When one thinks of aircraft, one of the most notable names is Boeing. To say that Boeing aircraft have revolutionized the industry, both from a defense and commercial perspective, would not be an overstatement. This assessment will focus on the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a long-range, strategic heavy bomber with enhanced capability. The flexibility that the aircraft possesses separates it from others within the industry, even the most strategic of aircraft. The ability to drop or launch the widest array of weapons makes this aircraft an integral part of the defense industry. The Boeing name distinguishes itself within the industry due to the precision and unique ability that each designed aircraft represents. While the capabilities of the B-52 are significant and demonstrate the overall capacity of a Boeing aircraft, the historical significance and sense of transition that the B-52 represents is the focus of this paper.
Prior to examining the demographics and distinct capability of the B-52, it becomes important to gain a historical understanding of the aircraft and how it has emerged in the industry. From a historical perspective, the aircraft is rather remarkable. It was first flown in 1952 and is not expected to discontinue service until 2040 (90 years after its first flight) (Greene, 2003). In essence, the staying power of the B-52 can be considered legendary. Furthermore, it has been considered the “backbone of American air defense” throughout its run (Greene, 2003, p. 5). It stands as a tribute to the United States Air Force teams that have flown and serviced the aircraft throughout its existence, in addition to the Boeing personnel who conceived, built, and have maintained the aircraft during its incredible length of service (Greene, 2003). No other weapon has comparable longevity to this ageless wonder.
The B-52 Stratofortress represents growth. Also known as the “Buff,” the aircraft is a tribute to General Curtis LeMay who saw significant potential in terms of growth. That is, if this aircraft could be designed and implemented into the defense system, the potential for the future of defense was seemingly limitless (Yenne, 2012). In its initial stages, the aircraft was a high-level nuclear bomber with the intention of solo flight to cause catastrophic damage to the Soviet Union. However, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) brought difficulty to this initial objective. The alternative was to transform the B-52 into a low-level bomber that would streak in at ground level (Greene, 2003). Based on the success of the B-52 after its transition, it became a force during the Vietnam War. One could equate the bomber to the most distinct weapon during World War I. Developments did not cease as the B-52 Stratofortress has been consistently updated to meet the demands of the current environment. It carries cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions to remain updated with the latest equipment (Greene, 2003). The Persian Gulf War was a prime example of the damage that the B-52 had the potential to implement. Throughout the war, the Stratofortress represented one of the most significant bombing expeditions in the history of the world with air-launched cruise missiles (Yenne, 2012). While the Iraqi Republican Guard was devastated by conventional bombs that the B-52s utilized, the Stratofortress proved to be a unique weapon during times of war.
In addition to the aforementioned weaponry that the Buff possesses, it is also armed with Harpoon missiles for distinct objectives. Additionally, the aircraft is critical when it comes to maritime surveillance, demonstrating flexibility and alternative methods of use. Of course, with all of the strengths of the aircraft come relative weaknesses. Maintenance of the aircraft is problematic due to the stature and complexity of the essential beast. Furthermore, the aircraft is difficult to fly. Still, it has been said that the Buff hits its