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Airpower Classics

Artwork by Zaur Eylanbekov

B-47 Stratojet
The B-47 Stratojet made Strategic Air Command the most powerful war instrument in history. The B-47s wartime mission was nuclear attack of the Soviet Union. It was fast, powerful, and numerous. Essentially there were two sets of B-47s, with two sets of crews. One comprised aircraft and crews optimized for delivering atomic weapons. The second was made up of reconnaissance, electronic jamming, and weather types. The latter group would troll Soviet air defenses, SAMs, and airborne intercept radars, trying to provoke a response. Two were shot down. Jet engines were new when design work began in 1943. A turning point came in 1945; Boeing aerodynamicist George Schairer, having gained access to German plans and engineers, advised using swept wings in Boeings design. The sleek, beautiful outcome was highly advanced but also temperamental. It did not become operational until 1951. With its 35-degree-swept wings, six jet engines, drag and brake chutes, anti-skid brakes, and bicycle landing gear, the B-47 was far superior to its predecessors. In-ight refueling gave it intercontinental range. Its high cruise speed made Soviet ghter interception difcult. Flying the B-47 was a demanding task, and many were lost in landing or take-off accidents. Beginning in 1953, B-47 wings rotated through bases in the Pacic, North Africa, and Britain. As Soviet defenses improved, USAF created new B-47 tactics, including the Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS)use of an Immelmann maneuver from low atltitude and so-called toss bombing. In 1957, USAF began using Reex, a system in which B-47 wings pulled 21-day alerts overseas. By 1957, SAC had about 1,800 B-47s (and RB-47s) in service, but that number rapidly declined as the Air Force brought on the new workhorse B-52. Walter J. Boyne

This aircraft: B-47E-125-BW Stratojet#53-2399as it looked in 1964 when deployed to RAF Brize Norton in Britain. The bomber

was permanently assigned to SACs 380th Bomb Wing, Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y. The tail numeral 0 indicates the airplane is 10 years old.

In Brief

Designed by Boeing built by Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas rst ight Dec. 17, 1947 crew of three number built 2,049 armament, two 20 mm cannon in tail turret bomb load 20,000 lb Specic to B-47E: six General Electric J47-GE-25 jet engines, plus 30 or 33 RATO bottles max speed 606 mph cruise speed 557 mph max range 4,000 mi weight (loaded) 230,000 lb span 116 ft length 109 ft 10 in height 27 ft 11 in.

Famous Fliers
Gen. Curtis E. LeMay (SAC commander, CSAF); Gen. Russell E. Dougherty (SAC commander); Gen. David C. Jones (CJCS, CSAF); Col. Donald E. Hillman (leader of 1952 overight of Russia); 1st Lt. James Obenauf (DFC in 1958 for heroism); Gen. Thomas S. Power (SAC commander); Gen. John A. Shaud (chief of staff, SHAPE); Gen. Walter C. Sweeney Jr. (commander, Tactical Air Command); Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. (pilot of B-29 bomber Enola Gay); Editors addition: Col. Walter J. Boyne, noted USAF historian.

Interesting Facts

Flown in some 19 variants wing so exible that tip could deect through 17-foot-long arc carrier of Bell GAM-63 Rascal supersonic pilotless bomber RB-47s overew Soviet Union in 1952 two RB-47s shot down in Cold War launched an anti-satellite missile against Explorer VI. 104

B-47s sometimes made rocket-assisted takeoffs. AIR FORCE Magazine / August 2007

Airpower Classics
B-52 Stratofortress
The huge, long-range B-52 bomber indisputably rates as the most capable and versatile warplane in history. From the Cuban Missile Crisis and Arc Light and Linebacker II in Vietnam to the Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan today, the Boeing Stratofortress has been the indispensable combat aircraft. The B-52 is now in its sixth decade of service. First employed as a high-altitude deliverer of free-fall nuclear weapons, it has been constantly evolving in tactics, weaponry, and missions to meet every challenge in many different flight regimes. The all-metal, shoulder wing B-52 defined the concept of an aerial platform, for new equipment, modifications, and changes in tactics have kept it as a first-line weapon. A Boeing team created the basic design in October 1948. The team seized upon the promise of the new Pratt & Whitney J57 engine and in-flight refueling as the keys to development of a jet-powered intercontinental bomber. This aircraft: Air Force B-52H Stratofortress#60-048as it looked in September 2005 on visit to RAF Fairford, UK. This bomber was from the 96th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La.

Artwork by Zaur Eylanbekov

First deployed in 1955, the B-52 experienced some initial technical problems but rapidly became the primary bomber in the Strategic Air Command fleet. Production concluded in 1962 when the final B-52Hthe last modelrolled off the line. Numerous upgrades and refittings have kept it combat-worthy. It can perform strategic attack, close air support, air interdiction, offensive counterair, and maritime operations. In fact, never in history has a single combat aircraft served so well, for so long, in so many ways. The B-52 will remain in front-line service until 2040. Walter J. Boyne

In Brief
USAF photo

Designed, built by Boeing e first flight April 15, 1952 e number built 744 e crew of five (commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator, EW officer) e armament early models, four .50 cal guns; H model, one 2 mm gun e Specific to B-52H: eight Pratt & Whitney TF-33P-3/103 turbofan engines e armament one 20 mm gun, eventually removed e max load 70,000 lb of nuclear and/or conventional munitions (guided or gravity bombs, PGM, ALCM) e max speed 650 mph e cruise speed 525 mph e max range 8,800 mi e weight (loaded) 488,000 lb e span 185 ft e length 159 ft 4 in e height 40 ft 8 in.

Famous Fliers
Air Force Cross: James McCarthy, John Mize. Combat record: R. J. Smith (506 missions). Notables: William Eubank, Robert Huyser, Curtis LeMay, Earl OLoughlin, Joseph Pitts. Test Pilots: Chuck Fisher, Tex Johnston, Guy Townsend. Others: Dale Brown (novelist), Robert Certain (President Fords minister), Tom Jones (astronaut).

Interesting Facts

A Boeing B-52 takes off. 88

Nicknamed Buff, for Big Ugly Fat Fellow (in polite terms) e featured in many films e begun as a scaled-up B-29 bomber with six turboprop engines e stripped of tandem seating at insistence of Curtis LeMay e carried the X-15 on experimental flights in the 1950s e modified for low-level tactics e became key aircraft in SACs Chrome Dome airborne alert concept in 1961 e dropped its first bombs in Vietnam War in June 1965 e flew more than 126,000 combat sorties over South Vietnam e delivered 40 percent of all weapons in 1991 Gulf War e flew 16,000-mile round-trip mission to launch 35 ALCMs at the opening of Desert Storm e set record for nonstop, around-the-world flight in 1957 nonrefueled nonstop flight of 12,532 miles (1962) e two B-52s can monitor 140,000 sq mi of ocean surface in two hours. AIR FORCE Magazine / June 2013