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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

B-52 History 1970s

SRAM, Phase VI ECM, and EVS, like Hound Dog, Quail, and the use of low level tactics, marked a major shift in the B-52's utility. The modifications of the late 1950's and early 1960's had been applicable to a large portion of the entire B-52 fleet and had greatly altered the tactics and weapons used for strategic nuclear attack. The modifications of the late 1960's and early 1970's were quantum leaps in technology applicable to only a small portion of the B-52 force. By 1970, approximately half the total inventory of B-52's built had been retired with only half of those remaining scheduled for SRAM, Phase VI, and EVS. These updates, although not substantially altering the missions established in the early 1960's, would greatly change the overall capabilities of the B-52 as a strategic bomber. They would also serve as baseline requirements thought necessary for future aircraft development.

These modifications, in addition to substantial capability improvements, had a second, very important impact on the B-52 since those changes would use a large percentage of the remaining excess subsystem support capacity; so much in fact, that these updates could not be considered for the older B-52D and F without costly upgrades to their electrical, hydraulic, and environmental control systems. Additional subsystem capacities designed into the later production B- 52's provided the edge which allowed this next round of capability improvements. At the completion of SRAM, Phase VI, and EVS, the operating weight of the G and H models had grown by nearly 24,000 pounds over the initial delivery weighty This new operating weight was extracting a penalty on operational range on the order of 8 to 11 percent. But this loss was acceptable when compared to the associated increase in capability.

The introduction of the first of these modifications in the early 1970's was accompanied by a refinement in national security strategy. Implemented under Secretary of Defense Schlesinger, this new strategy was oriented towards providing the NCA more flexibility through increased options in the use of the military instrument. As part of this option-oriented strategy. the bomber concept of operations required increased flexibility to provide a capability across the entire spectrum of conflict. The modifications were excellent complements to this new strategy, giving the B-52 greater flexibility, responsiveness, and survivability.

The need for flexibility within the new strategy returned the heavy bomber to a prominent place within the TRIAD. The heavy bomber emphasized both size and range so that sufficient penetration aids could be carried to cope successfully with the projected defenses; and once into enemy territory, a large enough payload would be available to effectively do the job. In addition to SRAM, a second new missile weapon was being discussed for the B-52. Christened SCUD, for subsonic-cruise unarmed decoy, this system would, like Quail, resemble the B-52 on radar. As an active decoy, it would carry ECM and other devices, and it had a range of several hundred miles. Eventually, plans called for the missile to carry a nuclear warhead as an armed decoy so that even after discrimination from the bomber, defense assets would have to be diverted to destroy it.

The introduction of SCAD as a candidate system in 1969 was to portend a third major profile change for the B-52, that of a cruise missile carrier. The SCAD concept was devised and validated based upon the projected threat of the 1980's. At the time, SCAD was not envisioned as a replacement for the penetrating bomber; but like earlier modifications, an adjunct to extend the life of the B-52. Although SCAD was never deployed operationally, the concept of a long-range cruise missile weapon ultimately was accepted, becoming known as the air launched cruise missile (ALCM-A).

With SRAM, the bomber could strike heavily defended targets without entering the terminal defenses; the cruise missile provided the alternative of striking from greater distances and thereby increasing the lethal footprint of the bomber. A larger laydown footprint for the strike system translated directly into greater versatility and flexibility of response, effectively giving back to the B-52 the range which the added weight of past modifications had taken away. With the greater footprint, a larger target base could be covered by a fixed number of delivery vehicles. It was believed that a large number of cruise missile-type weapons would serve to dilute and eventually saturate enemy defenses, thereby improving the survivability of the launch vehicle. These characteristics were becoming operationally important in a relatively dense, high threat environment with an expanding target base.

By the early 1970's, it was apparent that the Soviets would stop at nothing less than military parity with the United States. The Nixon administration, in continuing the national commitment to a TRIAD, authorized development of a prototype B-1 bomber as a replacement for the B-52.

Development of a new bomber throughout the early and mid- 1970's paralleled continued contemporary research into cruise missile technology. Technology had developed propulsion, guidance, and structural materials for a cruise missile that could greatly alter the profile of the bomber aircraft. In June 1977, President Carter announced his intent not to produce the B-1 but to again extend the life of the B-52 by modifying it to carry a longer range air launched cruise missile, the ALCM-B. With the associated avionics changes, this proved to be the largest single modification ever made to the B-52. It would have the greatest impact in terms of overall aircraft capability and potential missions. Unlike previous weapons developments, the ALCM-B captured the latest in technology to allow for a small, long-range, highly accurate weapon.

Unlike the Hound Dog, 20 ALCMs would be carried on the B-52. And unlike the SRAM, the ALCM-B would allow the carrier aircraft, in many instances, to avoid overflying the enemy homeland. As envisioned by the planners, ALCM carriage would remove the B-52 from its penetrator role to the less demanding and less threatened role of a missile launch platform. The B-52 cruise missile carrier would, in many cases, launch its payload beyond the range of the majority of land-based threats. By avoiding both the terminal SAM threat and the en-route LD/SD fighter threat, the B-52 would remain a viable weapon carrier throughout this decade and into the next. It is interesting to note that in the 1980's the B-52 will perform the mission it was originally designed fora long-range, high-altitude bombing platform.

These proposed modifications in role change would drastically alter the original design capabilities of the B-52. Virtually, the entire bombing and navigation systems would be replaced by a state-of-the-art digital navigation system.

Of all the changes, however, the ones with the greatest impact were the ones that affected the physical characteristics of the aircraft. When fully integrated into the B-52, the 20 ALCM-B's and their launch equipment will weigh approximately 76,000 pounds. The aircraft will carry six of the 20-foot-long missiles under each wing on 40-foot-long pylons. The eight remaining missiles are carried internally like SRAM. But to carry these weapons, the B-52 must download an amount of fuel equal to their weight to remain within the maximum gross weight limit. In addition, a range penalty of approximately 10 percent results from the added drag of the pylon-mounted missiles. It is estimated that the total range penalty for displaced fuel and drag may approach 25 percent. In addition to decreasing aircraft range, the ALCM requires electrical, hydraulic, and cooling support from the B-52's subsystems. In some cases, this exceeds the existing capacity of the B-52, for these systems already represent over 20 years of modifications.

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