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After 60 Years The B52 Is Still Flying

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http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/us/b-52s-us-air-force-bombers.html?ref=business&_r=0

OVER THE GREAT PLAINS — Glance down from the ageless expanse of blue sky into the cockpit of the Air Force’s largest bomber, and the panorama is decidedly more dated — banks of steam gauges quiver above aluminum levers built during the Eisenhower administration, obsolete knobs and dials unused in decades gather dust.

And much of the rest of the mammoth B-52 bomber is just as antiquated. Vacuum tubes have been replaced with microchips, and the once-standard ashtrays are gone. But eight engines along the wings still connect to the cockpit by yards of cables and pulleys, and the navigator often charts a course with a slide rule.

“It’s like stepping back in time,” said Capt. Lance Adsit, 28, the pilot. He banked left to start a mock bombing run, wrestling a control yoke forged decades before he was born. Time had stripped it entirely of paint.

“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

Amazing that this is still flying and can operate in the modern era. The airframe must be really well maintained the plane is an antique.

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The B-52 is an Air Force plane that refuses to die. Originally slated for retirement generations ago, it continues to be deployed in conflict after conflict. It dropped the

in the Bikini Islands in 1956, and laser-guided bombs in Afghanistan in 2006. It has outlived its replacement. And its replacement’s replacement. And its replacement’s replacement’s replacement.

..

The next potential replacement — the Long Range Strike Bomber, which has yet to be designed — is decades away, so the B-52 is expected to keep flying until at least 2040. By then, taking one into combat will be the equivalent of flying a World War I biplane during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

If they'd had built a simple replacement I'm sure this plane would have been retired.

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If they'd had built a simple replacement I'm sure this plane would have been retired.

They didn't thiink that they needed a replacement but they just kept modifying it for delivering different weapons from its original mission.

I think 2052 is currently the planned retirement date.

They are getting less in number though. Probably some time in the future the last B52 will be like the Vulcan in the UK. OK, probably not.

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Yep, still flying but it is pretty much like Trigger's broom.

That's such a brilliant metaphor Triggers broom. I use it all the time.

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Don't tell workingpoor.

Was the B1-B intended as its replacement?

Basically, it was designed to be a nuclear capable bomber as a replacement to the B52. However, the programme faces fits and starts... and the B52 kept being able to be extended... and the B2 stealth bomber began to overtake the B1 as a replacement for the B52s.

But I think they ended up with a gap - much like we have now having got rid of the Harriers and not spent on the Tornados because we are waiting for the F35 - when B52s were vulnerable to Soviet defences and the B2 was not yet ready... so the B1 got ressurected in the B1-B variant. The BONE.

Then when the B2s came online they decided to turn the B1-Bs from nuclear bombers into conventional bombers.

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Yeah, weren't the F-15 and F-16 60's designs? First flights might have been 70's though.

TMT: Thanks for the info on the BONE. Love the look of that plane, I certainly wouldn't want to be BONE'd:

dYJAhAT.jpg

...

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I guess they can't afford a new one in these days of austerity.

IANAAG (I Am Not An Armchair General) but my understanding is that the B52 is basically a cargo plane that drops bombs - whereas all of its intended replacements have been high-performance supersonic super-stealthy super jets that cost an arm and a leg to run.

And when you're bombing Afghan goat-herders from 30,000ft, super-stealth is irrelevant - you just use the cheapest bomber that you have, which is the B52...

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