The Lean, Mean B-52 Bombers – Wise Guy & Ghost Rider Are Back!
In the words of Slim Shady, guess who’s back, back again!? Two B-52 bombers – Wise Guy and Ghost Rider are back from the boneyard. Updated with modern technology, the B-52’s bombers Wise Guy and Ghost Rider are back and fully complemented with jointly developed weapons essential to our nation’s defenses.
And boy the history fanatics in us are excited!
Read on to explore 9 reasons why we believe that these B-52’s are bada** – with how things have changed over time and tons of explosive history facts about them!
B-52 Bomber History
Designed as an atomic-bomb carrier capable of reaching the Soviet Union, the B-52 bomber proved adaptable to missions in service for more than 60 years as a part of the U.S. strategic bomber force.
Under Air Force Global Strike Command, the fleet of 76 B-52H Stratofortress includes test aircraft at Edwards AFB. The 5th Bomb Wing uses other aircraft at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
9 Reasons the B-52 Bomber is a Big Old Bada**
Get familiar with this multi-generational American legend with these facts, or skip ahead as you like with the links below.
- USAF’s Loyalty to B-52 Bombers
- B-52 Bomber Size
- 60-year-old Bones Dropping Bombs
- Ghost Rider Rides Again
- Surveilling the Seas
- Wise Guy is Back and Packing Heat
- B-52 Bomber Cost
- B-52 Bomber Engines
- High-tech & Modern
1. USAF’s Loyalty to B-52 Bombers
- Fuel Capacity: 312,197 pounds
- Payload: 70,000 pounds
- Ceiling: 50,000 feet
- Crew of Five: aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer
The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet. In addition, it can carry nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
The B-52 can perform strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations in a conventional conflict.
The Air Force is pouring billions into modernizing B-52s and maintaining the bomber’s legacy as the most feared in the world.
2. B-52 Bomber Size
- Length: 159 feet, 4 inches
- Height: 40 feet, 8 inches
- Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds
- Wingspan: 185 feet
The massive airframe of the B-52 earned it the nickname “Big Ugly Fat F***er” (BUFF). However, being so BUFF is helpful and allows for technology updates on the plane.
Fun Fact: At 151 feet tall, the Statue of Liberty from base to torch tip (not including the pedestal) is 34 feet smaller than a B-52 bomber’s wingspan.
3. 60-year-old Bones Dropping Bombs
- 70,000 pounds: mixed ordnance — bombs, mines and missiles; modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles.
- 1961-2050: The Air Force expects to keep B-52 bombers in operation for decades to come.
All 76 B-52s in the USAF fleet were built in 1961-1962. Today, numerous updates to the B-52 are in progress to ensure it remains a lethal global strike bomber.
Did you know during Operation Chrome Dome (1961-1968), Strategic Air Command kept B-52s airborne and armed with nuclear weapons 24 hours a day?
Years later, during Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40% of coalition forces weapons.
4. Ghost Rider Rides Again
- 272 days: overhaul, modernization and restoration work by 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Tinker AFB.
- 7,000 hours: more than regular programmed depot maintenance to catch up to the rest of the B-52 bomber fleet.
“I’m the only one who can walk in both worlds. I’m Ghost Rider,” Johnny Blaze said in the Marvel comic. Ghost Rider, the B-52 bomber, lived it in real life, rising from “the boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB to rejoin the Air Force fleet. At fifty-five years old, Ghost Rider began the transformation from mothballs to fighting shape. It is now one of two boneyard makeovers in the B-52 fleet.
5. Surveilling the Seas
- B-52 Bomber Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.84)
- B-52 Bomber Range: 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
The B-52 bomber assists the U.S. Navy in operations for anti-ship and mine-laying. A pair of B-52s can monitor 140,000 square miles of the ocean surface in two hours.
6. Wise Guy is Back and Packing Heat
When a wise guy gets whacked in the movies, another wise guy is ready to fill his shoes. In real life, when a B-52 bomber perished in a fiery crash at Anderson AFB on Guam in May 2016, it left the Air Force fleet one short of the 76 B-52 bombers mandated by Congress.
So, Wise Guy, the mighty B-52 bomber, would no longer sit idle in the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group facility, known as the “boneyard” on Davis-Monthan AFB.
Regeneration began December 2018 with prep for the 1,000-mile flight to Barksdale AFB for repairs before flying to Tinker AFB in March 2020 for programmed depot maintenance at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex.
Wise Guy is fully operational as of December 2020.
Fact Check: The seven crew members aboard the Guam crash all survived! Investigators determined pilot error did not contribute to the incident, destroying the aircraft.
7. B-52 Bomber Cost
- 2012 dollars: $84 million
- 2021 dollars: $97 million
The U.S. Air Force fact sheet for the B-52 states the B-52 bomber cost in 2012 fiscal dollars: $84,000,000.
The inflation rate in the United States from 2012 to today is 15.47% — an increase of $12,994,447. So, $84,000,000 in 2012 is equivalent to $96,994,447 in 2021.
8. B-52 Bomber Engines
- Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
- Thrust: Up to 17,000 pounds each engine
Eight Pratt & Whitney turbofan jet engines power the B-52 Bomber with an unrefueled range of 8,800 miles and the ability to carry a 70,000-pound payload.
Today, the Commercial Engine Replacement Program expects to add range while reducing maintenance. See more about CERP in Air Force magazine.
“Eight is enough” — the B-52 is the only jet in active service with eight engines.
9. High-tech & Modern
Combat Network Communications Technology
The CONECT modification adds communication data links, full-color LCDs with real-time intelligence feeds overlaid on moving maps, a state-of-the-art computing network, and the ability to retarget a weapon, or mission parameters, in flight, according to Boeing’s news release.
So, what does this mean? In the ‘70s, when the B-52 crew arrived at their destination, intel was nearly 40 hours old. With CONECT, forces maintain updated, current situational awareness throughout the mission, allowing in-flight retargeting.
See the 2nd Bomb Wing’s video about the CONECT upgrade here.
Ability to launch the Air Force’s new AGM-181 Long-Range Standoff nuclear cruise missile and the hypersonic AGM-183 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon
Weapons bay upgrades will allow B-52s to carry smart weapons internally
Radar modernization adds capabilities and reduces maintenance
You may be able to catch an air show with the mighty B-52s near you. Check Return of the Military Parachute Teams: Golden Knights & Leap Frogs! and Thunderbirds vs Blue Angels: The Return of the Air Shows.
Looking for more trending content? Check out 10 Times Antiques Roadshow Proved WW2 Art is the Bomb
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.