The B-52H is the US Air Force's long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress or the Buff (big ugly fat fellow). It is the USAF's principal strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform, and supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions.
The B-52H is a very large aircraft, with a length of 159ft 4in (48.5m) and a take-off weight of 488,000lb (220,000kg). The all-metal skin bears a high proportion of the flight loading. When on the ground, the surface of the aircraft on the forward section of the fuselage has a wrinkled appearance. The skin expands and becomes smooth as the crew compartment is pressurised when the aircraft gains altitude.
The B-52 celebrated its 50th anniversary (first flight April 1952) in April 2002 and is the longest serving combat aircraft in the world - a total of 744 were built.
The B-52H entered service in 1961 and 104 were built. The last was delivered in October 1962. However, due to an extensive system and structural upgrades, its service life is expected to continue beyond the year 2030.
The USAF retired 18 B-52H aircraft leaving 76 aircraft in service, stationed at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and Minot AFB in North Dakota.
The aircraft were retired at the rate of one every two weeks and are stored in a hangar at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, in case they are required in future. The first aircraft was retired in July 2008. All B-52s were transferred from Air Combat Command (ACC) to the new Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) in 2010.
B-52H engineering sustainment programme
The US Air Force awarded a $750m, ten-year engineering sustainment programme (ESP) contract to Boeing in June 2009 to provide engineering and technical support services for the B-52H and its components, as well as support and test equipment, and system integration laboratory.
A $22m contract was awarded to Boeing by US Air Force on 13 January 2010 under the ESP to provide engineering services to the B-52H.
The US Air Force awarded a second $21.7m contract to Boeing in February 2011 under the ESP to continue supporting the B-52H Stratofortress bomber.
In September 2009, the US Air Force awarded a $5.4m contract to Boeing to install an advanced satellite communication system on the B-52H. The installation of extremely high-frequency (EHF) system enables the aircraft to exchange data with ground station from ground, air and space platforms.
Boeing was awarded a $70m contract by the Pentagon in August 2009 to upgrade the communications system of the B-52H bomber aircraft.
Flight-testing of a B-52 using a blend of synthetic fuel and JP-8 began in September 2006, as part of a USAF process to develop more efficient fuel for its fleet, with less reliance on imported petrol. The B-52 was certificated for the synthetic fuel in August 2007.
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