B-52 Stratofortress

The B-52H BUFF [Big Ugly Fat Fellow] is the primary nuclear roled bomber in the USAF inventory. It provides the only Air Launch Cruise Missile carriage in the USAF. The B-52H also provides theater CINCs with a long range strike capability. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

The aircraft's flexibility was evident during the Vietnam War and, again, in Operation Desert Storm. B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Gulf War involved the longest strike mission in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., launched conventional air launched cruise missiles and returned to Barksdale -- a 35-hour, non-stop combat mission.

A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory and all are assigned to Air Combat Command. The first of 102 B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile which was launched from B-52G models during Desert Storm.

Barksdale AFB, LA and Minot AFB, ND serves as B-52 Main Operating Bases (MOB). Training missions are flown from both MOBs. Barksdale AFB and Minot AFB normally supports 57 and 36 aircraft respectively on-station.



In a conventional conflict, the B-52H can perform air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface.

Starting in 1989, an on-going modification incorporates the global positioning system, heavy stores adaptor beams for carrying 2,000 pound munitions and additional smart weapons capability. All aircraft are being modified to carry the AGM-142 Raptor missile and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.


The B-52H was designed for nuclear standoff, but it now has the conventional warfare mission role with the retirement of the B-52G’s. The B-52 can carry different kinds of external pylons under its wings.
bulletThe AGM-28 pylon can carry lighter weapons like the MK-82 and can carry 12 weapons on each pylon, for a total of 24 external weapons. With the carriage of 27 internal weapons, the total is 51.
bulletHeavy Stores Adaptor Beam [HSAB] external pylon can carry heavier weapons rated up to 2000 lbs. However, each HSAB can carry only 9 weapons which decreases the total carry to 45 (18 external).
bulletA third type pylon is used for carrying ALCMs/CALCMs/ACMs.
So the B-52 can carry a maximum of either 51 or 45 munitions, depending on which pylon is mounted under the wings. However, the AGM-28 pylon is no longer used, so the B-52 currently carries on HSABs, limiting the external load to 18 bombs, or a total of 45 bombs.

The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles (14,080 kilometers).

All B-52s are equipped with an electro-optical viewing system that uses platinum silicide forward-looking infrared and high resolution low-light-level television sensors to augment the targeting, battle assessment, flight safety and terrain-avoidance system, thus further improving its combat ability and low-level flight capability.

Pilots wear night vision goggles (NVGs) to enhance their night visual, low-level terrain-following operations. Night vision goggles provide greater safety during night operations by increasing the pilot's ability to visually clear terrain and avoid enemy radar.

Current B-52H crew size is five. Pilot and co-pilot are side by side on the upper flight deck, along with the electronic warfare officer (EWO), seated behind the pilot facing aft.

Side by side on the lower flight deck are the radar navigator, responsible for weapons delivery, and the navigator, responsible for guiding the aircraft from point A to point B. Because the H model was not originally designated for conventional ordnance delivery, weapons delivery was assigned to the radar navigator and the "bombardier/navigator" crew station designation of the earlier B-52 series was not used.)

The controls and displays for aircraft systems are distributed among the crew stations on the basis of responsibilities. The Air Force’s objective is to employ the latest navigation and communication technology to reduce the crew size to four people, by combining the radar navigator and navigator functions into one position.

The navigator stations use CRT displays and 386x-type processors. Interface to avionics architecture is based on the Mil-Std-1553B data bus specification.


Information obtained from:

Federation of American Scientists
1717 K St., NW, Suite 209
Washington, DC 20036