The B-52 is the longest serving and most versatile of the United States Air Force's combat aircraft. The Stratofortress entered active service in 1955 and is scheduled to continue as part of the air force's inventory through 2040. The jet-powered bomber was a mainstay of America's Cold War nuclear-deterrent strategy, providing air power that balanced the land and sea military forces. The massive plane also served as the launch platform for the experimental X-15 hypersonic rocket aircraft. Due to its versatility as an aircraft, the B-52 has seen combat service in all of America's military conflicts since it came on active duty: Vietnam, the first and second Gulf wars, and the War in Afghanistan. B-52 Stratofortress also covers every aspect of the aircraft's development, manufacture, and modification. These technical details set the stage for its military service, starting with its role as a nuclear bomber in the Cold War even though only conventional weapons have been used during its combat duty. The airplane’s service in key campaigns in Vietnam is covered, followed by the quieter years after it. The B-52 returned to prominence in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan, taking part in massive bombing campaigns in both conflicts. Finally, the book ends with the constant upgrades that will keep the B-52 an integral part of U.S. airpower for decades to come.
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In 1954, Secretary of the Air Force Donald Quarles looked up at the immense Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and described it as “the most formidable expression of air power in the history of military aviation.” Much the same could still be said today. No other combat aircraft has remained in first-line service as long as the B-52. The Stratofortress first took off with the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command in the Cold War 1950s, ready to deliver nuclear strikes at any time and any place in the world. It would remain on alert for that possibility until 1991, in addition to flying conventional bombing missions over Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s. In the 1990s, it flew conventional bombing missions against targets in Iraq and the Balkans. In 2001, nearing its fiftieth anniversary, the B-52 began punishing al-Qaeda terrorists hiding in Afghan caves. Bill Yenne, author of The American Aircraft Factory in World War II, covers the whole story, from the strategic needs that called for a new bomber to the drawing board, the flight tests, and decades of operations and upgrades that have kept the B-52 going strong into a new century. He illustrates this one-of-a-kind story with more than 200 eye-catching photos from throughout the B-52’s history. Finally, B-52 Stratofortress looks to the future. With continuing upgrades, the U.S. Air Force expects to keep the B-52 flying through the middle of this century, a stunning nine decades since the first model entered operational service.
From the Back Cover: The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress—it’s an epic aircraft, the longest-serving combat aircraft in the U.S. Air Force. Known as the BUFF (standing for Big Ugly Fat Fellow), it entered operational service in 1955 and is slated to continue as a vital part of the USAF inventory through the middle of the twenty-first century, giving it an unprecedented ninety years of front-line service. From its beginning, the B-52 was a mainstay of America’s Cold War nuclear deterrent, the manned bomber that augmented land-based and submarine-based missile forces. Due to its extreme versatility, dependability, and low operating costs, it has seen combat service in all of America’s hot wars since 1965: Vietnam, both Gulf Wars, and the war in Afghanistan. In B-52 Stratofortress, Bill Yenne covers every aspect of the BUFF’s development, manufacture, modification, and combat service. This six-decade success story is illustrated with over 200 photographs, providing a rich historic overview of this aviation and military icon.
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