Stratofortress: The Boeing B-52 Was the Greatest Fighting Airplane?
The Boeing B-52 Was the Greatest Fighting Airplane of Them All

The Boeing B-52 Was the Greatest Fighting Airplane of Them All

Larry Holzwarth - November 14, 2021

The Boeing B-52 Was the Greatest Fighting Airplane of Them All
The B-52’s reliability and versatility are likely to keep it in service for another three decades. USAF

20. The B-52 is likely to remain in service for another 30 years

As the geopolitical situation around the globe continues to change, the proven versatility of the B-52 means the Air Force will continue to call upon its oldest combat aircraft for the foreseeable future. Plans to re-engine the fleet, giving it still greater capabilities at more economical costs, have been proposed and studied during several budget cycles. Replacement of two far more recent bombers is scheduled for the mid-2020s, the B1 Lancer and the B2 Spirit. Their replacement, the B-21 Raider, is scheduled for deployment by 2026, though in all new weapons systems development there are unavoidable and often seemingly endless delays. Meanwhile, under current plans, the B-52 will keep flying.

As of this writing, no military aircraft has served longer than the B-52. Though some claim that record for the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, that highly successful airplane entered service in 1956. The Hercules does claim the record for the aircraft with the longest period of production, over 60 years and counting. The Hercules has served in the Air Forces or civilian service of over 60 nations. By contrast, the Boeing B-52 has served but one. Whether current plans hold, or changing circumstances cause them to be reconsidered, the design which arose in a Dayton hotel continues to prove its merits across the globe. The US Navy built and operated 29 ballistic missile submarines during the period of B-52 production, and another 12 in the decade which followed (41 for Freedom). All are retired, and most have been scrapped. The B-52 flies on.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“The US Air Force Is Gradually Rebuilding Its B-52 Bombers From The Rivets Out”. David Axe, Forbes Magazine. September 27, 2021

“What makes the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress so long-lasting?”. Garrett Reim. Flight Global. 13 September 2019