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The Good Old B52: America’s Veteran Bomber

November 10, 2014 Blog, English for Pilots, Listening, Reading No Comments

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The Good Old B52: America’s Veteran Bomber

Despite more sophisticated aircrafts, the B52 jet powered strategic bomber has been in active service since 1955. While much of it is attributed to the USAF teams that have maintained the aircraft, the main reason has been superior performance at sub supersonic speeds and relatively low operating costs. The B52 is slated to be in active service until 2040, 85 years since its commissioning.

Even before the production of B-36 started, the requirement for a bomber with a larger operational radius and greater speed was issued. The B52 was primarily meant for deterrent missions during the cold war era and designed as a high-level nuclear bomber that could take on the Soviet Union. That however became difficult with the arrival of SAM missiles. That was when B52 took on the role of a low-level bomber.

This veteran of many wars took on the role of artillery and dropped huge loads of traditional munitions during the Vietnam War. Later updated equipment such as cruise and other guided missiles were added on. During the Persian Gulf War the B52 was involved in the longest bombing sortie in history. It is now being considered for taking on the role of a bomb-carrying electronic aircraft as part of active protection systems (countermeasures) to prevent sensor based weapons from acquiring and destroying a target.

Although the official name of the B52 is Stratofortress, in military circles it is commonly referred to as BUFF (acronym for Big Ugly Fat Fellow), a reflection of its huge size and ugly shape. The B52 may be unwieldy and a nightmare for maintenance staff, but it has stood in good stead and served the nation well.

Two excellent videos about the B52:

Video 1

Video 2


Questions and Answers

1) Until which year is the B52 expected to be in active service?

a) 2015

b) 2025

c) 2035

d) 2040


2) What is the reason for the long active service record of B52?

a) Strong structure

b) Superior performance

c) Better maintenance

d) Superior performance and low operating cost

3) What was the original purpose for which B52 was requested?

a) High-level nuclear bomber

b) Low-level bomber

c) Surveillance aircraft

d) Missile carrier

4) In which war dips the B52 make the world’s longest sortie?

a) World War II

b) Vietnam War

c) Persian Gulf War

d) Afghanistan bombings


5) What new role is the B52 being considered for?

a) Countermeasures aircraft

b) Surveillance aircraft

c) Personnel carrier

d) Light transport aircraft














1) D

2) D

3) A

4) C

5) A


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