60 Years of the B-52

Wow, look wh0 turns 60 on Sunday. Yup, April 15 marks the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the nation’s ubiquitous B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

On April 15, 1952 legendary Boeing test pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnson brought the XB-52 (shown above) prototype aloft for the first time, six years after the company was awarded the contract to develop the plane by the ARMY Air Force and two years before it entered service with the newly independent Air Force. Think about this, 60 years before the B-52’s first flight, airplanes didn’t exist. Remember, the Air Force’s newest B-52 just turned 50.

(The Air Force fact sheet on the aircraft incorrectly lists its initial operational capability date as 1952. The B-52 entered limited service in 1954.)

Read up on the history of the B-52’s development. It took nearly ten years of fits, starts and redesigns to get the revolutionary and long-lasting jet bomber into service. It may give you some perspective whenever you get frustrated with how long it’s taking to field the current crop of next-generation weapons like the new long-range bomber.

Here’s what Air Force Global Strike Command, the 21st Century successor to the legendary Strategic Air Command, has to say about the incredible milestone that its BUFFs have reached.

Air Force Global Strike Command will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the B-52 Stratofortress on April 15, 1952. This flight was made by the YB-52 prototype in Seattle.

Air Force Global Strike Command will commemorate the airframe’s anniversary with events centered around the theme: “The B-52: An Icon of American Airpower.”

During the celebratory campaign, AFGSC will recognize the heritage and accomplishments of the B-52 and the people - both past and present - responsible for the development, acquisition, operation, maintenance and security of the weapon system.

The B-52’s long and rich heritage is illustrated by stories of families who have up to three generations of Airmen who worked on the B-52, such as 1st Lt. Daniel Welch, a B-52 co-pilot at Minot. Welch is a third-generation crew member on the airframe.

According to Welch, his grandfather flew every B-52 model and commanded Welch’s current squadron at Minot, the 23rd Bomb Squadron. Welch’s father was also a B-52 crew member during his time in the Air Force.

Through the course of the year, the Command will highlight the history of deterrence and combat capabilities the B-52 has provided through its distinguished career, in conflicts from Vietnam to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Some accomplishments to be highlighted throughout the year include:

April 15, 1952 - The first flight of the YB-52 Stratofortress will be commemorated with a long-duration flight from AFGSC Headquarters at Barksdale.

May 10 through Oct. 23, 1972 - Operation Linebacker - Linebacker was the first continuous bombing effort conducted against North Vietnam since the bombing halt instituted by President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1968.

June 18, 1965 - Operation Arc Light - The first use of the B-52D Stratofortress as a conventional bomber from bases in the U.S. to Guam to support ground combat operations in Vietnam.

Aug. 2, 1994 - B-52’s first round-the-world bombing mission.

Oct. 26, 1962 - Strategic Air Command received the last B-52 from production line

Dec. 18 through 29, 1972 - Operation Linebacker II - This operation saw the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the U.S. Air Force since the end of World War II.

  • LeoC

    Some planes get better with age. With upgrades, the BUFF will still be flying while the B-1s and B-2s are collecting dust in the boneyard IMHO.

  • dimeck

    Wow. Happy Birthday! Way to get maximum value out of our taxpayer dollar.

  • Andy

    I don’t know how many bombs the B52 can carry but if they can convert to carry 50 TOMAHAWK Cruise Missile that will destroys the enemies in no time.

    • blight_

      Why 50?

      That said, we have ALCMs for that…

  • Rohan

    Still they are the warriors….. !!!

  • Pat

    60 years of a sick plane!!!

  • Musson

    I am kind of surprised that the Chinese have not tried to copy this one.

    • guess


    • Riceball

      I’m sure they would have if they could but they probably never had access to one to copy back when it was state of the art and now that digital technology and a lot more info on the BUFF is out it’s not worth copying.

  • EW3

    The B52 and I were born the same year.

    Looks like the BUFF is aging better than I am ;)

  • Rich R

    I wonder if another plane could RTB successfully with damage like this.



  • charles

    I served in SAC my entire time in the USAF in various with Bomb Wings who worked every day 7/24/365 to stand guard and keep the nation safe. The B-52 was the heart and soul of SAC and the KC-135 the blood together they were the best. Happy Birthday B-52 may you fly till you are 100.

  • stephen russell

    early in career they scraped the B47 style cockpit for side by side.
    2 bad one cant rengineer airframe with deltaloid wing frame & enhance aerodynamics for longer range & higher altitude with newer engines.
    Rename B53?

    • blight_

      If aerodynamics allowed for paper-doll wingswaps; one may as well un-delta the B-70 and keep flying it.

    • tiger

      Re-engining has been considered but passed on for budget reasons. 8 engines seems like overkill today.

  • Mike

    How can anybody NOT love an aircraft that still flies 60 years later and several mission changes. Plus, it’ll drop 107 500lb bombs from 40,000…and you don’t know until they hit….used to be a termendous show.

  • Riceball

    I wonder if any the older B-52s in the fleet have been crewed by or maintained by 2 or more generations from the same family. I’m not just talking about working with/on B-52s but multiple generations on the exact same B-52. I think that it would be something if some new B-52 crew member got assigned to the exact same B-52 that his dad flew on, and his grandfather before him.

  • Joseph

    There will be a segment on Fox and Friends this sunday about just such a group, son, father and grandfather who all flew the B-52.

  • tiger

    By the way, since it has not come up. Is that the X-4 in the foreground??

  • mp_19


  • Guns,Radar&security

    30 years in the military, I was born into the USAAF at Bolling Field, dependant for 21 years in Hawaii,Japan,Mi,Me2x, In,Germany 2x,NM, and active Duty for 9 yrs in Tx,Co,Ma,Korea,and Me.
    Did 4 yrs flightline DFCS on the B-52G, and 5 years Crypto.
    I was a SAC Strac troop, and I’m really proud of “my” bird.
    We are STILL scaring the bad guys out there. Bless her, for she WILL instill humility!

  • Mac

    Was assigned to Walker AFB on E models. Never hear much about them.

  • Bruce

    I lived in Spokane Wa. When the first 52 was flown to Spokane, I remember the thing flying overhead with the chase plane flying with it. It’s a memory never forgotten, i just wonder if it had the tandem seating for the pilot and co pilot. Or was the change made before it started flying.