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weapons:  b-52 stratofortress


e3 awacs sentry The development of Boeing's B-52 Stratofortress began in the late 1940s when the Air Force saw a need for an all-jet bomber that could carry nuclear and conventional bombs more than 4,000 miles. The B-52 made its first flight in 1952 and entered service with the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1954.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities in the Persian Gulf, B-52s had seen extensive combat in the Vietnam War. In 1965, SAC B-52s based in Guam and Thailand began conducting Operation Arc Light carpet bombing raids on Vietcong strongholds in South Vietnam. In 1972, SAC B-52s began an 11-day series of strategic bombing missions against Hanoi, an action that paved the way for a cease-fire in the war.

big fat ugly fellows

Known as the Big Ugly Fat Fellow (BUFF), the B-52 can carry up to 60,000 pounds of bombs, or a mixutre of bombs and air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM) in internal bays and on underwing pylons. A remote-control tail turret is armed with either four .50 caliber machine guns or, a 20 millimeter multibarrel cannon for air defense. Advanced electronic systems and terrain-avoidance radar allow for low-level, long-range penetration missions under adverse weather conditions.

The variants presently in U.S. Air Force service are the B-52G and B-52-H. The B-52H has a wingspan of 185 feet, and is 161 feet long and 41 feet high. Maximum take-off weight is 488,000 pounds. The B-52H is powered by eight Pratt and Whitney TF33-P-3 turbofan engines, each delivering its 13,750 pounds of thrust. The aircraft can attain a top speed of nearly 600 miles per hours; maximum range is 10,145 miles, and service ceiling is 55,000 feet.

Problems with the B-1 strategic bomber (all 91 B-1s in service have been grounded due to problems with the engines) have virtually guaranteed the continued use of the B-52H until the mid 1990s, and probably beyond. In Operation Desert Storm, B-52s were used to conduct round-the-clock carpet bombing attacks against Iraqi troop concentrations and defenses. In addition to high-explosive bombs, the B-52s saturated Iraqi positions with anti-personnell and anti-armor bombs.

---From: Gulf War - A Comprehensive Guide to People, Places & Weapons by Col. Walter J. Boyne, U.S. A.F. (RET) Signet, 1991


"White Paper--Air Force Performance in Desert Storm" Department of the Air Force April 1991

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