B-52: This 67 Year Old Bomber Still Terrifies North Korea, Russia, and China

Sebastien Roblin

Key Point: Worth keep it around? 

We’ve already examined the colorful analysis offered by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte regarding his country’s new jet fighter, so let’s today look at the aviation insights offered by a politician on our home shores.

In the September 26 presidential debate pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, when questioned about nuclear doctrine, Trump stated:

“But Russia has been expanding their -- they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint.

I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they're old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not -- we are not keeping up with other countries.”

The gist of it appears to be the B-52 is an obsolete airplane that proves that the United States Air Force has fallen behind the rest of the world, particularly Russia.

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But Those Aircraft are Really Old, Aren’t They?

You can call off the fact checkers on this one! The B-52 Stratofortress first flew in 1952 and ended its production run in 1962, so the 76 B-52Hs in Air Force service are older than nearly anyone flying them. Trump is literally accurate in stating that “your grandfather” may have flown the plane, in that there is at least one family with three generations of B-52 crew members.

Such a storied plane is worthy of its own profile—how many planes can claim their own hairstyle, 1970s rock band, and cocktail?—but we’ll stick to the questions of its current relevance for now.

The B-52—nicknamed the BUFF—was originally intended to drop nuclear gravity bombs on the Soviet Union. That would already have been suicidal by the end of the 1960s given the rapid improvement of surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, and would be even more so today.

So What Are They Good for? Why is the U.S. Air Force Still Flying Them?

The B-52 has been deployed in virtually every major military conflict the United States has engaged in since the Gulf War. Why?

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