iD magazine

HOW MANY WEAPONS SHOULD BE ENTRUSTED TO A 60-YEAR-OLD?

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Thirty-five tons: No other bomber in the U.S. Air Force can carry a comparably large load of such diverse weapons. The B-52 has been described as a flying bomb truck, and it can carry its payload close to the front—but not too close, or it would get shot down. A heavy payload and close proximity to its target remain the aircraft’s raison d'être. And while newer strategic bombers (the B-1B and B-2 Stealth Bomber) feature improved defenses, they too are vulnerable to the latest antiaircra­ft technology. In May 2020 the Air Force announced plans to equip 76 of the old gals with new engines to keep them flying. And while the average age of the B-52s in the air is now around 60, they’re still armed with nuclear weapons. The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade (IWBU) allows the B-52H to carry up to 20 of the newest “J-series” weapons, eight internally and six under each wing. The modificati­on increases the carriage capability of the B-52 by almost two-thirds. The aircraft can also carry about 100 convention­al bombs. B-52s flew more than 126,000 sorties over Southeast Asia between 1965 and 1973 to carpet-bomb Vietnam. And they flew around 1,700 sorties during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, delivering about 40% of the weapons dropped by coalition forces. The brand-new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider isn’t scheduled to join the Air Force until 2025.

 ??  ?? Gps-enabled weapons are deadlier than convention­al unguided free-fall bombs. Among them are those of the “J-series,” which includes air-to-surface missiles, air-launched decoy weapons, and “dumb” bombs with guidance kits that convert them into precision-guided munitions.
A rotary missile launcher that’s stored inside the aircraft can carry eight cruise missiles. The B-52H was the only aircraft to carry the AGM-129A advanced cruise missile, a stealth turbofan-powered nuclear-capable missile that was harder to detect and had greater range and accuracy than its predecesso­r.
Gps-enabled weapons are deadlier than convention­al unguided free-fall bombs. Among them are those of the “J-series,” which includes air-to-surface missiles, air-launched decoy weapons, and “dumb” bombs with guidance kits that convert them into precision-guided munitions. A rotary missile launcher that’s stored inside the aircraft can carry eight cruise missiles. The B-52H was the only aircraft to carry the AGM-129A advanced cruise missile, a stealth turbofan-powered nuclear-capable missile that was harder to detect and had greater range and accuracy than its predecesso­r.
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