When the B-52 Stratofortress entered operational service with the 93rd Heavy Bombardment Wing on June 29, 1955, no one could predict that the bombers would still be in service more than half a century later. The B-52, which was designed as a winged nuclear deterrent for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in the event of war with the Soviet Union, has outlived SAC by more than 20 years. Fortunately the B-52 never had to be put to the test with regard to its ability to penetrate Soviet airspace, but it has rendered valuable service to the U.S. Air Force over many decades, with no end in sight.
B-52 Stratofortress: The SAC Years | Photos
Members of a Strategic Air Command B-52 combat crew race for their always ready-and-waiting B-52 heavy bomber. Fifty percent of the SAC bomber and tanker force was on continuous ground alert, ready to be en route to target within the warning time provided by the ballistic missile early warning system. One of the bomber's two Hound Dog missiles hangs from the inner wing pylon in the foreground. U.S. Air Force photo A B-52F leaves clouds of black smoke behind from its J57 jet engines, which employed water injection to boost thrust during takeoff. Note the AGM-28 Hound Dog missiles loaded on the inboard wing pylons. U.S. Air Force photo A B-52 Strategic Air Command crew from the 99th Bombardment Wing on the flight line of Westover Air Force Base, Ma. 1958. U.S. Air Force photo The Boeing KC-135 was a vital teammate for the B-52 in its strategic mission. Here, the first KC-135 Stratotanker built refuels a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time. The KC-135, which first flew Aug. 31, 1956, like the B-52 has served on past all expectations of service life. Photo courtesy of The Boeing Company A Boeing B-52C Stratofortress in flight. Fifty B-52Bs and RB-52Bs were eventually modified to B-52C standard, in addition to 35 new B-52Cs introduced beginning in March 1956. The B-52C introduced the big 3,000-gallon external wing tanks and came in bare metal finish with white anti-flash undersides. U.S. Air Force photo A B-52G with Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAM). The SRAM was built to give U.S. Air Force strategic bombers like the B-52, B-1, and FB-111 standoff capability as well as the capability of attacking air defense sites en route to their main targets. The SRAM was essentially superseded by the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). Photo courtesy of The Boeing Company A B-52G Stratofortress banks to the right near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., during Global Shield 79. The exercise was the largest and most comprehensive Strategic Air Command exercise in more than 20 years, and was launched worldwide in July 1979. U.S. Air Force photo The definitive, and final B-52 was the H model, with shorter tail, M61 20mm gatling tail gun, greater gross weight, fuel capacity, and range, and in the years to come, a string of upgrades and modifications that would keep it operating decades longer than its designers could ever have imagined. Photo courtesy of The Boeing Company. An air-to-air high angle right side view of a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft in flight during exercise William Tell '80. The development of surface-to-air-missiles changed the tactics of the B-52 to that of a low-level penetrating bomber. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. William Franqui Three U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 2nd Bombardement Wing take off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. Three cells of six B-52s and KC-10 Extender aircraft took off seconds apart under combat conditions during a minimum interval takeoff (MITO) exercise. The exercise was part of an operational readiness inspection by the USAF Strategic Air Command Inspector General Team. U.S. Air Force photo A view from inside the cockpit of a B-52 Stratofortress bomber showing pilot and co-pilot as they fly their giant aircraft on a training mission. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Stewart. A B-52 Stratofortress aircraft taking off at sunset during exercise Distant Mariner, May 13, 1988. Not known for its looks, the B-52 is still a popular aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stephen B. Jones An air-to-air overhead view of a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bill Thompson
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Kingdon R. "King" Hawes
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R. J. Kennedy
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Major T. J. "King" Kong
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Kingdon R. "King" Hawes
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Chuck Oldham (Editor)
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Chuck Oldham (Editor)
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Kingdon R. "King" Hawes
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Roni Ann Aborn
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Chuck Oldham (Editor)
9:56 AM April 12, 2012
10:45 AM April 12, 2012
I have many fond memories of my BUFF time (2,000 hrs) as an EWO at Westover in the 99th BW, 348th BS (1961-66). Most memorable was when we launched off alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis as President Kennedy gave his famous speech on tv (22 Oct. 1962). We were loaded with four Mark-28 hydrogen bombs and our target was Moscow. Fortunately, everything ended without going to war.
3:22 PM April 12, 2012
Major Kong, I know this is going to sound crazy but we just received a coded message from base over the CRM 114. It decodes as Wing Attack Plan R.
Goldie, did you say Wing Attack Plan R?
Yes sir I did, R for Robert.
Goldie, how many times have I told you fellers I don’t want no horsin’ around on the airplane?
But sir, we’re not horsing around, that’s how the message decodes!
Well, I’ve been to one world’s fair, a picnic and a rodeo and that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard come over a set of headphones. Are you sure you’ve got today’s codes?
Yes sir, I am.
Well shoot, there’s just gotta be some kind of mistake. Hang on a minute I’m coming back there.
Dialogue from the 1963 film: “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (much of which takes place onboard a B-52) transcribed,flawlessy, from memory.
4:15 PM April 12, 2012
Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones. You sure you got today’s codes?
I don’t give a hoot in Hell how you do it, you just get me to the Primary, ya hear!
Well, boys, we got three engines out, we got more holes in us than a horse trader’s mule, the radio is gone and we’re leaking fuel and if we was flying any lower why we’d need sleigh bells on this thing … but we got one little budge on them Rooskies. At this height why they might harpoon us but they dang sure ain’t gonna spot us on no radar screen!
If the pilot’s good, see, I mean if he’s reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low … oh you oughta see it sometime. It’s a sight. A big plane like a ’52 … varrrooom! Its jet exhaust … frying chickens in the barnyard!
Stay on the bomb run, boys! I’m gonna get them doors open if it harelips ever’body on Bear Creek!
Hey, where’d Major Kong go?
5:44 PM April 12, 2012
Dr.Strangelove was a great movie. B-52 crewmembers like myself roared with laughter when we watched it while on alert in 1964. http://community-2.webtv.net/CobraBall/DrStrangelove/
7:17 PM April 12, 2012
I fell in love with the Air Force in 1967 when my brother Richard took me to see the B-52s sortie at Dow AFB in Bangor Maine…I ended up spending over thirty years in the Air Force with one assignment in SAC but I saw a bunch of B-52s during my career. Indeed, they outlasted me and still serve the nation proudly. If there are any old Dow AFB Airman out there, thank you for your inspiration!
8:56 PM April 12, 2012
Were you guys aware of how close things were to going south in a hurry? Is it just memorable in retrospect, or was it a high pucker factor kind of mission?
8:58 PM April 12, 2012
Slim Pickens, RIP. God bless him.
12:35 AM April 13, 2012
@ Chuck Oldham: The situation for us was very tense throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was especially tense when we went to DEFCON 2. There was always “a sense of urgency” when it came to performing our mission in SAC during the “Cold War”.
3:46 PM April 13, 2012
Armed Forces Day, 1966, Wurtsmith AFB, Oscoda, MI, 379th Bomb Wing (H). A returning B-52 flyby and the aircraft went vertical. Amazing sight!
1:55 PM April 24, 2012
I was one of the first female maintenance troops at Barksdale AFB in 1973-75. I was a Doppler technician and fought with the Bomb/Nav guys about what was really broken and the “winds” issues. They didn’t let me work debrief for long, cuz I would ask the newbie crews if the O. N. – O. F. F. switch was in the O. N. position. Cheers! Still supporting our warfighters in the acquisition field at Wright Patterson AFB.
10:13 AM September 14, 2012
Hello from Down Under! As an eight year old in 1978 or 1979,
I saw flying high over my junior school what I found later
could only be a B-52B, looked like three turbines per wing,
but no, a long-ranger with tanks on it’s way to East Sale. Is this right?
Was aware then and as ever now the importance of the USA/Australia
ANZUS Treaty. Up top in Darwin, Down Under, for rotations is
so welcome. My best wishes and I salute the USAF.
4:02 PM September 16, 2012
I don’t know what else it could have been, Gabriel. Your theory makes sense.