The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, strategic heavy bomber capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. The latest version, the B-52H, can carry up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles.
Used for strategic attack, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations, its capabilities include:
- Carrying nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance, including gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions
- Delivering approximately 70,000 pounds of mixed payload, both internally and on external pylons
- Combat range exceeding 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles) unrefueled -- can be refueled aerially
- High subsonic speeds up to 650 miles per hour, or Mach 0.86
- Flying at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters)
- Low-altitude flight capability, augmented by its electro-optical viewing system
The B-52 entered military service in 1954. Ongoing updates have included new avionics, data-link communications, electronic defense and offensive systems, and more powerful, fuel-efficient turbofan engines. Used in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the B-52 has been the longest-serving bomber U.S. military history.