The B-29 was the most sophisticated bomber aircraft of World War
II. It was the first aircraft to deliver nuclear weapons. B-29s of
the 393rd Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) dropped the weapons on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 to bring about the surrender of
B-29s were the only bombers assigned to SAC when the command was established in 1946. They were used in a conventional role in the Korean War. The aircraft was finally retired from bomber service in 1954, though a number remained in service in specialized roles. In the early 1950s eight of the aircraft were transferred to the RAF and were the only U.S. strategic bombers to serve in a foreign air force.
The B-50 was an improved version of the B-29. It had bigger engines, larger engine nacelles, a taller tail and larger fuel tanks. The aircraft remained in service as a bomber until October 1955.
The B-36 was concieved in 1941 for use in World War II. Following delays as Convair produced B-24s and B-32s, the B-36 was put into production in 1943 and finally became operational in 1946. The unique feature of this huge bomber was its six piston pusher engines, mounted in the rear of the wing and its turbojet engines mounted in twin pods under the wings. There were 446 produced. The aircraft was retired in 1954.
The B-47 was a swept-wing, all-jet bomber. Designed as a result of the Army Air Forces' requirement for a jet bomber in 1943. The first aircraft were deployed in 1953. It was so advanced that the aircraft needed only a three-man crew, where the B-50 required an eleven man crew. About 2000 aircraft were built by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed. The last of these bomber aircraft was retired in Febrary of 1966, while a number remained in a reconnaissance role until December 1967.
The B-52 became operational in June 1955. It remains in operational service today, outliving the Strategic Air Command itself. It had many variants and served in nuclear and conventional roles. The "Buff" served in Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.
The B-58 was America's first supersonic bomber. It entered service in August 1960. The aircraft set numerous records in its short operational life. It was retired form service in November 1969.
The FB-111 was the first of SAC's medium-range, supersonic bombers. It was first operationally deployed in October 1969.
The B-1 was first approved for production in December 1976. The Air Force required the B-1 to use a shorter runway than those needed for the B-52, this was to allow for dispersal to a variety of smaller airfields, making it harder to target the aircraft on the ground. This requirement led to the variable-geometry wing design of the B-1. The wing allows slow-speeds at low altitudes while in the swept position it allows high-speed and supersonic flight at high altitude. The aircraft was designed to carry twice the payload of the B-52 while only two-thirds the size. By June 1977, the program was cancelled by the Carter administration. President Reagan got the program rolling again in January 1981 and got congressional funding for 100 aircraft. The B-1B was first deployed in October 1986. The B-1B is a long-range bomber capable of penetrating enemy defenses by making use of its electronic countermeasures and low-radar cross section. as well as The last B-1B was delivered in April 1988.
The B-2 is a Stealth aircraft of the Flying Wing design. It looks much like the earlier Northrop designs from the 1940s. The aircraft has two General Electric turbofan engines. The aircraft normally flies with a two-man crew but has a position for a third crewmember. It is designed to provide a platfform capable of extremely high payload capacity and ability to penetrate enemy defenses with its sophisticated low observable technology. It has an unrefueled range of 6000 nautical miles. The plane was shown to the public for the first time in November 1988. The first flight took place in July 1989. The original request for 132 bombers will probably be reduced substantially now that the Cold War has ended and U.S. military strength is being substantially cut back.
The SR-71 is a twin-engine turbojet aircraft with a delta wing and a long, slim, aerodynamic fuselage. It is made primarily of titanium to withstand the extreme temperatures of high-mach flight. It measures 107.4 feet in length, 55.6 feet wide and 18.5 feet to the top of the twin vertical stabilizers. The engines generate over 30,000 pounds of thrust. Most of the fuselage is filled with fuel tanks with the rest taking up photographic and electronic sensors. The aircraft is highly stable at all speeds and altitudes. Because the high speed of the SR-71 places extreme demands on the pilot a computer was developed to integrate and control all the performance factors and flight characteristics of the aircraft. This amazing aircraft made its first flight in April 1962. President Johnson accidentally revealed the existence of the aircraft during a briefing in Feb 1964. The aircraft was delivered to SAC in January 1966. A product of the "Skunk Works" the aircraft still holds a number of world speed and altitude records. The SR-71 has an advertised speed capability of Mach 3+. It has flown to 85,069 feet and as flown from London to New York in under 2 hours. Retired from SAC at the end of the 80s, NASA still operates some as test and research aircraft.
The U-2 was the high-altitude multisensor aircraft which first came to the world's attention, on 1 May 1960 when the Soviet Union shot one down and captured CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers. The incident became the focus of a Cold War controversy but until then the aircraft was well kept secret. The "Skunk Works" started work on the project in 1954 with first flight in 1955. Deliveries began the following year
The RC-135 is a long-range reconnaissance platform which was designed to track and monitor Soviet radar and telemetry capabilities. The aircraft is another variant of that wonderful Boeing KC-135 airframe. A number of RC variants exist. These aircraft are easily identified by their "puffy cheeks," bulging radar housing on each side of the fuselage just in front of the wings. They also exhibit elongated noses and numerous bump and blade antennae along the fyselage. There no refueling boom on these aircraft
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Last update 17 Mar 98
Return to the Air Force Page
Last updated 17 Mar 98