The B-52H BUFF [Big Ugly Fat Fellow] is the primary nuclear roled bomber in the USAF inventory. It provides the only Air Launch Cruise Missile carriage in the USAF. The B-52H also provides theater CINCs with a long range strike capability. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). It can carry nuclear or conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
With a gross weight of 488,000 pounds, the B-52H is even today one of the heaviest offensive military aircraft operated by any nation in the world. Maximum speed of the B-52H is 639 miles per hour at 20,700 feet, or a Mach number of 0.91, and cruising speed is 525 miles per hour. Mission radius is 4,480 miles with a weapons load of 10,000 pounds. Many other combinations of payload and range are, of course, possible. Range is, of course, greatly increased by in-flight refueling.
The B-52 was originally designed for high-altitude weapons delivery over the target. Like the B-47, however, the increasing effectiveness of enemy antiaircraft defenses required the development of low-altitude high-speed penetration tactics for the B-52. Again like the B-47, the B-52 has suffered from its share of structural fatigue problems. To cure these problems, many modifications have been made to the aircraft during its long-lived career.
A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory and all are assigned to Air Combat Command. The first of 102 B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile which was launched from B-52G models during Desert Storm.
Today, 94 B-52H's are all that remain of 744 Stratofortresses built in the '50s and '60s. As part of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed by the United States and Russia, B-52 C/D/E/F/G aircrews flew their planes' final missions to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly known as the "Boneyard," the center became the last stop - but not a resting ground - for many of the old SAC warriors. The bombers, some still wearing faded "Peace is our Profession" emblems, were placed deep inside the sprawling complex, like sacrificial lambs awaiting slaughter. Then stripped of all usable parts, the bombers - which helped end two wars and kept the mighty Soviet Bear in check - were unceremoniously ripped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel blade. The modern-day guillotine crashed down four times on each plane, severing the mammoth wings and leaving the fuselage in three pieces. The battered remains sat there for three months, until orbiting Russian satellites confirmed nothing was left but 90 tons of junk.
Barksdale AFB, LA and Minot AFB, ND serves as B-52 Main Operating Bases (MOB). Training missions are flown from both MOBs. Barksdale AFB and Minot AFB normally supports 57 and 36 aircraft respectively on-station.