War College: Why is this 60-year-old U.S. warplane still flying?

January 12, 2016
PARTICIPANTS: Jason Fields, Matthew Gault, David Philipps

North Korea sets off a nuclear bomb and how does the U.S. respond? The Pentagon sends a 65-year-old airplane to buzz Korean airspace. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense if the warplane wasn’t the B-52 bomber. Designed in the aftermath of World War Two, obsolete nearly before the last one rolled off the line in 1961 – the Stratofortress may remain in the air for another 25 years.

In this episode of War College, we look at why the B-52 is still flying and what makes it so hard to replace.

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Further reading:

U.S. flies B-52 over South Korea after North’s nuclear test

These boneyard B-52s can still fly

The Pentagon is taking these B-52s’ nukes away

12 comments

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It works. New toys don’t make me feel any safer.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Have Jason Fields get back to us when he can show he knows something about Guam.

Posted by Jaffar29 | Report as abusive

I have worked on B-52s in the USAF. There is nothing obsolete about these aircraft. Mr. Fields implies there have been no modification to keep this bomber updated since 1961. Boeing built a masterpiece with this and the KC-135. She is big, ugly, sub-mach, but in my opinion the best bomber made. Her reliability and abilities are the reason she’ll fly another 25 years. She outclasses the rest of the inventory.

Posted by Tinbender | Report as abusive

I have seldom heard two people who knew less about a subject talk at length about the subject. Reuters … you owe us the respect to understand some of us do know something and are interested in more than our smartphones. Here you have given us two individuals who haven’t experienced anything of the world outside a 5″ touchscreen in their lives talking about a subject very much outside their range of abilities. Shame on you. Go work for “People” magazine.

Posted by Ghimmy51 | Report as abusive

I can attest from experience that when that bird drops its eggs, the earth shakes for miles around, and all you can think is, ‘Goddamn, I’m glad I’m not there.”

Posted by Alljack | Report as abusive

the participants in this interview sound like they have scant real knowledge of the subject matter. pretty much gibberish.

Posted by patric627 | Report as abusive

You really do not know what you are talking about do you….During Desert Storm B-52s operated out of Spain….(ref: Spain still doesn’t allow B-52s in their airspace) I worked the 60 and 61 models most of my career and flew with and worked the older G models during the Gulf War. The newer jets you talk about like the B-2 and the B-1s are junk and that is why the B-52s are still out there… the BUFFs with smart long range fire and forget missiles can operate as a weapons platform from outside of a country without ever being in danger of aggressor’s. Your whole little story is getting great responses on several B-52 Facebook Groups…they just love making fun of your lack of knowledge…

Posted by buffman68 | Report as abusive

If anyone wants to go on a ride-along, they can just go on YouTube. There are videos from inside the cockpit of pilots flying B52s out of Guam on runs and back again. Very instructional.

Posted by Jaffar29 | Report as abusive

At 16:11, someone mentions the Tu-55 Bear bomber. The propellers are towards the leading edge and not towards the trailing edge like the B-36. There is certainly a lack of credibility here in both the interview and the technical editing.

Posted by ReutersAgenda | Report as abusive

Reuters i don’t know if you care but I’m gonna stop following this podcast unless you get some real substance on this show. Both these guys know about as much as a 15year old kid who watched a 45 min discovery special if not less.

Posted by logicbomb | Report as abusive

I was hoping to hear some useful information – instead I heard 3 20-somethings through snark across the table. Reuters, you can do better…much better…than this.

Posted by djbartleycpa | Report as abusive

Where do they find these people? I think I could have given a better description of the B-52 as a 5 year old child.

Posted by murphybk | Report as abusive