Service of RB-52B/B-52B

Last revised June 21, 2000

The first B-52B (52-8711) was delivered to the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle AFB in California on June 29, 1955. Over the next few months, the 93rd BW traded in its B-47s for B-52Bs, and changed its name to the 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy). The 93rd BW was declared combat ready on March 12, 1956, but its primary mission was actually the training of future B-52 crews. For this purpose, it set up the 4017th Combat Crew Training Squadron which was supposed to handle all B-52 crew training for the next few years. When the mission of B-52 training became too great a task for just one squadron, the Wing's other three squadrons took over the flight training role and the 4017th assumed responsibility for ground instruction in 1956.

The last B-52B was delivered in August of 1956.

On May 21, 1956, B-52B 52-0013 flying with the Air Research and Development Command dropped a hydrogen bomb over the Bikini Atoll. The weapon was a Mk.15 which weighed 7600 pounds and was 10 feet long. The yield of the test was 3.75 megatons. It was the first time that a B-52 had been used as a carrier and drop plane for the hydrogen bomb.

On November 24 and 25, 1956, in a spectacular operation known as Quick Kick, four B-52Bs of the 93rd BW joined four B-52Cs of the 42nd BW for a nonstop flight around the perimeter of North America. Four inflight refuellings by KC-97 tankers were required for the 13,500 nautical mile journey.

In January 1957, three aircraft of the 93rd Bombardment Wing commanded by Major General Archie Olds, flew nonstop around the world with the help of several KC-97 inflight refuellings. Five aircraft, including two spares, took off on January 16 from Castle AFB. They flew via Newfoundland, Casablanca, Dhahran, Ceylon, the Malay Peninsula, Manila, and Guam. Bad weather forced them to land at March AFB. One spare had to divert to Goose Bay when the inflight refuelling receptacle iced over. The second made a planned landing in England. The 24,235 mile flight was completed in 45 hours 19 minutes. The commander of the lead aircraft, Lt Col James H. Morris had been copilot of the "Lucky Lady II" which had made the first round-the-world flight in 1949.

Some B-52Bs remained with the 93rd BW until well into the 1960s, although some of the B-52Bs were redistributed to the 95th BW at Biggs AFB in Texas and the 22nd BW at March AFB in California.

The following units used the B-52B:

In June of 1959, B-52B serial number 52-0008 was transferred to NASA, where it served alongside the NB-52A as a mother ship for the X-15 and with the Lifting Body project. It was redesignated NB-52B and assigned the number "008". It was credited with 140 of the 199 X-15 flights. It is still active with NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards AFB.

Most of the B-52Bs were retired in 1965-66, with 52-8714 being the first Stratofortress to be retired by a SAC wing when it was transferred to Chanute AFB in Illinois on March 8, 1965, where it was used as a non-flying instructional airframe. Most of the B-52Bs went to storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona in 1965/66, but a few were delivered to museums. 52-8711, the first B-52 to be received by SAC, was donated to the Aerospace Museum at Offutt AFB in Nebraska.


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