Conservation, Pentagon-style

Carl Remick cremick at
Fri Mar 12 14:41:01 PST 1999

B-52 Bomber Will Fly 40 More Years

Filed at 5:15 p.m. EST By The Associated Press Washington -- The granddaddy of America's bombers, the Vietnam War-era B-52, is going to have to fly four decades into the new century, the Air Force says. By the time it gives way to a new generation, it will be 80-plus years old. Most pilots who fly B-52s today were not yet born when their planes entered service in the early 1960s. And those same planes will be flying well into the 21st century with pilots of a generation yet to come. That certainly speaks highly of an airplane that already has more than tripled its original life expectancy. ``Structurally, they are in great shape,'' Lt. Gen. Ron Marcotte said Friday. As commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. -- home to 47 B-52s -- Marcotte flies the bombers regularly and says that thanks to exceptional maintenance, the planes are ``doing extremely well.'' The first B-52s began their Air Force duty in June 1955; the B-52s now flying were built in 1961. ``It's amazing,'' said Glenn Buchan, a Rand Corp. expert on strategic bombers. ``The B-52 is one of the most remarkably successful airplanes every built.'' In fact, Buchan said in an interview Friday, the B-52 might be the best model on which to develop the next generation of long-range bombers -- a large plane capable of carrying many different weapons and firing them from a great distance. The Air Force is not ready to invest in a new generation of bombers, however. Over the next decade or so, the Air Force will devote most of its aircraft development dollars to the F-22 stealth fighter to replace the F-15 Strike Eagle and the so-called Joint Strike Fighter to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon. ``Preserve what we have'' in bombers, is the way Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters described the strategy Friday. He and Gen. Michael Ryan, the Air Force chief of staff, briefed reporters on a congressionally mandated ``white paper'' on the future of the long-range bomber fleet. [End]

Carl Remick

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