The B-52 will probably go on to live to the centennial mark and well past the younger B-1 and even more modern B-2 stealth bomber fleets.
In the world of military hardware where it’s “out with the old and in with the new” in order to maintain a ballistic and strategic advantage over the enemy, there seems to be an exception to that maxim. In the case of the U.S. Air Force, that would be the B-52, that gargantuan jalopy of bombers which will probably go on to live to the centennial mark and well past the younger B-1 and even more modern B-2 Stealth bomber fleets. Here’s the logic behind that reasoning.
100 Years Of Bombing Stuff
Even though it lacks the stealth, speed and accuracy of its newer and flashier colleagues, the B-52 is slated to fly until its fulfilled a century of service. Built in the 1950s, the B-52 was an icon during the first half of the Cold War, and retired twice, before the Air Force brought them back.
It turned out that the B-52 had a tough enough design to endure another 30 years of flying. The plane’s lack of sophistication in its structure made it easy to add upgrades and additional combat technology without a hitch.
And the B-52 remains a versatile bomber, able to release a wider variety of payloads than its stealth cousins could ever carry. It’s also cheaper to maintain than other bombers, given the availability of spare parts recycled from other decommissioned B-52s.
Contrast the B-52s with the shorter legacy of the sleeker, radar-beating B-2, which was introduced to the Air Force in the ’90s at a staggering cost of $2 billion a piece. Despite only 21 of them ever being built, they’re considerably more expensive to maintain and would likely be the first to go.
Waiting For the B-21
But the Air Force realizes that the B-52s lengthy days are also numbered as the brass prepares for the next generation flagship bomber. That would be the Northrop Grumman nuclear-capable B-21 Raider, slated to go into service as early as 2025.
Still, once the Raider totally replaces the B-52, which will go the way of the dinosaur, stalwarts of the beast will at least have the satisfaction that it outlasted its high-tech stealth counterparts.