Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered, strategic bomber operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) since 1955. 

Beginning with the successful contract bid on 5 June 1946, the B-52 went through several design steps; from a straight wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52, with eight turbojet engines. The aircraft made its first flight on 15 April 1952 with Tex Johnston as pilot. 

Built to carry nuclear weapons for Cold War-era deterrence missions, the B-52 Stratofortress replaced the Convair B-36. Although a veteran of a number of wars, the Stratofortress has dropped only conventional munitions in actual combat. With the longest unrefueled range of any contemporary bomber, the B-52 carries up to 70,000pounds of weapons. 

The USAF has had B-52s in active service since 1955, initially with the Strategic Air Command (SAC), with all operational aircraft absorbed into the Air Combat Command (ACC) in 1992. Superior performance at high subsonic speeds and relatively low operating costs have kept the B-52 in service despite proposals to replace it with the Mach3 XB-70 Valkyrie, supersonic B-1B Lancer and stealthy B-2 Spirit. In January 2005, the B-52 became the second aircraft, after the English Electric Canberra, to mark 50 years of continuous service with its original primary operator.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Boeing
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1952
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Boeing 744 View

Role Strategic bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 15 April 1952
Introduction February 1955
Status In service
Primary users United States Air Force
Produced 1952–62
Number built 744
Unit cost B-52B: US$14.43 million
B-52H: US$9.28 million (1962)
B-52H: US$53.4 million (1998)
Developed into Conroy Virtus

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5 (pilot, copilot, radar navigator (bombardier), navigator, and Electronic Warfare Officer)
  • Length: 159 ft 4 in (48.5m)
  • Wingspan: 185ft 0in (56.4m)
  • Height: 40ft 8in (12.4m)
  • Wing area: 4,000ft (370m)
  • Airfoil: NACA 63A219.3 mod root, NACA 65A209.5 tip
  • Empty weight: 185,000 lb (83,250kg)
  • Loaded weight: 265,000lb (120,000kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 488,000lb (220,000kg)
  • Powerplant: 8 x Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofans, 17,000 lbf (76 kN) each
  • * Fuel capacity: 47,975 US gal (181,725 L)
  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0119 (estimated)
  • Drag area: 47.60ft (4.42m)
  • Aspect ratio: 8.56


  • Maximum speed: 560 kt (650 mph, 1,000km/h )
  • Combat radius: 4,480 mi (3,890 NM, 7,210km)
  • Ferry range: 10,145mi (8,764nm, 16,232km)
  • Service ceiling 50,000ft (15,000m)
  • Rate of climb: 6,270ft/min. (31.85m/s)
  • Wing loading: 120lb/ft (595kg/m)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.31
  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 21.5 (estimated)


  • Guns: 1 x 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon in a remote controlled tail turret
  • Bombs: up to 60,000lb (27,200kg) bombs, missiles, and mines, in various configurations


  • electro-optical viewing system that uses platinum silicide forward-looking infrared and high resolution low-light-level television sensors

End notes