The B-52, or the Stratofortress, was designed in 1948. It is still being used today. Let’s find out more about this magnificent aircraft.
If necessary, explosive cartridges can be placed into the engines of a B-52 bomber to get them up and running faster. The “cart start” cuts takeoff time from an hour to ten minutes.
What is the B-52 Bomber?
The Boeing B-52, often known as the Stratofortress, is a long-range heavy bomber developed by the Boeing Company in 1948. It was first flown in 1952 and first deployed to the United States military in 1955. (Source: Britannica)
The B-52 is 185 feet in wingspan and 160 feet 10.9 inches in length. It is propelled by eight jet engines positioned in four twin pods beneath the wings. The B-52 is approximately 488,000 pounds. (Source: Boeing)
At 55,000 feet), the plane can reach Mach 0.9 (595 miles per hour, or 960 kilometers per hour); at only a few hundred feet above the ground, it can reach Mach 0.5 (375 miles per hour, or 600 kilometers per hour).
B-52s were designed for long-range flights, upwards of 10,000 miles. It was also originally designed to accommodate five crew members.
The B-52’s massive airframe earned it the nickname “Big Ugly Fat Fellow” (BUFF). This is also why the jet can be equipped with very advanced navigational, weapon control, and electronic countermeasures systems. The United States Air Force still operates over 70 B-52s. (Source: Britannica)
Different B-52 Versions
Boeing produced 744 B-52s between 1952 and 1962, with eight variants designated A through H. The B-52A was designed primarily as a test aircraft. The B-52B was the first long-range nuclear bomber to enter the United States Strategic Air Command service.
The C through F variants were upgraded to carry tons of conventional bombs in their bomb bay and on pylons beneath the wings. Their range was increased by increased fuel capacity and in-flight refueling facilities.
Beginning in 1965, bombing campaigns over North and South Vietnam were conducted by B-52Ds and Fs. The B-52G, on the other hand, was given additional fuel capacity and was equipped to launch a variety of air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles.
The B-52H’s engines were upgraded from turbojets to more efficient turbofans. The G and H variants were equipped in the 1980s to carry air-launched cruise missiles equipped with nuclear or conventional warheads. After 1994 the B-52H was the only version remaining in service. (Source: Britannica)
B-52 and the “Cart Start” Feature?
Since the B-52 is a massive plane with eight engines, it takes around an hour to be ready for take-off. The aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney turbofan jet engines (the only jet in active service with eight engines). These types of engines need some time for them to be ready and get the big plane airborne. (Source: USO)
In the cold war, the B-52s were utilized mainly by U.S. Strategic Air Command. And for them to have the planes up and ready for battle or evasion in a matter of minutes, the Air Force created a faster way to have the Stratofortress running and up in the air. This was called the “Cart Start.”
Small explosive charges are inserted into two of the eight engines by ground workers. The explosion gets the engines going faster. A B-52 using Cart Start could be ready for takeoff in less than ten minutes, giving it enough time to avoid being incinerated on the ground. (Source: Popular Mechanics)