Evolution is constant, slowly but unstoppable, species are born and extinct, same happens to aviation technology in a faster way. But as it happens to animals, you can find specimens that belong to cretacic eras but somehow are still alive in plein 2022, in terms of comparison; we are going to talk about the tyrannosaurus rex of the air; the B52.
First flight in 1952; the B52 is meant to still be in service at least until 2040, perhaps reaching 100 years in service for the USAF, certainly a new record for any plane. This is due to the aircraft’s facility to be upgraded with modern technology as it stills in the peak of perfection for what it was designed for.
During its service time, the B52 has faced different modifications while serving in different battlegrounds, such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and cometids; from reconnaissance to nuclear bombardment or even launching prototype planes such as the X-15 (we talked about it previously) and all of it worked over the same premise: the bigger the plane is, the bigger is the amount of stuff you can fit it as with a top speed of 565kts, it was able to deliver 31500kg of funny presents in places located almost 8000 nautical miles away.
As a true son of the Cold War, the B52 Stratofortress was designed to nuke the Soviet Union (Something that fortunately hasn’t happened yet) under a program called Chrome Dome where hundreds of nuclear bombers where constantly flying around the entire world carying out hydrogen bombs, like Santa’s presents but ending the world’s existence. As it happens to everything in history, accidents occur, mixing with fusion weapons consequences may vary from losing billions of dollars to making you think twice before having a summer bath in the beach at Palomares, Spain, where an armed B52 from the Chrome Dome collided mid air with a KC135 fuel tanker, causing the drop of 4 thermonuclear bombs that thanks God (more likely the engineers that designed them) didnt explode but contaminated lots of hectars of the terrain.
With new times comes new tactics, so that coventional bombing has come almost obsolete but the B52 is still a great platform to launch enormous cruise missiles and tons of smaller guided bombs, and the most important thing: its cheap and easy to build, its fuselage is so thin that seems like paper. It bombs so effectively and cheap that it has been used por precision bombing on talibans during the War Against Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Finally, a few fun-facts about it: first of all, in the first versions of the plane, you wouldn’t want to be sitting in the backseats as only the front ones had ejectable seats. And last, there is a law in the USA that every object, at least 50 years old is considered as an archeological good, so B52s are, in fact, the same as dinosaurs.