Apprentices: So, Pops– has the VALOUR-IT Challenge started yet?
SJS: No – and remember, you’re still on probation…don’t call me Pops…
Apprentices: We know that Pops – but why the VALOUR-IT reference if the Challenge hasn’t started yet?
SJS: Well, it will in a little over a month from now so folks need to start thinking and planning ahead…especially our gallant Navy team members and erstwhile competitors. So, as a reminder, we’re re-posting the write-up from last year’s challenge to our friends over at Team Chairforce…
Apprentices: (rolling eyes) Oh, more of that AARP humor eh Pops?
SJS: Watch it you guys…anyway, we’ve issued the same challenge already this year and Mike has graciously agreed to tender the same – and he’d better bring his game ’cause this time, it won’t be a softball coming his way…for more about last year’s challenge,see Catching Up; for the Valour-IT reference.
Apprentices: Hey Pops – it also ain’t Friday…
SJS: It’s not 31 October either — so what’s your point? And quit calling me Pops – there’s a room full of inkpots for you to refill so you better get started if you expect to make liberty call…
The B-52 Stratofortress
The BUFFs’ Beginnings
- XB-52 – The first B-52 prototype. 1 built
- YB-52 – The second prototype. 1 built
- B-52A – The first production model. 3 built
- NB-52A – 1 aircraft rebuilt to carry the X-15 research aircraft.
- B-52B – 50
- NB-52B – 1 aircraft rebuilt to carry the X-15 research aircraft.
- RB-52B – 27 B-52Bs converted into reconnaissance aircraft.
- B-52C – 35
- B-52D – 170
- B-52E – 100
- B-52F – 89
- B-52G – 193
- B-52H – 102
- Total produced – 744
Your Humble Scribe has had several up close/personal encounters with the BUFF. After all, growing up in the shadow of SAC HQ how could one not? Setting aside for the moment the first glimpse of the BUFF in a flyover at the annual Offutt air show (which was more sacred than a pilgrimage to Mecca), the first real encounter was with the B-52B at the SAC museum, which used to be located on the outlying regions of Offutt. There, a collection of aircraft lay under the
Fast forward a decade (or so) and our subject now finds himself roughly mid-way through what would be a 9 month deployment, most of which was spent drilling holes on Gonzo station (off
Oh yes, it also starred in one of YHS’ top 10 favorite movies…
The largest-yield nuclear weapon in the US inventory – the Mk 41 thermonuclear bomb. The Mk-41 was the only three-stage thermonuclear weapon ever deployed by the US U.S. It weighed 4,840 kilograms and was 3.8 meters long. It could be carried by the B-52 or the B-47. While about 500 were built from September 1960 to June 1962, retirement began in November 1963 and the last B41s withdrawn in July 1976. A 25 mt yield for the B41 would give it a yield-to-weight ratio of 5.2 kilotons/kilogram.
- The Lockheed D-21 (Project Tagboard): An unmanned or "drone" aircraft designed to carry out high-speed, high-altitude strategic reconnaissance missions over hostile territory. It is a product of the Lockheed "Skunk Works" program that developed the A-12, YF-12, and SR-71 "Blackbird" manned aircraft in the 1960′s. The D-21 ramjet-powered reconnaissance drone was powered by a Marquardt RJ-43-MA-11 ramjet. Cruising at Mach 3.3 at an altitude of 90,000 feet, the D-21 had a range of over 3400 nautical miles. The D-21 was guided by an inertial navigation system on a pre-programmed flight profile. Originally, the D-21 was designed to be launched from the back of a modified A-12 (redesignated M-12) carrier aircraft. The first flight of the D-21/M-12 combination took place on December 22, 1964, but the first D-21 release from an M-12 did not occur until March 5, 1966. two more launches were successful, but on July 30, 1966, a D-21 collided with the M-12 after release, destroying both aircraft and resulting in the death of one of the M-12′s crew members. No further "piggyback" launches were attempted. A new launch system was developed using modified B-52H aircraft as carriers. The new D-21 configuration (designated D-21B) had dorsal mounting hooks for carriage under the B-52′s wing, and a solid rocket booster for the initial acceleration required to start the ramjet engine. The first launch from a B-52 took place on November 6, 1967, but the D-21 crashed. Several flights followed in 1968 with mixed success.
GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ICBM: The Douglas GAM-87A Skybolt was an air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) developed during the late 1950s. It was intended to provide a "safer" basing for the USAF’s ICBM missile force, on its mobile bomber fleet rather than fixed missile silos. A series of test failures eventually led to its cancellation, much to the consternation of the British who had joined the program. The GAM-87 was a ballistic missile powered by a two-stage solid-fuel rocket motor. Each B-52H was to carry four missiles, two under each wing on side-by-side pylons, while the Avro Vulcan carried one each on smaller pylons. By 1961 several test articles were ready for testing from USAF B-52 bombers, with drop-tests starting in January. In England compatibility trials with mockups started on the Vulcan. Powered tests started in April 1962, but the test series was a disaster, with the first five trials ending in failure. The first fully successful flight occurred on December 19th, 1962, but on that same day the whole program was cancelled and the production of the operational GAM-87A stopped. The US simply no longer needed the missile, with improved silo-based missiles and SLBMs making their counterforce largely invulnerable anyway.
- AGM-84D Harpoon: A BUFF armed to the gills w/Harpoons was a CICOs best friend when running ASUW in the North Atlantic during the Cold War. With lots of loiter time, tough ECM and 8-12 of these hummers slung on wing mounted pylons, one could run some pretty righteous war-at-sea strikes, overloading the bad guys with multiple axis attacks. Between these guys and organic assets (i.e., airwing A-7/A-6’s), we were going Kirov hunting.
Test vehicles: “Double Balls 8” (referring to the a/c serial # – 0008) was the famous NB-52B that was a fixture around Edwards AFB and used as the mother ship for the X-15 program. Following in the pattern set by the B-29/X-1 team, the NB-52 carried the X-15 to launch altitude for its test flights. But with the end of the X-15 program, the NB-52 continued to fly with a variety of vehicles for test. The NB-52B launched the three X-15 hypersonic rocket planes and the Northrop HL-10, Northrop M2-F2/F3, Martin Marietta X-24A and Martin Marietta X-24B lifting bodies. It simulated the steep, power off approach to landing used by the Space Shuttles. It assisted in the collection of data about wake turbulence from large aircraft. It served as an air-to-air gunnery target. It launched 3/8-scale F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles (RPRV), a Ryan Firebee II drone, Ryan Firebee based Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST), and the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) RPRVs. It dropped the 48,000-pound Space Shuttle Reusable Booster Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV) and it released a simulated F-111 crew module from its bomb bay to evaluate new parachute recovery systems. It was the first airplane to launch a satellite into orbit on the Orbital Sciences Pegasus booster. It tested the drag chute used to decelerate space shuttle orbiters. It tested pollution reducing fuel additives with a pair of jet engines mounted under its bomb bay. It launched the X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicles and the X-43A Hyper-X Supersonic Combustion Ramjet. A unique aspect for the NB-52 was the tally board for each mission flown. Besides the usual suspects (X-15, Pegasus, etc.) there are a few gems of wry humor to be found sprinkled around.
* B-52 flies unlike other aircraft. Shortly after take-off, as it gains speed, the nose dips and it climbs in an initial nose-low attitude, a consequence of high camber of its wing in the full flaps configuration. This looks strange to most people, who are used to seeing aircraft take off nose-high.
* An aircraft of this massive size, power and weight necessitates hydraulically boosted control surfaces. However, B-29 Superfortress pilots, who were used to using brute force from the human body to actuate the control surfaces, would be transferred to the B-52, which had hydraulic controls. Therefore, strong springs are used to help imitate the control feel of the older aircraft. As a result the B-52 is a physically demanding aircraft to fly.
* The B-52 on static display outside Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, has a patch on the cockpit. The damage was caused by impact with an American Bald Eagle during landing.
* As part of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia, 365 B-52Gs were flown to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The bombers were stripped of all usable parts, then chopped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel blade dropped from a crane. The guillotine sliced four times on each plane, severing the wings and leaving the fuselage in three pieces. The ruined B-52s remained in place for three months so that Russian satellites could confirm that the bombers had been destroyed, after which they were sold for scrap.