchildren.
 
I don't see how computer crashes have anything to do with the airworthiness or age of a bomber that was flying before computers could fit in the bomb bay of a bomber. Other than that, it was a decent fluffy article on the B-52.

I disagree.

According to them, B-2's can't operate in the rain, yet they are stationed in Missouri....a state not known for it's great weather.

B-1's are painted as an unused and unreliable bomber, but have been deployed much of the last 5+ years.

They also skipped over how B-52's (and every other aircraft in the inventory) have constant upgrades to systems and air frame maintenance.
 
The issue is really that anything that we would replace it with Right Now (tm) would feature similar specs as these ageing air planes. There is simply little point to it. And thus the B-52 will outlive the start of the US/Soviet space race, the launch of the ISS as well as its (currently planned) demise.

The only thing that we could maybe do at this point is restart the B-52 production lines, featuring upgraded airframes. That would be less expensive than designing a new bomber from scratch. The other option is to wait until 2040 and see what our options are at that point.

The story of the B-52 is in many ways similar to that of the A-10. Scheduled for replacement every decade, but outliving any of them. Some planes are just too unique that they will hang around for a very long time.

You're assuming production tools get saved. Fairly certain they do not for various reasons, the top one being security.
 
You're assuming production tools get saved. Fairly certain they do not for various reasons, the top one being security.

I wager the tooling still exists or can be reproduced, the key is political will and money. As for security, drawings for the earlier models of the B-52A-D were archived for historical reference, and is publicly available.
 
You're assuming production tools get saved. Fairly certain they do not for various reasons, the top one being security.
For older stuff (most 80's and prior hardware) yea the production tooling and much of the plans are usually lost or sold off or repurposed so its not easy or cheap to make new.

These days they try to plan ahead, especially since they know now that many of the airframes and hardware will be sticking around for decades, and mothball production lines as is or box them up in shipping containers and store them. Its part of the reason newer planes like the F22 are so damn expensive. They're not just paying for the plane they're paying for all the tooling and production too.
 
I get the impression that a big reason they still fly them is that there are no unknown problems left on the B-52 - yes, it has problems, but they are all known, and a problem that you know about is a problem that you know how to deal with.
 
The B-52 and A-10 are two aging planes that are both fairly low tech, but both get the job done in spectacular fashion and at a relative low cost to the military. It just goes to prove that more isn't always the best.
 
I was guidance and control for B-52H's from 2003-2007. Great plane. Hard work. Got shocked a lot lol.
 
B-1's are painted as an unused and unreliable bomber, but have been deployed much of the last 5+ years

In the war on terror, the B1's have dropped more bombs by tonnage then every other platform combined. Also have the highest ready rate of all the bombers in the USAF.
 
The B-52 and A-10 are two aging planes that are both fairly low tech, but both get the job done in spectacular fashion and at a relative low cost to the military. It just goes to prove that more isn't always the best.


A few Defense Contractors would say otherwise, But I'm with you fighting suicide bombers requires low tech vs USSR we need the B1.
 
Having one of these fly over at low altitude in slow flight mode is utterly astonishing. And scary as hell. This is a BIG frickin' airplane.
 
There really is a very low need for these bombers in the current era. However, the one job we need it to do once in a blue moon it does better than anything else and does so relatively cheaply. The plane does an amazing job of being noticed both visually and by radar, then blowing up more shit in one pass than anything else. Sure, it has other uses, and in many cases you could send a B-1 to get the job done quickly, but the B-52's presence is about as effective weapon as it's bombs. It's a submission weapon. If the enemy see's one of these and has no means of shooting it down, they just need to give up.

For that reason, I've got no issues with them keeping a squadron of them going. They don't need fleets of them like they did during the Cold War.
 
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