Service of Boeing B-52G Stratofortress

Last revised March 22, 2014



The B-52G flew for the first time on August 31, 1958. The B-52G entered service with the 5th Bomb Wing at Travis AFB on February 13, 1959. In May, the 42nd Wing began to receive B-52Gs.

The first Hound Dog-equipped B-52G unit was the 4135th Strategic Wing, based at Eglin AFB in Florida. This unit first deployed in December of 1959. At the peak in 1963, the Hound Dog force numbered 600. However, the weapon was not all that accurate, and its primary mission in the case of a nuclear war would probably have been to go ahead of the penetrating bombers to clear a path through enemy defenses. The Hound Dog rapidly became obsolete in the face of technological advances, the weapon being gradually withdrawn from service beginning in 1967. By the end of 1969, the number of missiles was down to 350. By the end of June 1975, the missile was finally taken off alert duty, but it remained on non-operational status for a while longer. The last AGM-28 was scrapped in June 1978, and the only ones left are now on display in museums.

During April of 1972, a contingent of B-52Gs were sent to Southeast Asia to support the bombing campaign against North Vietnam. It turned out that the B-52G was not nearly as suitable for conventional warfare as was the the 'D, since the 'G was unable to carry bombs externally and it did not have the Big Belly modifications that gave the B-52D such a fearsome conventional capability. A total of 28 B-52Gs were sent to Guam in April, followed by another 70 in late May and early June. The B-52G fleet deployed to the Pacific came under the control of the 72nd Strategic Wing (Prov). A number of Guam-based B-52Gs were fitted with AN/ALQ-119(V) ECM pods in place of the AN/ALE-25.

The B-52Gs participated in the Linebacker I and Linebacker II raids of 1972-73 at the end of the Vietnam war. The onboard ECM gear that had been fitted to the B-52G did afford some protection against enemy SAMs, but it was far from infallible, and the B-52G proved alarmingly vulnerable. Six B-52Gs were shot down by SAMS during Linebacker II. Only half of the B-52Gs on Guam had received the updates to their ECM equipment, leaving the rest with obsolete equipment which increased their vulnerability still further. The lighter structure of the B-52G which gave it such outstanding long-range performance had the undesired side-effect of making the aircraft more vulnerable to battle damage. Only one B-52G was able to survive the experience of being hit and damaged by a SAM, whereas several B-52Ds hit by SAMs were able to land safely. The B-52D actually had a better electronic countermeasures capability than the B-52G, and the tail gunner in the rear of the `D actually turned out to be quite useful in monitoring SAM launches. In the latter stages of Linebacker II, some of the B-52Gs were actually diverted in-flight to targets deemed to be less dangerous.

By the end of 1988, 30 years of attrition had reduced the original fleet of 193 B-52Gs to 166. 98 of them had been converted to operate the AGM-86B ALCM. Units operating the ALCM included the 97th BW, the 379th BW, and the 416th BW, plus the 2nd BW's 596th BS. Some ALCM-configured B-52Gs were used for crew training tasks by the 93rd BW.

Retirement of the B-52G began in the late 1980s. Mather's 320th BW was the first B-52G unit to be deactivated and ceased operations in July 1989. That same year, retired B-52Gs began to arrive at Davis-Monthan AFB for storage, but only 5 had arrived by the end of 1989. The 43rd SW at Andersen AFB, Guam was inactivated on June of 1990.

The Gulf War of 1990-1991 resulted in a temporary delay in the inactivation of B-52G units. On February 16, 1991, seven B-52Gs armed with 39 AGM-86C conventionally-armed cruise missiles took off from Barksdale AFB bound for Iraq. After a couple of refuellings, they arrived over the southern border of Iraq, where they launched 35 of their ALCMs against targets in central and southern Iraq. The targets included a power station, a telephone exchange, and other electrical generating facilities. The missiles were timed so that they would all reach their separate targets nearly simultaneously. All but two of the missiles seem to have struck their targets. The B-52Gs then returned to Barksdale via another set of refuelling operations. By the time that the mission was finally over, the crews had been in the air for 35 hours. It had been the longest-ranging combat mission in the history of aerial warfare.

Most of the B-52G missions against Iraqi targets were staged out of the base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The participating groups were organized as the 4300 BW(P), a temporary unit set up at Diego Garcia for B-52Gs detached from the continental USA during this period. The 4300 BW was made up of elements of the 62nd BW from Carswell AFB plus the 69th BMS from Loring AFB, plus a handful of crews from Barksdale AFB, Griffiss AFB and Castle AFB. On the 16th of January, 15 crews launched out of Diego Garcia to carry out area denial attacks on 5 airfields in southern Iraq. The attacks were made at low altitude (500 feet or lower). Most of these B-52G missions against Iraqi targets involved the delivery of conventional "iron" bombs.

In addition, there were B-52 missions against Iraq staged out of Prince Abdullah AB in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. These planes were part of the 1708th BW (P), a temporary wing formed from B-52s out of Barksdale, Castle, Wurtsmith, and others. The planes arrived at dawn on the first day of the air war. One plane flew 29 missions out of Jeddah, the most of any bomber crew in the theater.

During Desert Storm, the B-52Gs completed approximately 1620 sorties. In fact, the B-52s managed to drop almost a third of the entire tonnage of bombs dropped by US aircraft. No B-52Gs were officially reported as having been lost as a result of enemy action during Desert Storm. However, several were damaged. One B-52G was damaged by a hit from an unknown type of missile, but was able to make it home safely. Another lost a couple of engines as a result of a near-miss by a SA-3 missile, whereas another was damaged by shrapnel from AAA fire. One B-52G (58-0248) was even damaged by a hit from an AGM-88A HARM missile fired by another US aircraft that was providing defense suppression support for the attacking force. The missile managed to home in on the tail-mounted gun-laying radar of the B-52G, and obliterated a sizeable chunk of the tail when it hit. Fortunately, the damaged B-52G was able to land safely at Jeddah and was sent to Guam for repair. One B-52G (59-2593) was lost on February 3, 1991. The cause of the loss was officially blamed on a catastrophic electrical system failure while returning to its base at Diego Garcia, but there are rumors going around that combat damage was actually responsible. Three of the crewmembers ejected safely before the aircraft crashed into the Indian Ocean, but three others ejected too late and were killed.

In spite of the Gulf War, the disposal of B-52Gs continued unabated. By the end of 1991, some 50 B-52Gs had arrived at Davis-Monthan for storage, and the number of active B-52Gs was now down to 90. In October 1991, the gunner was removed from the crew as an economy measure. The remainder were inactivated in 1992-93. By the end of 1993, there were only a couple of dozen B-52Gs still flying. The last B-52G went to storage at the Davis-Monthan AFB in the spring of 1994. A few were passed along to museum collections in the United States.

Squadron Assignments for the B-52G:


Sources:


  1. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  2. Post World War II Bombers, Marcelle Size Knaack, Office of Air Force History, 1988.

  3. Boeing Aircraft Since 1916, Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1989.

  4. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  5. Boeing B-52--A Documentary History, Walter Boyne, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.

  6. Boeing's Cold War Warrior--B-52 Stratofortress, Robert F. Dorr and Lindsay Peacock, Osprey Aerospace, 1995.

  7. E-mail from Scott Black on B-52G operations during the Gulf War.

  8. E-mail from Steve Cline on operations of B-52Gs from Prince Abdullah AB in Saudi Arabia.

  9. E-mail from Rick Taglang on B-52G operations from Diego Garcia and Jeddah.

  10. E-mail from Mike Dickeson on B-52Gs not arriving at Jeddah until the first day of the air war.

  11. E-mail from Michael A McDonald on Barksdale crews participating in Desert Storm.