Few weapons systems survive active use longer than a generation before they are replaced by something more advanced developed from lessons learned from the previous system’s hard use in the field. Scratch that when it comes to the B-52 Stratofortress.
Below is an image of B-52A #1 at the Boeing employee rollout ceremony, Seattle, Washington March 18, 1954– 66 years ago today. The tailfin was too high for the hangar door and was later hoisted into place.
Now, in the platform’s 7th decade in service, the good old Buff is still ready and willing to go in harm’s way– and does so regularly.
Please don’t feed the Buffs…it will ruin their diets.
The last production Strat, B-52H AF Serial No. 61-0040, left the factory on 26 October 1962. As they are expected to remain in service until 2050, the youngest of the fleet will still be flying at age 92.
A Minot-marked 5th BW B-52H and vintage Belgian Air Force F-16As last Friday, as part of the Buff’s 30-nations-in-one-day tour.
Even while about half of the USAF’s meager Stratofortress pool was greatly disrupted by the temporary relocation of B-52s from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to escape Hurricane Laura, a flight of six B-52Hs– forward-deployed 5th Bomb Wing Bomber Task Force (BTF) ships operating from RAF Fairford after flying cross-continental from Minot on 22 August — overflew every single one of the 30 NATO member states last Friday while being escorted in turn by a rotating force of 80 fighters belonging to 19 European air forces and Canada.
Most importantly, they did it all in a single day.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:
“Today’s training event demonstrates the United States’ powerful commitment to NATO, and Allied solidarity in action. As US bombers overfly all 30 NATO Allies in a single day, they are being accompanied by fighter jets from across the Alliance, boosting our ability to respond together to any challenge. Training events like this help ensure that we fulfill our core mission: to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace.”
Of course, the Russians also buzzed the B-52s as they operated over the Black Sea, popping by with Su-27s. The below Russian Ministry of Defense video shows that briefly, ending with a clip of a different series of intercepts buzzing a Danish Challenger, a Swedish Gulf Stream, and an RC-135 over international air space in the Baltic.
Here is the B-52 intercept from the view of the U.S. side of things, showing the Russian antics.