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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


B-52 History 1960s - New Ideas

As early as February 1965, the Secretary of Defense indicated an interest in a new ballistic short-range attack missile as a means of reducing aircraft exposure. This weapon, being studied in conjunction with the manned strategic aircraft, would preclude the need of penetrating heavily defended target areas. In 1966, as in earlier testimony to Congress, Secretary McNamara again played down the role of the manned bomber in the current force structure and the need to expend monies for a B-52 replacement. He further recommended that a force of approximately 255 B-52G's and H's would be adequate insurance against failure of the ICBM leg of the TRIAD. As an additional initiative, Secretary McNamara recommended that a bomber version of the F-111 be built as a countervalue system to complement the older and more vulnerable B-52 and that the new short-range attack missile (now called SRAM) be accelerated to coincide with the new bomber. The Secretary also directed that preliminary avionics integration design studies be initiated to permit a SRAM retrofit for the B-52 should it be required.

In his last annual testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in January 1968, Secretary McNamara described the major pacing item for maintaining the utility of the strategic bomber as the development of improved penetration aids to counter the postulated Soviet interceptor threat. McNamara continued by recommending that the B-52G and H models remain operational for the foreseeable future. He added that it was important to develop common advancements usable by both older aircraft and candidate replacements as penetration aids in the 1970's. He outlined this program as including continued:

  • a. Planning for the B-52 and FB-111 to carry SRAM.
  • b. Work on a wide range of electromagnetic warfare devices drawing on Southeast Asia experience.
  • c. Developmental work on a new bomber.
  • d. Studies of more advanced bomber penetration aids designed to be used on existing heavy bombers as well as the FB-111 and/or another advanced bomber whenever feasible.

The first step of the Secretary's programs, the addition of SRAM to the B-52, would provide a large increase in nuclear firepower. The G and H models were ultimately modified to carry up to 20 of these supersonic short-range nuclear missiles without downloading existing gravity weapons. Eight SRAMs were carried internally on a special rotary launcher in the aft bomb bay, and 12 SRAMs were mounted on wing pylons with 6 missiles under each wing. The total weight of the missiles and their launch gear was approximately 68,000 pounds. In addition to the missiles, a number of aircraft systems modifications were made to add interface equipment for programming and launching the SRAM.

As part of the second step of the Secretary's program, the Phase VI ECM modification was proposed for the B-52G and H. Called Phase VI, because it was the sixth major ECM program for the B-52, it improved the aircraft's self-protection capability in the dense SAM environment. The equipment added during this modification would expand signal coverage, improve threat warning, provide new countermeasures techniques, and increase the quantity of expendables. The power requirements of this modification would also consume most of the excess electrical capacity on the B-52G.

In addition to improved countermeasures, the Air Force recommended that the B-52G and H also be modified with the electro-optical viewing system (EVS) to enhance low altitude penetration. EVS is a system containing a low-light television and a forward-looking infrared camera to display information needed for penetration at lower altitude. It improves the pilot's probability of hazard avoidance and gives the crew a true damage/assessment strike capability. The addition of a low-light television and a forward-looking infrared system was the first major application of this technology for terrain avoidance uses. The sensors were outgrowths of equipment used for special operations in Southeast Asia, and when integrated with the existing B-52 avionics, improved the aircraft's overall mission effectiveness under all conditions.



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