Military Review

B-52 Bomber: One Hundred Years Flight

35

B-52H pair flying above the Baltic Sea, October 23, 2019.


Despite a record age, long-range Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bombers remain the basis of strategic aviation USA. Moreover, they will maintain this status for the next several decades. The current plans of the Air Force provide for the continued operation of such equipment, but this requires various measures.

The future of long-range aviation


At the end of February, Congressional Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. David Naom spoke at a Congressional hearing. He spoke about the current state of affairs in strategic aviation, and also revealed current plans in this area. According to them, the construction of completely new aircraft does not preclude the continued operation of record-breaking old ones.

In the long term, the US Air Force plans to build a mixed fleet of long-range bombers. Its most important component will continue to be the B-52H, which should once again be modernized. It is also planned the production of new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider aircraft, which will completely replace the two types of equipment. In the near future, the process of decommissioning the obsolete B-1B will begin, and the inconspicuous B-2A will remain in service for now.


According to D. Naom, the 76 B-52H aircraft available in the Air Force still have sufficient resources and can continue to serve. Individual aircraft will remain in units until their century. However, this requires timely modernization of equipment. Need to update electronic equipment, powerplant, etc.

The long-awaited engines


Drill B-52Hs have eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-103 turbojet engines. These products have been developed since the late fifties according to the technologies of that time. A stock of ready-made engines and spare parts was created, which allows continuing operation until now. In the seventies, such motors were recognized obsolete and require replacement. Then they launched the first remotorization project. However, for economic and other reasons, these works have not been completed. In the future, new unsuccessful attempts were made to modernize the power plant.

Last year, another similar project was launched - the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program (“Commercial Engine Replacement Program”). The Air Force asked General Electric, Rolls-Royce, and Pratt & Whitney to develop preliminary projects. In May of this year, an official request for proposals was sent, the answers to which are expected by July 22. The following months will be spent on project evaluation, and in June next year, the Air Force plans to sign a contract for the supply of serial engines.


So far, technical staff is working with Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-103 engines, but in a few years they will have to master new products

According to the terms of the B-52 CERP program, bombers should receive engines with a thrust of at least 8-9 tons and high rates of efficiency. It is proposed to maintain four twin-engine engine nacelles, which will do without glider processing. To further reduce the cost of remotorization, it is proposed to use engines of "commercial" types. Participating companies offer three options for motors: one ready-made and two promising modifications of serial products.

The Air Force is going to upgrade all 76 B-52H bombers of the combat personnel and reserve. This requires more than 600 engines, and a stock of finished products and spare parts will also be created. Design work on CERP will last until 2023-24, after which the production and installation of new motors will begin. Direct modernization of aircraft will be carried out by Boeing. The modernization of the entire park will be completed in 2035.

New weapons


Over several decades of operation, the B-52H managed to change several sets of target equipment and a number of generations of aircraft weapons. Now a new modernization of this kind is being carried out, as a result of which the aircraft will improve its combat capabilities.


Arms layout

On April 12, 2019, the Air Force and Boeing signed another contract for the modernization of the weapons complex of the B-52H and B-1B bombers. The work will continue for exactly 10 years, their cost is $ 14,3 billion. In official communications it was mentioned that the project will be carried out according to the “flexible scheme” Flexible Acquisition & Sustainment Tool. It is about increasing combat stability, expanding combat capabilities and increasing combat readiness.

However, other details were not provided, and the key features of the project remain unknown. Later reports by officials as a whole did not change the situation, and so far you have to rely only on fragmentary reports, ratings, etc.

Hypersonic Subsonic


In the foreseeable future, long-range models, including new classes. Obviously, their operation will not do without the B-52H. Moreover, the development and testing of new products depend on old aircraft.

A year ago, on June 12, 2019, one of the cash B-52H became a flying laboratory for preliminary tests of the promising hypersonic aeroballistic missile AGM-183A ARRW. At that time, it was only about the transportation of a prototype, but in the near future the bomber will start launching full-fledged prototypes.


AGM-86B ALCM cruise missiles with external suspension

New information on this subject appeared in the May issue of Air Force Magazine in an interview with the head of the US Strategic Command. General Timothy Ray said the B-52H military aircraft will undergo modernization, which will ensure the use of hypersonic weapons. Currently, only two bombers have such capabilities, used at Edwards Air Force Base for testing. In the near future, six more will join them.

The increase in the number of flying laboratories is associated with the specifics of the designated test program. It is distinguished by its “aggressiveness,” which requires the use of additional aircraft and an increase in the number of personnel. Such processes will continue for approx. 3-5 years, until the end of development work.

Service continues


Thus, the US Air Force is still not going to abandon its oldest combat aircraft and intend to keep them in service for the maximum possible time. Regular B-52H Stratofortress modernization programs are being offered, and ratings for a possible centenary in service are being heard again.

It is not known whether the B-52H will survive in service until the fifties and sixties, but the chances of this are quite high. Thus, the B-52 CERP remotorization program will be carried out until 2035 and will significantly extend the service life. And it is unlikely that the Pentagon will decide to abandon the improved fuel-efficient bombers within 10-15 years after the completion of CERP.


The first export flight of the AGM-183A rocket

Another aspect of the CERP program should also be noted. Previous projects of this kind did not give real results, but they spent time and money. Another failure in this area will be a serious blow to the image of aircraft manufacturers, the Air Force and long-range aviation. First of all, this will lead to additional difficulties for the Strategic Command in “knocking out” funding for new programs.

With the modernization of the B-52H, in addition to an increase in flight performance and economic characteristics, an increase in combat qualities is expected due to new on-board equipment and weapons. Despite the subsonic speed, high visibility for the radar and other shortcomings, the B-52H will remain a convenient and efficient platform for weapons, including promising hypersonic missiles.

Thanks to this, the B-52H will continue to serve for several decades. Until the end of the twenties, the first production B-21s will join them, and by that time the decommissioning of other bombers will begin. Despite its considerable age, the B-52H is not yet out of date - but a variety of efforts and modernization projects are required to maintain the required condition and potential.
Author:
Photos used:
Boeing Company / boeing.com, US Air Force
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  1. Sergey985
    Sergey985 18 June 2020 07: 02 New
    +6
    The B-52 is an eternal plane. Look at the topwar in thirty years to read about the next modernization)
    1. Civil
      Civil 18 June 2020 07: 38 New
      +2
      Will the glider withstand so many upgrades? The same motogandola - traction of new engines?
    2. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 18 June 2020 09: 39 New
      +4
      Quote: Sergey985
      The B-52 is an eternal plane.

      Motolyga with wings. smile
      It's funny that the B-52 remains in service, and the B-1B that was created to replace it is considered obsolete and goes on cancellation.
      1. 5-9
        5-9 18 June 2020 15: 52 New
        0
        B-1B is ok from V-1A (it was an analogue of the Tu-160, but didn’t smack) with the concept of application (low-altitude air defense breakthrough and throwing free-falling nuclear bombs), outdated at the time of its appearance in the army .. therefore it is not at all neither a carrier of nuclear weapons (according to strategic offensive arms) nor long-range ALCMs nor strategic weapons (in fact). "Useless and kind to the good" .... their resource was burned for grinding into the gravel of Afghan mountains.
    3. Trevis
      Trevis 18 June 2020 09: 54 New
      +1
      Quote: Sergey985
      The B-52 is an eternal plane.

      Everything has a limit. Not from the good life of a veteran driven)
      1. volodimer
        volodimer 18 June 2020 11: 17 New
        +7
        So we especially TU-95 are not going to retire. It’s just that with the growth of capabilities of wearable weapons, the requirements for the carrier have decreased ... Speed, range, stealth are not so relevant ... If you can take off the adversary with something hypersonic in your airspace, then the old people can do it well.
        1. knn54
          knn54 18 June 2020 15: 02 New
          +2
          If the V-52 is combined into a network with the F-35 / F-22, then the stealth fighters, due to the small EPR, will suppress the enemy’s air defense, and the bomber could finish off the objects left without protection with a more powerful arsenal.
          1. volodimer
            volodimer 18 June 2020 15: 39 New
            +2
            That’s the point, there is no need for bombers to break through the enemy’s air defense in the current conditions, accordingly, the old, proven-debugged and cheap V-52 and TU-95 can solve the tasks, and V-1B, V-2 and TU-160 become less demanded, although at one time they were called upon to replace the old people.
            Cheap, of course, conditionally, but this is compared to followers.
    4. Bersaglieri
      Bersaglieri 18 June 2020 13: 04 New
      +2
      Like the Tu-95MS (Prada, MS- younger than B-52H, 15-20 years)
    5. Tom Johnson
      Tom Johnson 20 August 2020 02: 28 New
      0
      The new engines are necessary to produce electricity for "other" onboard sensors and systems.
  2. nikon7717
    nikon7717 18 June 2020 07: 28 New
    +3
    Interesting conclusions suggest themselves. The first. The USA, like us, does not plan to radically renew the YES park.
    Second. Why. Either they cannot do it qualitatively (this is unlikely), or we are on the verge of a new technological revolution and the money goes into the development of more promising areas (like the change of a wooden sailing fleet to armored cruisers).
    1. Sergey Valov
      Sergey Valov 18 June 2020 08: 52 New
      +6
      Over the past 30 to 40 years, there have not been any “technological revolutions” in the aircraft industry, and they are not foreseen. The development of aviation equipment and its production (technology) over the past decades has been going through the slow licking of previously found solutions. There was some progress with the introduction of CNC equipment and polymer materials, but not fundamental. As riveted connections reigned, so they dominate. With engines, the situation is no less easy. WFD almost reached the limit of perfection, for a meager increase in performance you have to pay an exorbitant price. During this period, only avionics abruptly jumped forward, but even here the development limit has been outlined, it will definitely fail to replace a person in the foreseeable future. The B-52, in my opinion, is a masterpiece of engineering, since not only an excellent aircraft was created, but, voluntarily or involuntarily, aviation development was predicted for many decades to come.
      1. ycuce234-san
        ycuce234-san 18 June 2020 16: 29 New
        0
        Pulse detonation engine has only been studied for 70 years.
        And he is not the only one - there are previously studied aviation nuclear reactors.
        There are projects of a thermonuclear engine for space with laser ignition of microcapsules of thermonuclear fuel. Given the current progress with lasers, it is likely that such an engine will appear on planes faster than we think - then pilots on aviks, taking off, will be delighted to yell into the air something like - “The reaction has begun!”, Meaning the launch of a direct-flow atmospheric fusion engine.
        While progress has room to move.
        1. Sergey Valov
          Sergey Valov 18 June 2020 16: 48 New
          +1
          It is precisely in theory that all this has long been known, but in practice, things are not going further than laboratory experiments. With lasers, too, everything is very specific - in theory everything is simple, but where to get the necessary amount of energy? How to summarize it? We were taught in the distant 70s - you can draw everything, try to do it.
          1. ycuce234-san
            ycuce234-san 18 June 2020 23: 09 New
            0
            Here - the difficulties are mostly engineering.
            For now, of course, it’s too early to drag a thermonuclear engine into a fighter, bomber or tank, but for large ocean-going ships it looks more real, like a technological horizon of about 50 years, since the engines there have incomparably large dimensions and mass, which means it will be easier to implement them.
          2. ycuce234-san
            ycuce234-san 18 June 2020 23: 21 New
            +1
            In addition - it seems that the problem of supersonic aircraft propellers is also still waiting for its solution.
      2. Tom Johnson
        Tom Johnson 20 August 2020 02: 33 New
        0
        Soft robots that can deflect and warp wings are not revolutionary? you will soon see.
    2. strelokmira
      strelokmira 18 June 2020 09: 38 New
      +3
      And only one conclusion suggests itself: it’s cheaper to send one old b-52 for bombing in a banana republic than to build your base there and use a-10, f-15, etc., and it’s safer, more than one MANPADS will not achieve to the strategist
      1. Bersaglieri
        Bersaglieri 18 June 2020 13: 06 New
        0
        Especially, given the fact that the Kyrgyz Republic launches for 1-2 thousand kilometers to the target :)
        1. strelokmira
          strelokmira 18 June 2020 13: 08 New
          0
          Especially, given the fact that the Kyrgyz Republic launches for 1-2 thousand kilometers to the target :)

          And where does the KR happen when the b-52 can work just fine with bombs without them?
    3. Bersaglieri
      Bersaglieri 18 June 2020 13: 29 New
      +1
      There is no point, if the Kyrgyz Republic flies over several thousand kilometers. If it’s a “war with alien invaders,” then the color will be different :)
  3. Kot_Kuzya
    Kot_Kuzya 18 June 2020 10: 58 New
    +7
    The B-52 glider is like an ax, the form of which there is nowhere to improve further, a perfect worked-out form, ideal for a subsonic bomber. Just as the concept of the airframe of subsonic passenger airliners, as they were developed in the 50s, does not change, they have remained so until now. Only engines change to more high-torque and more economical ones, the filling of avionics changes, composites can be used, but the form of the airframe itself remains the same.
    1. volodimer
      volodimer 18 June 2020 15: 56 New
      +2
      Recently, I often refer to our clone of the magazine Popular Mechanics, there are a lot of American cookies there, but this does not stop looking at their sound ideas. One of ... described the results of a competition of civilian airliners of the future, and in particular the choice of layout ...
      Bottom line: Through the screen of selection according to the criteria, the classic passed without question.
      But the flying wing, banana-ring-planes, and other exotics have dropped out.
      I wanted to finish the comment already ... and here:
      The B-52 glider is like an ax, the form of which there is nowhere to improve further, a perfect worked-out form, ideal for a subsonic bomber.

      As with AK ... All improvements include drawing out some characteristics to the detriment of others ...
      That somehow it turns out .... Regards!
    2. your1970
      your1970 12 August 2020 07: 39 New
      0
      At one time, this became LI-2, whose brother in the United States established a resource-as belay belay
  4. Captan78
    Captan78 18 June 2020 11: 30 New
    +3
    At the same time, advanced American citizens do not forget on occasion to call the Tu 95 a rare junk .... And who are the judges?
    1. volodimer
      volodimer 18 June 2020 16: 23 New
      +3
      They have a legendary junk in service with no less. And if we have the right to be proud of AK, PM, DShK (even if we lead it from the Shpaginsky modification and not from the Degtyarev source), then they can Colt 1911, Browning M2, and the M60 is also a long-liver. Sophisticated equipment is dropping out of the armies of arms manufacturers faster, but for a long time it lives with the poor, our T-34-84, T-55, their M-48, etc. Here the opportunities to contain equipment begin to affect ... Ships are complex and 7k and Fletchers have not served customers for a long time, although they have been fully qualified for the role of old men. By air ... MIGs and SUs are still on the wing, just like their peers Phantoms, but this is in the countries of the 3rd world ... But such serious systems as the B-52 and Tu-95 .... Yeshe will serve, well, that we didn’t let under the knife with Gorbachev.
    2. merkava-2bet
      merkava-2bet 20 June 2020 13: 01 New
      0
      Yes, the old stuff as we see it. All YES of the USSR / Russia are pure nuclear warplanes, the Tu-22M is a small exception, it can sink ships (in theory).
      Unlike the leadership of the USSR, the Yankees did not destroy the bombers, and we (the USSR / Russia / Ukraine) joyfully jumped in for green lavender, and even planted it, now we are trying to give birth to something on the basis of technologies of the 60-70s, a shame for powers.
      When we talk about the US Armed Forces, we do not forget that they are technically and technologically the first in the world, this time, the second location of the bases, and most importantly the Giant Combat Experience, in any theater of operations, there is something to think about.
  5. Knell wardenheart
    Knell wardenheart 18 June 2020 11: 47 New
    -2
    In a war with the Papuans or banana dictatorships, all this can and will be relevant until the middle of the century, but for a serious war the plane is painfully slow and noticeable - there are too many smart and smart weapons, and after 15 years, hypersound will appear in Iran, so I can’t share optimism of the USA.
  6. A. Privalov
    A. Privalov 18 June 2020 12: 21 New
    +6
    and the Tu-95 and B-52 are great cars.

    Don't rush girls
    Take care of grandfather.
    Grandpa also has
    How to entertain anyone.
    (G. Huberman)

    I wish both models many, many years of peaceful life.
    hi
  7. Undecim
    Undecim 18 June 2020 17: 53 New
    +1
    In official communications it was mentioned that the project will be carried out according to the “flexible scheme” Flexible Acquisition & Sustainment Tool. It is about increasing combat stability, expanding combat capabilities and increasing combat readiness.
    However, other details were not provided, and the key features of the project remain unknown. Later reports by officials as a whole did not change the situation, and so far you have to rely only on fragmentary reports, ratings, etc.

    Woe writers did not understand that Flexible Acquisition & Sustainment Tool - This is not a prerequisite for the modernization of the B-52H aircraft and it is impossible to find any technical information in it. This is a kind of US Air Force project management program to upgrade its fleet. Total.
    There is also the IWSSP program - the Integrated Arms System Support Program.
    As for the "key features of the project", they are well known.
    The first is the new radar. Instead of the ancient AN / APQ-166 will be installed AN / APG-83 SABR with AFAR. A similar one is installed on the latest upgraded versions of the F-16.
    The second is, as it is now fashionable to say, “digitalization” of what we call avionics, and “they” have avionics — the Combat Network Communication Technology program. The Americans themselves joke that this is a program for turning the B-52 from a phone with a disk dialer into an iPhone.
    Third, upgrading weapons systems. Instead of the AGM-86 aircraft plan to arm the LRSO. The aircraft is also seen as a carrier of promising hypersonic ARRW.
    Fourth. Modernization of REP systems. Today's version of the AN / ALQ-172 of the early eighties requires updating.
  8. Old26
    Old26 18 June 2020 19: 30 New
    +2
    Quote: Alexey RA
    Quote: Sergey985
    The B-52 is an eternal plane.

    Motolyga with wings. smile
    It's funny that the B-52 remains in service, and the B-1B that was created to replace it is considered obsolete and goes on cancellation.

    Not so simple, Alex. Americans now do not understand at all, then they are going to write off B-1B, then, given the possible withdrawal from START-3, they will be re-equipped with statues again. At least I heard that of the 66-67 B-1B currently existing, they plan to upgrade about half of the carriers of hypersonic weapons. And if they really come out of START-3, it’s easier to upgrade even 3 dozen V-1V paths than to build 30 new ones

    Quote: 5-9
    B-1B is ok from V-1A (it was an analogue of the Tu-160, but didn’t smack) with the concept of application (low-altitude air defense breakthrough and throwing free-falling nuclear bombs), outdated at the time of its appearance in the army .. therefore it is not at all neither a carrier of nuclear weapons (according to strategic offensive arms) nor long-range ALCMs nor strategic weapons (in fact). "Useless and kind to the good" .... their resource was burned for grinding into the gravel of Afghan mountains.

    Well, in the first place they "could." The first 1 cars were produced in the V-4A variant and only then they were upgraded to the V-1V variant. Just at that time the concept changed (using the "low-altitude air defense breakthrough"), because new anti-aircraft systems appeared. And B-1B, by the way, like V-1A was capable of carrying cruise missiles. Only on the B-1A was the AGM-1A variant planned. TTX of this variant of the ALCM did not satisfy the military in range. Therefore, the option B-86B has already been planned already AGM-1B. And until the conclusion of the next START treaty, he was a strategic carrier. But the launch of the B-86A program led to the fact that the Americans would have a very large excess in bombers. Therefore, B-2B were withdrawn from the provisions of the START treaty. A movable partition between 1 and 1 bomb compartments was fixed and the external suspension components were removed. Prior to this, the B-2B was capable of carrying 1 AGM-8B cruise missiles in a combined bomb bay and up to 86 of the same ASs at 14 twin nodes and two single. A total of 6 pieces (under the SALT-14) limit was 2. In total, 12 cruise missiles could carry (if there is no agreement).
    As for the "resource burned" - it is possible that some of them really burned it, but to carry out the replacement of engines and to upgrade it is quite real. Therefore, the Americans should not underestimate this reserve of bomber aircraft.
    1. merkava-2bet
      merkava-2bet 20 June 2020 12: 47 New
      0
      Good afternoon, Vladimir, you wrote everything correctly, but there are nuances.
      External suspensions were never used, only several sets were created, for a pair of B-1B of the first series, so this is advertising and PR.
      In general, for aviation connoisseurs I recommend the Aviation and Cosmonautics magazine from No. 3 of 2019 to the present, a whole monograph with details about this legendary plane, as well as the book of K. Kuznetsov
  9. Ryaruav
    Ryaruav 18 June 2020 20: 33 New
    0
    stratofortress is a great car worthy to be included in the list of 500 best cars, but the Tu-95 is more economical, cheaper and inferior in load, but the excellent beard (radar) of a Boeing is worse and mostly containers
  10. Falcon5555
    Falcon5555 18 June 2020 22: 40 New
    0
    Surely, from a dream liner or from C-17 you can make a bomber more efficiently, but then you need to arrange financing through Congress, and they will ask why, if there is already a subsonic bomber.
  11. Old26
    Old26 19 June 2020 12: 19 New
    +2
    Quote: Falcon5555
    Surely, from a dream liner or from C-17 you can make a bomber more efficiently, but then you need to arrange financing through Congress, and they will ask why, if there is already a subsonic bomber.

    It is theoretically possible, but it is prohibited by contracts to convert civilian (transport) aircraft into nuclear weapons carriers.