Home » Air » Air Force » Air Force Begins B-52 Upgrades

Air Force Begins B-52 Upgrades

by Kris Osborn on October 16, 2013

B-52 successfully tests alternative jet engine fuelThe Air Force is reaching milestones with its ongoing effort to upgrade and modernize the B-52 bomber, an iconic workhorse battle-tested aircraft first built in the 1950s, service officials said.

The service is making progress with efforts to upgrade the electronics and communications technology of the B-52 aircraft and also moving along with an initiative to configure the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight J-Series precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Air Force officials said.

Over the summer, a B-52 from Barksdale Air Force Base was delivered to Tinker Air Force Base for depot maintenance. This is the first operational aircraft slated for the Air Force’s Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT, upgrade for the B-52, according to Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick.

CONECT upgrades include software and hardware such as new servers, modems, radios, data-links, receivers and digital workstations for the crew.  Some of the individual elements include the ARC-210 Warrior, a beyond-line-of-sight software programmable radio able to transmit voice, data and information in real time between the B-52s and ground command and control centers

The radio allows for the transmission and receipt of data packets and files with updated intelligence, mapping or targeting information while the aircraft is in flight, officials said.

Computer screens in the cockpit will provide digital moving maps of nearby terrain as well as graphics showing the aircraft’s flight path.  The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through LINK-16, a known high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

Meanwhile, the 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade program is also making progress. The upgrade, which will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, transitioned last month from the Technology Development phase into the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) phase, Gulick added.

The EMD phase contract, awarded to Boeing on Sept. 18, will lead to the procurement of the first three modified rotary launchers, Gulick added.

The B-52 had previously been able to carry some bombs internally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting-edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

The IWBU results in a 66-percent increase in weapons carriage capability for the B-52, Air Force officials said.

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{ 177 comments… read them below or add one }

Secret October 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Money well spent the B-52

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WayneK November 28, 2013 at 11:12 am

B-52 is VASTLY superior to the Russian "Bear"

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hibeam October 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Air Force Begins B-52 Upgrades. Are you friggin kidding me? Are we adding catapults?

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Benja October 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm

NOw that you've mentioned it, they might be inspired to include catapults in their next round of upgrades.

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ron October 24, 2013 at 12:07 am

No we took the catapults off the first upgrade in the 1950's

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rtsy October 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Did the upgrades ever stop?

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Anonymous October 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

What, they couldn't get funds to spend a trillion dollars on a new bomber?

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blight_ October 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm

This just in, B-52's to be upgraded with DAS, AESA radar, fly-by-wire gadgetry, new low RCS coatings and B-52 navy and marine versions.

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Rufus Frazier October 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I'd guess you could build a B-52 replacement for less than 100 billion, assuming it was only required to bomb primitive peasants in an area where you have complete air superiority.

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Musson October 17, 2013 at 8:11 am

Like pretty much every war we have fought since VietNam?

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tiger October 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm
Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

Isnt that what they were?

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Musson October 21, 2013 at 11:56 am

Didn't we have complete air superiority?

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Michael Z. Williamson October 23, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I would.

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Riceball October 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I wonder if the Air Force has any B-52s that has had 3 generations of personnel either flying on or working on the same exact aircraft. Imagine being a new B-52 pilot and getting the same exact plane that not only your father flew but his father before him and by same exact plane I mean not just the same model but the exact same plane with the same exact tail humber and everything.

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blight_ October 16, 2013 at 6:04 pm

That would happened much sooner if we'd kept the older -52's as well as the -H's.

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JohnP October 22, 2013 at 2:31 am

We always have!

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JohnP October 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

That was response to our air superiority. I worked on the 52D's more than 50 y ears ago. I think they were a bargain!!

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tmb2 October 17, 2013 at 12:43 am

There has been at least one 3-generation family having served in the same B-52 squadron, but not in the same plane.

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Kraymon October 17, 2013 at 4:28 am

My memory is a bit hazy, but I recall an article about 10 years ago about a new B-52 pilot deployed to the middle east who was the 4th generation with the B-52. His father was flying SAC patrols in the 80s. His grandfather was in B-52s over Korea, and his great grandfather worked for Boeing during the initial B-52 test flights.

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Clarence October 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

I'm just an old cannoneer, but I do not believe anyone's grandfather was crewing a B-52 over Korea during the shooting part of the Korean Police Action.

TAMC59

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Kim Scholer October 17, 2013 at 11:11 am

Well, if his great grandfather worked for Boeing during the B-52's test flights, the flights over Korea pretty obviously was after the shooting part ended. Theoretically possible, if all involved became fathers at relatively young age.

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Doesn't mean they never "visited". Not like the war ever ended…

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shipfixr October 17, 2013 at 10:04 am

The B-52 did not see combat in Korea, assuming that's what you meant. When do you think the B-52 went into service?

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scubadad October 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

You're probably thinking Vietnam, not Korea. Still a possible scenario for 4 generations…

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Earl October 19, 2013 at 11:56 am

The last B-52 still operational was built in 1962 as I recall. I am 66 years old now and flew D, F, G and H models starting in 1972. Assume a 40 year old mechanic working the H model in 1962 had a son. He started working on the same aircraft in 1982. Now his son or daughter is working on the same B-52H. You certainly have three generations who could have worked on the same bird.

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Ron October 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm

In the fall of 1979, I had a student copilot in the school house who was a third generation crew member in B-52's. His grandfather was Vice Wing commander when wing converted to B-52s and got a staff check. His father was a radar navigator in them for 28 years. That was thirty four years ago!

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Ed Orr October 24, 2013 at 11:18 am

I really doubt it because the older generation would have likely flown the D- or E- model which are now in the Az boneyard unless they are on display somewhere, like the one at Tinker AFB.
Oh yeah, although not a crew member I worked on the D and E models, as well as working with aircrews that flew them.

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JEFF October 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I wonder if they're ever going to put a new model of engine on that bad boy.

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SJE October 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

The AF kept saying "no" because engines are very expensive and not worth it if they are only going to keep the planes for a few years. Of course, they keep extending the life span of these birds, so they probably could have saved $ by now.

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Ben October 18, 2013 at 11:51 am

I wouldn't say new engines would have "saved" money, but they would at least have gotten some meaningful use by now.

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Tim October 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm

New engines would probably damage the wings unless they too were upgraded to with stand new thrust ratings.

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blight_ October 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm

If the concern is power, there's always lighter engines de-tuned for fuel economy. Can't say no to fuel economy…

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Ernest Conner October 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

The engines that are already on the H has too much thrust to operate at 100 per cent power, because operating at 100 per cent power on takeoff could cause catastrophic damage to the wings. Eventually after over 51 years with the TF33 engine the time will come that engines will be unavailable to rebuild or replace even with the use of the salvaged engines from the C-141 (which had the same model engine but with much higher operating hours). Replacement of the engines with 4 current engines ala those on the 757 etc mounted on the 4 nacelles could very well be used and equal or exceed the 8 current J-57 engines. Even with the new engines a throttle thrust gate would would be required just as is currently being used. There is a lot of life left in this magnificent and cost effective weapons delivery vehicle and much savings could be immediately realized in fuel savings as well as range.

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Pete Vantell October 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm

It has eight Jet Engines………….

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Clint Notestine October 16, 2013 at 5:17 pm

When are gonna go fully Dale Brown and do the Old Dog

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RVN11B October 17, 2013 at 10:53 am

Now that would be a kick ass bastard! Love it!

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Pat Patterson October 17, 2013 at 11:11 am

If we could only wish it were possible!

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Bernard October 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm

How much more life do those airframes have?

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Rage October 17, 2013 at 1:03 am

Actual in fleet hours vary a bunch from one to another, most are in the 17,000-18,000 range, some are over 21,000. The upper wing skins will start to fail at 32,500 flying hours. This is expected to affect a large number of the H models by 2040, to the point that too few will be left to make the fleet viable.

That's where the earlier '2037' bomber requirement came from, on the basis that we needed a new bomber in service by 2037 so it could actually be combat ready in useful numbers by 2040. That idea has now lapsed in favor of a smaller bomber earlier to fight the Communist Chinese and because the B-1B has managed to remain so unsatisfactory.

The only reason the H models can last this long years wise was because they spent the entire cold war sitting on alert duty, and flying only minimal training hours. They never carpeted the jungle with Iron Bombs or flew Crome Dome alert patrols like earlier models did.

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tiger October 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Unsatisfactory? The Bone has done a good job in the last 12 years of fighting.

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Ernest Conner October 24, 2013 at 2:12 pm

The "H" model flew Chrome Dome as well as the other models, B thru G models. They were not used in Viet Nam, but the F for a short time and the D model throughout and the G model was used during 1972 for Bullet Shot, LineBacker and Linebacker II.

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Belesari October 16, 2013 at 5:52 pm

"Air Force Begins B-52 Upgrades Again"

Fixed it for ya.

Hey its like the F-35 except the F-35 still isn't combat ready, is really expensive, and will cost millions if not tens of millions to deliver the same amount of munitions as a comparable aircraft with inferior air- air performance.

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bengals69 October 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Right. Show me a B-52 that can fly off an aircraft carrier. That said, the B-52 is a remarkable engineering feat and will probably be in the inventory for the next 30 years.
F-35 will do well once it's in the inventory. The Navy will get much more capable when they can host them on carriers and almost any other big deck ship in the inventory.

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Rage October 17, 2013 at 12:57 am

B-52 carrier operations? No problem if we use enough rocket motors and make the island retractable CVA-58 style.

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Justin H October 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

the B-52s are costing more and more to operate the older they get. It is now cheaper to operate the B-1.

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Belesari October 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Not really. The Buff is simple to operate and fly. No super stealth coatings. No secret materials. Add to that the Mountains of left over parts we have from the hundreds we had at one time.

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Musson October 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

The B-1 has a terrible performance and availability record. I remember when a flight of 5 was sent to Diego Garcia and only 1 made it. The other four broke down along the way.

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PolicyWonk October 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

The BUFF was always cheaper to operate than the B-1. It does what it does very inexpensively, which is why they're still in the air. It remains an enduring design, and has proven itself able to change with the times and as new technologies become available.

The guys at Boeing can be proud of this enduring achievement.

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Steve B. October 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Current per flight hour operational costs are: B-1 – $63,000, B-52 – $72,000, B-2 – $135,000.

I believe the B-1 is currently the only bomber flying air support missions in Afghanistan.

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Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 7:03 am

Nope. Were still using 52's.

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tiger October 19, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Steve October 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Just out of curiosity, are these hourly operational costs that you listed the marginal hourly costs or the average hourly costs?

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ubmike October 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm

It's cheap when you're airframe sits on the ground broke…..

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Stephen N Russell October 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

New engines might help, improved crew stations, updated insturments & sensors, refine ext fuselage airframe more, make more aero? replace cockpit instrumentation & add HUD for pilots.
Refine ejection seats.
fiber optic comm lines inside plane to cut weight even more.

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SB October 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm

had to edit "cockpit" ?

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SBS October 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm

lol nevermind

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McSwain GSM1 October 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

The Navy retired our battleships as the companies that made the components were no longer around. They had extensive repair shops onboard that could make parts and components. However, if a remanufactured seawater pump failed you did not fall out of the sky. When I walked aboard the newly commissioned USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) a Battleship was tied up next to her. The BBs are museums now. I am no air crewman, but I would think the BUFFs are ready to retire.

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Pat Patterson October 17, 2013 at 11:10 am

Well, what do you think a 16" shell would do to a Burke DDG or any ship for that matter?

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anon e. muss October 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm

miss :)

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blight_ October 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Conversely, cruise missiles might do a number on a battleship. Bear in mind Yamato went down to dive bombers.

The SINKEX test results from the USS America would be highly informative as to the effects of anti-ship cruise missiles on armored hulls (which is why it was SINKEX instead of scrapped).

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tiger October 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

More torpedoes than bombs actually.

fuzznose October 18, 2013 at 7:56 pm

not hardly, those rifles were radar controlled, were stabilized through the ship's gyro system. When the New Jersey put shells into Beirut, they were pretty well on target.

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm

The Navy retired the BBs basically because the maintenance was very labor intensive and very much a "lost art". They simply don't teach that sort of engineering any more!

The machinery was in generally good shape and they had many many thousands of 16 inch shells and powder bags in storage. While there was no practical replacement for the 16 inch guns, it's hard to justify maintaining a crew that could man 6 or 8 DDGs or CGs.

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Cyberdude October 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

Let's retire a bunch of B1-Bs and keep the dinosaur…. Interesting use of a very limited budget for maintaining our bomber capability.

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tiger October 17, 2013 at 10:11 pm

No way. I want the Bone on duty.

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Bman October 17, 2013 at 10:57 am

Im no strategist or tactician but it is pretty cool thinking about initial strike operations where F22's do some path clearing along with B52 launched TLAMS coming in followed by JSOWs. The amount of firepower carried is incredible…

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tiger October 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm

ON whom? Meanwhile The Navy can do the work while your planes are still half a world away.

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Pat Patterson October 17, 2013 at 11:07 am

They take a licking but still keep ticking.

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Kim Scholer October 17, 2013 at 11:15 am

Even if keeping the B-52 alive made no military or economic sense, a few should still be left to fly, just for the hell of it. Actually I really miss the Concorde too.

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Marc October 21, 2013 at 10:23 am

I miss the USAF's SR-71 Blackbird more than France's Concorde… :-(

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Kim Scholer October 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

England's an France's Concorde, please. Yeah, the SR-71 is faster and looks cool too, in a mean sort of way. But doesn't have the elegance of the European.

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benjamin andres October 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm

The Air force had been trying to replace the B52 for decades, because of new weapons systems by our adversary, the B57 hustler came and gone, the FB111. The B1 is still around and the B2-The B1 was sold to the Air Force same as the FB111-to fly low and evade radar will the terrain guidance does not work to good and many aircraft were lost and this becomes very expensive to a limited budget- then came the cruise missile and-hey we can still use the B52 and so the wing upgrade of the ones coming back from Guam and Thailand were modified with a new wing the salt air in the pacific did a lot of structural degradation, this was in the late 70's-meantime the G and H models were still doing alert duties and now they are the ones getting the new Electronics-The US Air Force can get by splendidly with this Aircraft- The have weapons systems that can go hypersonic- we don't really need a Supersonic Bomber. As in WW11 all the Bomber need are escort aircraft.

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sunshkid0 February 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm

And the Concord was a civilian airliner, not a military aircraft.

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mrbill October 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

I was a B-52 mechanic at U-Tapao in 1972 when the D model aka big belly was flying 100 missions a day. We had the old P&W J-57 W40 engines with water injection for takeoff. Those engines were very loud and smoky. The G model had turbofan engines which whined like a baby. I loved my big belly buffs and it broke my heart tosee them chopped up on the desert at DM. That is a sad sight. Any upgrade to the B-52 just makes it more fearful to the enemy. During the cold war, we kept them loaded with nukes and cocked and ready to launch at a moments notice. Long live the B-52.

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David October 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Yeah I hated seeing the D models cutup too, I read where you could get a piece of one of them if you crewed one. That would have been nice I was in UT tdy a couple of times in 72-73 support tow team member did not make much sense only for 3 weeks at a time.

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Ed October 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm

There is no feeling like coming off the cliffs at Guam with 108-500 pound iron bombs and fuel enough to catch the tanker. Smoking, screaming B-52D with water injection howling and when you got feet wet drop the nose to get airspeed. By God it was great!!

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Uncle Bill October 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Best comment ever.

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Scotty October 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Yep!! Been there … did that…and it was a real breath holder!!

The old mustang

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george October 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

The D models had J-57-19/29 w engines the G model had j-57-43W and the H- has the fan engines. Was at U-tapao in 66 with tankers. worked them both for over 15 years.

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Frank October 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm

During my Air Force career I was assigned to a Bomber Wing that had the B-52's. The base was changed over to Missiles and I could hardly stand the quietness when the B-52's were gone. There is something soothing when hearing those B-52's (and the KC-135 tankers) when they take off. LONG LIVE THE B-52's.

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Scotty October 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I was a B-52D model ground crew member at Ellsworth AFB, 28th BW, 718th Sqd.
in the late 50's. Then I went to OCS and became a bomb/nav in the early 60.s. Started flying B-52H mode in Grand Forks AFBl…ended up with 4 tours from McCoy AFB back in the "D"s. Kids flying those things noe were not even born yet when I retired!!
Go BUFF!!

The old Mustang

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Chuck October 17, 2013 at 11:28 am

Great Airplane, I was a ground crew member of the first B52, 1956 Castle Air Force Base, 93rd bomb wing, My B52 was the first to fly around the world non stop!

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Earl October 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Atta boy Chuck.

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Dick October 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I was also at Castle for the around the world flight, with the A & E Squadron as a Bomb-Nav Tech. I took care of the 328th's a/c.

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Smith28 October 17, 2013 at 11:46 am

Those who have never gotten the chance (or will never get the chance) to work beside this amazing aircraft and the aircrews just wouldn't understand the critical role she plays.

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enzo October 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Incredible warplane – anyone who saw what it could do in bombing run has never forgotten the sight – 'nam vets I know still talk about it occasionally when prompted.

Grew up across the river from Pease Air Force Base. Actually used to be able to go on base to watch them take off and land for their artic circle runs in the '60's.

Our current technology-worshiping public forgets that sometimes simpler is better.

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm

SOMETIMES??? They're buried under tons and tons of technological redesigns for the F-35, "speedbumps" so to speak for the F-22 and plenty of question marks for the B1B. Look at the service record of the F-117 and the service expectancy of the B2.

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RunningBear October 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Two US military Icons recognizable on sight,1911A1 and the B-52; if you are a friend you love it and if you are the enemy you hate it. The Buff has thousands of hours left in their airframes and with the immense fuel capacity, the latest updated avionics, it's persistence with up to 70,000 lbs. of the state of the art armament it is a great deterrent to our foes.

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Dave Crum October 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Another recognizable 50's icon that is still in service the C-130 (Herky Bird). Kinda ugly on the ground but pretty in the air and loves by ground troops.

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Lance October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

About time for BUFF upgrades they need the same for Falcon and Eagle fighters too. But happy to see the BUFF getting awesome upgrades.

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Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 7:07 am

Thats what the 22 and 35 ar e basically.

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navyjag907 October 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

what would it cost to build some new ones?

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JohnP October 22, 2013 at 3:01 am

jag, I've wondered about that also. Seems logical!

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Richard Silva October 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

On my Campaign Flight (final mission) on an AC-130 gunship in Laos in March 1971 I was caught in an Arc Light. Being nighttime really enhances the flash of the bombs going off under me, but we survived. Can't blame the plane. I still love the things.

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Bruce Milne October 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Flew AC-119G's in 69/70 and saw those Arc Light drops from a distance …..thankfully. Went back to Lockbourne AFB to instruct after my tour, perhaps we knew each other so long ago. Thanks for your service Richard.

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avery_ds October 25, 2013 at 7:46 am

I spent a life time on a C-119 flying from Newfoundland to New Jersey in 1961.

Thunderstorm!

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avery_ds October 25, 2013 at 7:44 am

Thanks for your service Richard, you must have been flying out of Thailand.

I Was at NKP in 1969 with the 23rd Tass.( OV-10 Broncos)

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hibeam October 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Please modify it so it can take off and land vertically. Thanks. — The Marine Corp.

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Just because you Marines do the impossible doesn't mean the flyboys can change the laws of physics.

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keith October 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Please tell me you aren't a Marine. For the love of Chesty, it's spelled Corps. Come on devil!

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hibeam October 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

If stealth is so ever loving important then why are we upgrading these aluminium blimps?

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Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 7:09 am

Cheap Easy and Reliable

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The voice of reason October 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm

We are hopeless pouring money into an antique weapons system. There is no way it could ever operate in an even mildly contested airspace.

A new bomber is what is needed, not an upgrade to a 50+ old airplane.

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Benja October 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm

How many billions do you plan to donate for that purpose?

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The voice of reason October 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Thru some necessary reprioritization…

Cut out the legacy bombers, fund the NGB. Probably the FB-22 is a viable option that could be fielded relatively quickly.

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Was that a typo? Didn't you mean trillions?

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Rocko October 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

This article says the the B-52 was first built in the 1960's. WRONG…… It was first built in 1952 and commissioned into active service in 1955. It's been serving the US military for almost 60 years. Unfriggin believable.

The B-52 is a testament to the genius of the Boeing designers and engineers.

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Richard Silva October 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm

The "H" models they are flying were built in the 60s. This is too complicated for most civilians to understand.

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Kim Scholer October 18, 2013 at 10:42 am

Touche!

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tmb2 October 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

All models prior to the H have been retired so the planes currently flying were built in the mid to late 1960s.

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buff fan October 17, 2013 at 8:11 pm

we used to watch them refueling day and night over Maine. still think about how close those two sets of lights were at night. years later they flew low altitude headed for an rbs site. if you wern't aware of what was coming you were on the deck. awsome.

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Big-Dean October 17, 2013 at 9:45 pm

ok I get it. the air farce says it's force HAS to be completely 6th gen stealth or it won't survive in a modern battlefield but yet here we have the B-52 (God bless it's service btw) that has the RCS of the Empire state building 500 miles away, hmmmmmm?

Heck, the Chinese can "see' the B-52 sitting on the tramac at Barksdale with their radar and they can even see what the crew brought for lunch ;-P

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm

And the Chinese got their crystal bawls from you.

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Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 7:11 am

Fighter-wise yes. When you own the air, do you NEED a stealth bomber?

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wlodell October 18, 2013 at 12:28 am

Hoo rah!

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TonyC. October 18, 2013 at 7:23 am

These birds should fall apart from metal fatigue, USN retired F-14's for metal fatigue and expense to repair. I don't see how the Air Force can keep their planes in the sky
for 60 years?

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tiger October 18, 2013 at 10:20 am
Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 7:12 am

And cheap.

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RHReese October 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I hope the decision to upgrade without upgrading the power plants was not made by the same brilliant Pentagon brain trusts who ordered the destruction of every F-14 Tomcat at DM.

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Peter Erik Bensen October 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

The retirement of the Tomcat was a sad fact of life. You simply cannot run carrier-based planes forever. At the time, the chance of spare parts from junkyard F-14s falling into the hands of Iran was too great. The need for a high performance high maintenance interceptor passed with the demise of the USSR.

The need for a high availability, multirole dog-fighter eclipsed the specialized F-14. I too was a fan of the F-14. They built it near my home on Long Island and we would see them from time to time.

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Karl October 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I think it would be more cheaper and cost effective if they just built new Cruise Missiles and launch them from existing ships and start phasing out the B-52 at 10 a yr or something til all of them have been retired. We still have the B-1b, and the B-2 also !!! Some of the parts have to be handmade since they no longer make parts for the B-52 !!!

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tmb2 October 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm

The powers that be thought the same thing until they figured out how to pack JDAMs into the B-52. Early in the war that plane could orbit Afghanistan all day long waiting for someone to ask for an airstrike. The BUFF does a lot more than fire off cruise missiles.

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Ernest Conner October 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm

The B-1 is a good airplane but it would not surprise me that when the B-1 goes to the boneyard they will send a B-52 in to pick up the crew. Some bombers just dont last forever even bombers as evidenced by the short life of the B-58 and the B-47. The B-52 even though the H model is a couple decades older than the B-1 it will not be around as long as the B-52 because of the cost to maintain it or reliability factors. Stand by for the end of that era. I will not be here when that happens. I started duty as a tail gunner in 64, flew until 76, been retired over 37 years and the H model will probably be in the air long after I am in the ground. Even after the Colonel said to me when I applied for cross training in the B-52 in 1964 "you don't want to get into that airplane. It will be retired in 5 years"! I don't know where he is now, But I enjoyed flying in the B,C,D,F,G and H models and all of them could have been in service for a much longer period of time except for need and the scrap heap.

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Bob Danley October 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm

So…would this be the B-52Y model or the Z model?

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scott October 18, 2013 at 7:48 pm

having served and growing up during the 70's and 80s at the end of the cold war….i always wondered and i asked the guys who flew the C141, C130, and C17s….after the bombers drop their nuclear payload, where would they go next??? most likely the bases they took off from would have been destroyed…so where do they land? what does the crew do upon returning and where do they go..i always wondered that

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blight_ October 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I suppose the plan always was to bomb the target, and if alive, fly on to the next series of targets; check which bases were still intact and fly to those. Presumably a number of civilian airports would be intact, and usable as bases for landing bombers (at least a number of airports in CONUS had much longer runways than a humble rural airport would require…)

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JohnP October 22, 2013 at 3:18 am

With refueling they flew 24 hour missions on Chrome Dome missions. There would be no problem finding a landing time wise. Plus that was with the 'shrums on board all day.

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blight_ October 22, 2013 at 11:04 pm

scott proposed a nuclear war scenario, in which case the original bases are most likely to be smoking ruins, in which case it would be a matter of hoping that civilian airports remained intact.

However, even if a civilian airport could be found to land at, once out of bombs, the aircraft is useless for strategic purposes until it can be rearmed. Perhaps the Air Force had plans to disperse mobile units to move bombs to whatever airport was still intact and serving as a rally point for SAC wings.

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Dr. Strangelove October 20, 2013 at 9:32 am

RIde those bombs into their targets – Slim Pickens style. Yahoooo!!

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John October 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

New engines trade out 8 out 4 in. Get the same power for half the cost. Save on maintenance and reduced personnel

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Jim October 18, 2013 at 8:26 pm

You’re joking right? What happened to our American ingenuity? I seem to remember there is new technology like the B2 bomber. Why are we keeping old fossils like that around? I can hear our enemies laughing out loud it is now after reading this article.

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Wolfen1 October 19, 2013 at 7:14 am

They still do the job cheap and reliably.

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Smith28 October 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

The B2 is effective, but it cost a shit ton just to maintain one B2 due to its advanced avionic systems and stealth coating that needs to be maintained perfectly in order for that fancy stealth to work.

Also the B2 payload is about 20,000lbs smaller than the B52, also the B52 is cheap to maintain and its a "Battle test workhouse" nothing but bombs down range like a B52. Plus with these new upgrades the B52 can essentially become a "Sniper"

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Jim October 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm
Jerry R. Moose October 18, 2013 at 9:03 pm
Don Bricker October 18, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thought they mothballed or chopped all of these up. Took my Huey's away and they aren't in the inventory any longer. I sure loved being around the old aircraft but leave it to the government to ruin a good thing. Glad to see that some of these survived.

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Jerry R. Moose, (Jer-Force Model Builder) October 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm
Kenneth Dysinger October 19, 2013 at 2:39 am

I grew up on SAC bases. Dad was Boomer on KC-135. Once I joined the USAF, my first base was Mather AFB. We had a SAC tenent. Loved to fall asleep to the sound of the Buffs and 135's powering up their engins at all hours. Loved it when they made the windows shake and rattle. Plus I have read all of Dale Brown's books. An EB-52 would be great.

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JohnP October 22, 2013 at 3:23 am

Ken, haven't a few gone the reconnaissance conversion already? Thought I read that.

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blight_ October 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm
JBUFF40 October 19, 2013 at 4:54 am

With over 5,000 hours as a pilot in the "cock"pit of a B-52 and untold days on ground alert in command of a "cocked" nuclear-loaded bomber — I can't help but laugh at your "politically correct" software or Webmaster, substituting **** for the sequential letters c,o,c,k.

My, how times have changed!

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Count R. Mesur October 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

I surely hope that the ability to navigate celestially is kept on the bird. How embarassing it was recently when a "new" cargo plane had to be escorted back across the Atlantic by a KC-135 because the "new" aircraft used satellite technology, and said satellite was down! One of the initial assumptions re all strike aircraft was that all traditional nav aids would be shut down immediately in the event of a pending conflict. I understand that new navs are not even being taught celestial navigation any more? That's a shame!

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Dan October 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm

The AWACS airframes, introduced 15-20 years after the B-52, surpassed the B-52s in flight hours in the 1990s and are still flying today. The 52s will continue to fly for at least another 40 years. If only we could develop an aircraft today that would have a 75-80 year life-cycle.

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ABDELKADER HAMDAOUI October 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

We will be acquiring a couple of B-52s out of mothball and reconfigure them for non military use.

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AAK October 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Great plane. Not sure where some of the hate is coming from. Yes, they are old. But that fact by itself means nothing, surely the question is whether they're still useful for their intended mission. Even with a dose of skepticism about military procurement programs, they are.

Huge range, huge carrying capacity, loiter capability. They are not intended to charge in to heavily contested airspace. With current and future standoff missiles, they don't have to, and if needed can rain down a massive sh1tstorm of iron.

The b-2 and whatever nextgen turns up have their place, so does the BUFF.

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Robert Ferry October 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I hope the upgrades include bluetooth, MP3 players with an Ipod dock, airbags and toilet seat warmers. And oh, yes, don't forget the hybrid engine and solar panels on wingtops.

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Smith28 October 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

The M119 Howitzer is old, and yet we still use it (-.-).

enough said.

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ONTIME October 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm

With all the information we have gotten from the B52 over the years you would think that there would be a even better version on the drawing boards, bigger, better and even more belligerent….This bird has been the envy of military around the world, it has been a moneywise, tested workhorse and a fearsome weapon but it must be time to make a new and improved work horse……a mach 4 version able to fly higher around the earth without refueling…

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tiger October 20, 2013 at 9:40 pm

We have better jets…. They call them the B-1 & B-2.
Bigger? We did the B-36.
Envy of the world? Most of world has given up on the heavy bomber. Nobody has ever wanted to buy the B-52.
The fan club love is getting to overkill level.

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elden teall October 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Almost got caught under an ark lite bomb run over Laos in a EC47 intel acft. Seen black
things dropping off right wing. AC put us in a steep dive to avoid the concussion wave.
It passed too close for comfort. If we were caught we would be worm dung on the side
of a tall rock. Apparently the ark lite broadcast didn't get transmitted. Ed Teall USAF ret.

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JOHNNY TRIGG, . October 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Well, It was a real work horse of the USAF, just like the old C47 was, but as to the most favorite pictures I have one with a full bomb load taking off to hit a target in Vietnam, no that was a real load of 500 lb bombs…

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Charles James Haas October 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Just can't understand why they didn't add upgraded engines also. They could increase the available thrust, fuel efficiency, reduced smoke, improved maintenance, improved availability, and even some improved performance around the edges. They would very likely pay for themselves well before the plane is retired.

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Marc October 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

In case it wasn't already said…I have heard that in the BUFF world, the running joke is that when the last B-1 and B-2 airframes are retired to the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan, a B-52 will be there to pick them up. lol

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Larry Cox October 22, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I spent two years working in the cockpits and the bellies of the BUFF's while stationed at Loring AFB in the early 60"s. It was and is one of the best bargain the air force will ever have. One of our planes was in the sky 24/7 and our KC135's were up there refueling them. I still love to see them on the ground or in the air.

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@John_Westra October 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I bet you could build 100% new planes, with all the avionics they need to bomb who realistically is our enemy (aka towel heads & drug cartels / 3rd/4th world), in Detroit, without Union Labor, for 1/10 the cost of these upgrades alone. Let's face it, the Military Industrial Complex and their pawns in Washington are going to defeat America from within, by bleeding her dry financially!

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John October 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Was at UT in 72-73 as a FMer paying all the troops. Loved to see the Buffs and 135's just skimming the waters of the Gulf headed north. Makes the old heart pump!

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Mark October 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm
Mark October 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm
Mark October 23, 2013 at 7:00 pm
Petethepilot October 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

The B-52 and C-130 are still going strong, amazing how many generations have flown both. Both simple concepts but complex aircraft, adding new mission capabilities. Hats off to the engineering in both.

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der chief October 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Worked on the "E" models in OK in 1959 and the "G" in 1965-66 in GA. It is one wonderful airplane and has done more than its share, but capable of doing more with a little bit of new equipment. Go BUFF for another 30 years.

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hydrpmn October 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I was a hydraulic systems repairman on the B-52 from 1958 to 1974. I was qualified on the D and G model. They were an amazing aircraft then and still are. Boeing got at least one aircraft right. They may still be flying 50 years from now.

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George Montgomery October 23, 2013 at 11:03 pm
George Montgomery October 23, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I was a Nav on B & D models in 64, when they retired the B I told my AC I didn’t want to get stuck in them and have them retire out from under me. He said George these things will be around when you retire, well I retired in 1982, nuff said one tough airplane designed by people with real war experience.

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Bill Thoms Sr. October 24, 2013 at 12:35 am

I flew in-flt. maint, out of Mather during the early '60s. After A 4hr. shake-down flt. one day where we experienced some rough weather, we discovered a 2-4 inch crack just behind the bomb-bay section from bottom to top. It was sent to Kelly for repair. We were flying, among others, the 24hr. missions during the Cold War for many months. Very hard on A/C and crews." Them were the day's"….

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Anthony Ballard October 24, 2013 at 7:40 am
Scoop October 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Worked Pre-load at U-Tapao 67-68. Never want to work that hard again (Probably couldn't anyway!) Launches every three hours for most of the year I was there. Just an incredible airframe with great aircrews and unbelievable support troops. Let's keep it as long as we can. Go BUFF!

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G Wells October 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Need to load one H and have it bomb obummer care out then they could do the engine upgrades and have a really good deal.. Worked on the H at the Kinch

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avery_ds October 25, 2013 at 7:28 am

The Airframe is still 60 years old!

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Muttling October 26, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I absolutely love the plane, but how many years can those airframes last? These things have been in the air a very long time.

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LBSELF October 31, 2013 at 10:09 am

I flew on a B-52D twice. Once on a 12 hour training mission in Fl that I am sure was boring to the crew but thrilled me to death. We did several refuels and a 500 ft low level run over the swamp and bunches of touch and goes. The other was a 12 hour mission from Guam to Vietnam.

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Gene Mitchell December 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I was a missile mechanic (a.k.a. "crewchief) on the "Houndog" missile formally called AGM-28A. I was in the second "crewchief" class and was stationed at Dow AFB, Maine. I sat in B-52Gs on many a below zero night running Houndog engines for power during preflight checkouts. Recovered, loaded and unloaded Houndogs onto/from B-52s for airborne alert during the Cuban Missile crisis. That was a very scary time!!!! B-52s are close to my heart. They are a classic that will live on in history like the P-51.

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gt350 December 28, 2013 at 4:17 am

A great attitude adjuster if u own the sky.

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Hobart January 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm

All of the engineering has been done and "they???" pulled the plug about 15 years ago to put 4 GE engines on the B52's..work was to be done in Lake Charles. Shame really.

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jeux mmorpg April 25, 2014 at 8:26 am

This is my first time visit at here and i am in fact happy to read everthing at single
place.

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Tim June 20, 2014 at 12:39 am

Yea even Slim Pickens flew one.

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