Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Outside View: U.S. still needs its B-52s

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Ilya Kramnik
Moscow (UPI) Jul 30, 2008
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber that crashed in the Pacific Ocean near the island of Guam was the third plane of the U.S. Air Force's strategic aviation to be lost in the last six months.

The fact that expensive heavy bombers fall so often raises doubts about the U.S. Air Force's battle readiness in general.

In February 2008 a Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber crashed shortly after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. In April a Rockwell-Boeing B-1B Lancer strategic bomber exploded after landing at the al-Udeid Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

Even though the immediate cause for the crash of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has not been named yet, it is likely to have something to do with its venerable age. These planes went into mass production in 1953-1963, and Boeing B-52H planes entered operational service in 1960-1963, making their average age about 47 years.

The Boeing B-52 has been modernized repeatedly, but the modernization that improved the plane's equipment and weapons could not give new life to the worn-out superstructure, while capital repairs can prolong the life of the plane but not make it immortal. At the same time, however, the Boeing B-52 is not on the way out as a combat vehicle, because there is no adequate substitute available. Indeed, it is likely to stay in service up to the 2040s.

This seems absurd, especially when the United States has developed several types of strategic bombers to replace the Boeing B-52. Its first attempt was the XB-70 Valkyrie, but this supersonic bomber turned out to be too expensive and the program was canceled.

The second was the B-1A bomber developed in the 1960s and 1970s. However, by the late '70s this plane, which was equipped only with bombs, seemed to be obsolete. Instead, the United States started developing the B-1B. But even the modernized version could not carry ALCM long-range standoff attack missiles, but only shorter-range SRAM missiles.

As a result, the Boeing B-52H equipped with long-range missiles remained the main strategic workhorse of the U.S. Air Force. Moreover, in accordance with the Soviet-American agreements on nuclear weapon reduction, the B-1B lost its SRAM missiles, which were eliminated, and since then has been carrying only bombs, although the United States is planning to bring into service the new JASSM cruise missile.

The last strategic bomber to be developed was the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, which went into production in the beginning of the 1990s. But this replacement for the Boeing B-52 turned out to be too expensive even for the American budget -- one aircraft cost about $1.5 billion. As a result, the United States produced only 20 Northrop-Grumman B-2 Spirits and kept the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress in service.

At this moment there is no alternative to the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. It is the only aircraft that can fulfill all the tasks of strategic aviation, from carpet-bombing to strikes on well-protected targets using long-range high-accuracy missiles. The development of a new aircraft that would replace all these planes is in the pre-design stage. Taking into account the terms and the cost of modern planes, it is possible that the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, like its Russian counterpart, the turboprop-powered Tupolev Tu-95 Bear, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its operational service. We don't have to wait long -- only until 2055.

(Ilya Kramnik is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
The latest in Military Technology for the 21st century at

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Elbit To Supply The Israeli Defense Forces With MARS
Haifa, Israel (SPX) Jul 30, 2008
Elbit Systems has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Elbit Systems Electro-Optics Elop Ltd. was selected by the Israeli Defense Forces as the supplier of MARS - an innovative thermal imaging and target acquisition system.

  • Institute to promote US-China relations inaugurated in Washington
  • Russia to explain security pact in September: diplomats
  • Ukraine drafts law for Russian fleet to leave: report
  • Russia mulls regular bomber flights to Cuba: report

  • UN says NKorea hunger worst since 1990s
  • Obama says Israel could strike Iran if sanctions fail
  • Iran will not retreat in nuclear standoff: Khamenei
  • Rice warns Iran against stalling on nuclear offer

  • NLOS-LS Team Completes First Phase Of PAM Testing
  • Javelin Joint Venture Contract For UAE And Oman
  • US offers Nicaragua health aid for missile destruction
  • Infrared Terminal Guidance Of AASM Completes Firing Test

  • Outside View: BMD deal lessons -- Part 2
  • US considers deploying missile defense radar to Israel
  • Outside View: BMD deal lessons -- Part 1
  • Test Boosts Missile Tracking Radars

  • NASA evaluates new wing sensor
  • Russia And China May Co-Design New Passenger Plane
  • China Southern Airlines managers take paycut due to oil prices
  • Air China says it is to buy 45 Boeing aircraft

  • Northrop Grumman To Develop Persistent Surveillance Payload For UAVs
  • Global Hawk Maritime Demo Unmanned Aircraft Supports Firefighters
  • Boeing Acquires Insitu To Expand Capabilities In Unmanned Systems
  • Raytheon's TCS Is First NATO Standard Unmanned Ground Control System

  • US troops killed three Iraqi civilians
  • Japan party boss says tough to continue Iraq mission
  • US, Iraq on track for military pact: Iraqi minister
  • US forces in Iraq use French anti-insurgency methods

  • USAF And New Mexico University Begin Hi-Tech Partnership
  • 386th ELRS Tests New Humvee Modification
  • Outside View: U.S. still needs its B-52s
  • Raytheon Demonstrates Third Generation Infrared Technology

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement