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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

B-52 C

Increased gross weight (450,000 instead of 420,000 pounds), larger underwing drop tanks, improved water injection system, and white thermal reflecting paint on the under surfaces were the B-52C's main new features.

As a product of the evolutionary process, the B-52C design did not take shape until December 1953.

Less than 30 months elapsed between design and first flight in March 1956.

All B-52Cs went to the 42d Bomb Wing at Loring AFB, Maine. The 42d received its first B-52C on 16 June 1956, but did not become combat ready until the end of the year.

The B-52 (like the B-47) carried only a tail turret for defensive armament. Providing a suitable fire-control system for the aircraft was particularly important, but proved to be a problem from the start. The A-3 system that equipped the B-52A and a few B-52Bs, was capable of both optical and automatic tracking and search, but because of deficiencies, it was replaced by the MD-5. Installed in most B-52Bs, the MD-5 fire-control system did not live up to expectations. Hence, a theoretically perfected A-3, after reappearing on the last 7 B-5213s, was fitted in every B-52C. Still unsatisfactory, the A-3 was supplanted by the MD-9 in subsequent B-52 models. The bombing-navigation system was another difficulty of the B-52 program. Moreover, the problem promised to be fairly constant, since any progress was likely to be counteracted by enemy technical developments. The problem of bombing navigation was not new. It had plagued Convair's B-36 and still hampered Boeing's B-47. Actually, the Air Force arid various contractors had been wrestling for years with the difficulties associated with accuracy, a primary requirement of any bombing system, multiplied many times in importance by the high cost of nuclear weapons. Simply stated, the bombing-navigation system of the atomic age called for greater instrumental accuracy, increased automatic operation to reduce human error, and immunity from more sophisticated defenses. Iwo main systems remained under consideration as late as 1953 (The XB-52, YB-52, and B-52As actually came off production without any bombingnavigation system. ), the K-series bombing-navigation system, which relied essentially on radar and optics, and the MA-2 or Bomb Director for High Speed Aircraft system. The MA-2 combined an optical bombsight, a radar presentation of target, and an automatic computer, together with radar modifications designed for use in high-speed aircraft. The MA-2 appeared ideally suited for both the B-47 and the B-52, but SAC did not believe that the system would be tested sufficiently even by the end of 1955. And while the Strategic Air Command was willing to overlook certain minor deficiencies, it stood firm on the issue that no bombing system that had not been tested or fully approved would be installed in any of its bombers. When the B-52s started reaching the Air Force, neither the K-2 or K-4 bombing-navigation systems of most B-47s, nor the B-36's K-3A had proven satisfactory. For lack of any better system, the K-3A was fitted in some early B-52Bs. However, at altitudes above 35,000 feet, the K-3A became almost useless-loss of definition and poor resolution preventing target identification. The Philco Corporation came to the rescue with a "black box" that increased the K-3A's power output by 50 percent. Yet, this development was merely an expedient, rather than the beginning of a new and improved system. It gave way to the MA-6A bombing-navigation system, a modernized K-3A which was installed in all remaining B-52Bs. Meanwhile, after being rushed through intensified flight tests, the MA-2 kept acting up. In mid-1955, the system still did not perform as well as expected and its autopilot was particularly deficient. Nevertheless, progress was being made. A vastly improved system, the AN/ASB-15, initially equipped the B-52Cs. However, technical refinements did not cease, and most B-52Cs were retrofitted with the AN/ASQ-48 bombing-navigation system.

In mid-1956, the Air Force and the Thompson Products Company were still working on a permanent fix for the faulty alternators that had been responsible for the fatal crash of a B-52B. A new Thompson model, in use by 1957, was much better but still troublesome. Problems occurred because of defects in the alternator drive's lubricating system, which used grease instead of oil. This was expected to be corrected before the end of the year. Another B-52 malfunction, detected in March 1957, had to do with the trunnion fittings of the main gear. Defective fittings were found in nearly all B-52Cs.

A special project, Harvest Moon, increased the B-52C's combat potential to that of the next model in the series. Otherwise, as in the B-52B's case, B-52C post-production modifications were parts of large programs that concerned themselves with the overall improvement of the entire B-52 fleet. None of those programs was initiated for the sake of the small contingent of B-52Cs.

All B-52Cs were built in 1956, the last 5 reaching the Air Force in December. The Air Force received 35 B-52Cs, the total finally ordered. All B-52Cs could readily be converted to RB-52Cs. The Air Force accepted 5 B-52Cs in FY 56; 30 in FY 57. Actually, 1 B-52C was accepted in February 1956; the rest, between June and December. Cost per aircraft was: $7.24 million: Airframe, $5,359,017; engines (installed), $1,513,220; electronics, $71,397; ordnance, $10,983; armament (and others) $293,346. Increased production meant lower unit costs. First beneficiary was the B-52C, acquired at half of the B-52B's price.

The 35 B-52Cs, like some of the B-52Bs, could easily be fitted for reconnaissance. The RB-52Cs were superior to the RB-52Bs, since they were powered from the start by higher-thrust engines-8 J57-P-29Ws. The RB-52Cs also benefited from the other improvements first introduced by the B-52C. Of special importance to the reconnaissance role was the extra fuel carried by the C-model, which significantly extended the aircraft's unrefueled range.

All B-52Cs were phased out of the active forces in 1971. A B-52C (Serial No 53-402) of the 22d Bomb Wing at March AFB, California, was the last one to be retired. The aircraft reached the storage facility at Davis-Monthan AFB on 29 September, only 3 months later than planned some 5 years before. In December 1965, a few months after the first B-52Bs started leaving the operational inventory, Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 21 January 1961 to 29 February 1968, announced another phaseout program that would further reduce SAC's bomber force. Basically, this program called for the mid-1971 retirement of all Convair B-58s, of the B-52Cs, and of several subsequent B-52 models. Secretary McNamara in December 1965 also stated that 210 General Dynamics FB-I 11 s would be purchased to replace SAC's phased-out bombers. The forthcoming strategic FB-111, closely related to the once highly controversial TFX, was a modified version of the F-111. As such, information on the FB-111 was included in Volume 1, Post-World War II Fighters, 1945-1973, published by the Office of Air Force History. However, some of the controversies generated by the FBA I l procurement are covered in this volume, in connection with the B-70, AMSA (Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft), and B-IA projects.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:35:09 ZULU