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US Bombers are gigantic

Americans also came running in the race to gigantism, especially with the bombers. The strategic bomber on which rested in part, for nearly thirty years, the military power of the United States was the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress warplane, powerful and sophisticated, powered by eight engines and capable of tackling any intended purpose. The study for a new bomber began in 1945, and the prototype made its first test flight April 15, 1952. A little over two years later came the first of three copies of initial production of the B-52A. Later versions were: RB-52B strategic reconnaissance (16 copies), the B-52B bomber-reconnaissance (38 copies), the B-52C, with a payload capacity and higher fuel (35 copies, first flight 9 March l956), the B-52D, similar to the previous but exclusively for bombardment (170 copies, first flight June 4 l956), the B-52E with improved electronic (100 copies first flight on 31 September l957), the B ~ 52F with more powerful engines (88 copies, first flight 14 May l958), the B-52G, the wings and tail were changed (193 copies, first flight 26 October l958), and finally the B-52H, equipped with more powerful engines and capable of working with all types of missiles available (102 copies, first flight March 6, 1961).

In contrast, the career of the first USAF supersonic bomber, the Convair B-58 Hustler, was relatively brief. Despite its outstanding performance, this powerful and sophisticated airplane suffered from the change in the strategic conceptions in the early 70s, the traditional concept of bomber substituted for the use of smaller devices and especially with greater operational flexibility. The B-58 was therefore constructed in 116 copies, which remained at the forefront of 1960-1970. The study began in 1948 and the first prototype flew on 11 November 1956. Three years later came the first and only version, called B-58A. Eight of these aircraft were modified to training specifications and were baptized TB-58A.

In naval aviation, the first nuclear bomber capabilities equivalent to those of terrestrial aircraft was the contemporary North American A-5 Vigilante. Despite valuable qualities, the heavy aircraft eventually was modified and used almost exclusively for a task entirely different, for strategic reconnaissance. The project was launched in 1955 and the first prototype flew on 31 August 1958. Production began immediately after. The first RA-5C of the new generation flew June 30, 1962, with 170 copies, which entered service in January 1964. The Vigilante proved particularly effective and, through constant updating, especially electronics, the plane became the best reconnaissance aircraft of the U.S. Navy. They were still operational in the early 80s.

The General Dynamics F-111 and Rockwell B.1, both with variable geometry wings, are the representatives of the latest generation of strategic bombers of the United States. The first, in 1962, had a long and difficult development and caused many controversies for what seemed at the time to be serious design deficiencies. The prototype flew on 21 December 1964, and production was divided between several variants: the F-111A strategic bomber (141 copies in service from l967), the F-111C assault for the Australian aviation (24 copies), the F-111D, for tactical support (96 copies), the F-111E, similar to the previous but with improved engines (94 copies), and finally the tactical fighter-bomber F-111F, which is a later and more powerful (106 units built in November 1976, the first flight of the prototype in May 1973) airplane.

The Rockwell B1, considered the most expensive aircraft ever built, was put to the study in the late 60s to replace the B-52 strategic bomber as a low altitude bomber. The prototype flew on 23 December 1974. After a long and laborious phase of development, the program is unexpectedly stopped on June 30, 1977 by order of President Carter as priority was given to the realization of ICBMs of the last generation. Anyway, The USAF had in no way set the end of B.1: after the release of three prototypes, the program included the construction of 224 copies.

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