Super Smoky US B-52 Takeoff at Full Throttle at 70 Years Old

Welcome back to The Daily Aviation for a feature on the workhorse aircraft that has been in service with the US Air Force since 1954. The B-52H has undergone numerous upgrades and is expected to fly for at least the next two decades.

The B-52 Stratofortress is arguably one of the most iconic flying machines ever created. For the U.S. military, it is so much more than that. It serves as the backbone of the aerial leg of America’s nuclear deterrent triad and has morphed throughout the years to match the needs of the Air Force at the time. From standoff missile truck to close air support platform, the B-52 has done far more than its original creators could have ever dreamed it would do. It’s now set to soldier on at least into the back half of the century, taking on new roles as hypersonic missile truck — and who knows what else — in an upgraded form.

The thing most don’t think about in regard to the B-52 is just how many generations of airmen have put blood, sweat, and tears into keeping it in the air day-in and day-out. With the youngest B-52H now hitting 60 years old, there were airmen scrambling to generate sorties on these same jets that called John F. Kennedy their Commander-in-Chief. The fact that they still fly so reliably — they are more dependable by a significant margin than their newer B-2 and B-1 brethren — is a testament to the guys and gals on flightlines and in hangars, putting in long hours to keep these ancient flying beasts motivated to complete their critical missions. They are the true unsung heroes of the B-52’s incredible story.

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